Why the jumps could have the biggest impact on WRC’s return

Airtime is getting a lot of airtime in Estonia's service park talk


David Lee Roth’s words have rarely been quite so prophetic. Might as well, according to the American, jump.

There’s no shortage of opportunities to do just that at this week’s Rally Estonia. But does everybody want to jump? Apparently not.

The roads around Tartu are some of the finest and fastest flowing stages we’ve seen for a long time. And they come equipped with some superb natural launchpads. Admittedly, not nearly as many as Finland, but nowhere in the world sends rally cars skywards like Suomi.

And it’s for that reason, a few years ago, that the organisers of Rally Estonia went through this process of building more jumps. They were modelled on and shaped in the contour of Ouninpohja and Ruuhimaki as a way to warm the drivers up for what would coming in Jyväskylä a fortnight or so later.

But now there’s no Finland. Estonia, for this year at least, is the new Finland.

So, do we need the jumps?

Not according to the Finns.

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team drivers Teemu Suninen and Esapekka Lappi are unified in their view that airtime is best left to them. And their backyard.

Asked by DirtFish, Suninen offered: “From my point of view, maybe these jumps are not needed. But there is not so much how we can affect for those jumps, so we just need to drive over them in the safe, best way with good speed.”

And his countryman and team-mate?

EP: “It would have been fine if everything would have been similar to last year. But to make them even bigger… I understand that idea, to make a better show. But maybe it’s the wrong way to do it.”

Estonia’s world champion Ott Tänak couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.

“They have not built too many new jumps,” he told DirtFish. “They’re quite similar to last year, it’s not so bad, I think.”

The jump story from last year was, of course, Elfyn Evans. He landed awkwardly, damaged his back and missed the next two rounds of the World Rally Championship. Anybody using this as leverage against the artificially enhanced jumps soon came unstuck. Evans fell foul of a piece of road that had been there for years. And, as he explained to DirtFish, it was the sequence of corners which were as much to blame as the airtime itself.

Following the recce, the Welshman’s thoughts on the jumps are straightforward.

“There are areas that can catch you out, especially the topic of the jumps,” reasoned Evans. “You can win some time – and lose quite a bit if you take them too slowly obviously, but there’s always the risk of damage. There’s an element of balancing risk and reward for this rally.”

It’s a balancing act. As ever, the best place to turn for seriously sage advice is our resident six-time world champion.

And, as ever, Sébastien Ogier delivers. According to Toyota’s Frenchman, it’s all about jump management. It’s about managing that risk and reward.

“It is about managing the jumps,” said Ogier. “In Finland we always mention there is a lot jumps, but most of them are flat. But here it’s a different case. Some of them are much bigger; some are a bit artificial made [and that] means we don’t really know how the car is going to react over it – maybe we’ll have some feedback from the rear of the car, maybe some hard landings. And, unfortunately, we also saw last year Elfyn having a problem here with a bad reception on a jump.

“So it’s the kind of jumps where we’re going to have to manage the perfect speed over it. Of course, if you slow down too much you’re going to lose time. And there is many of them, but it’s also very easy to do a little bit too much and have a hard landing and damage the car, damage yourself or even crash. In that way, the jumps are going to have for me quite built-up into the rhythm.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2020 Stop 4 - Estonia

Plenty of the crews have adjusted their pacenotes to give another level of detail to the jumps. And it’s needed. From a particularly pointy jump not far into Saturday morning’s first meaningful test in Prangli all the way through the route, jumps are a big part of what’s coming this week.

Undoubtedly, debate will continue to rage as the rally unfolds, but, trust me, the final flight (and this one’s going to be a longhaul…) at the end of Kambja powerstage will provide a spectacular end to the event.

Once more with meaning?

“I get up and nothin’ gets me down…”