Figures from across the World Rally Championship service park have hailed the strength of Rally Estonia – with local driver Ott Tänak claiming it would be stupid for it to fall off the calendar.
Estonia ran as a promotional WRC event for two years before joining the calendar in 2020, running as the first event since the seaon was paused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it is set to lose its place on the schedule in 2024 as Rally Latvia – a re-branded version of the European Rally Championship’s Rally Liepāja – joins the calendar next year.
It is understood that Estonia will become a round of the ERC instead, which it used to be from 2014-’16.
Estonian driver Tänak, who won the 2020 running of the event, said his home rally is “definitely one of the coolest rallies in the calendar” and WRC Promoter “needs to be really stupid if they want to put this one out”.
He told DirtFish: “How it’s been organized and been improving from year to year, starting from the ceremonial [start] how the people are organized and how the sporting side is for the drivers… OK, Finland and some other rallies are good as well but there are only a few which are close to the level of what Rally Estonia is.
“They definitely need to be stupid [to get rid of it].”
Tänak may be accused of being biased given he is Estonian, but his praise of the event was echoed by many others.
“I gave already my opinion I think to several medias but for me it’s true that to exchange a beautiful event like here against another rally that’s basically going to be similar in terms of stages, but we don’t know how the organization’s going to be, it’s a bit of a shame, that’s for sure,” Thierry Neuville told DirtFish.
“I mean if you replace a rally like here against Rally Argentina or GB Wales, that would have made sense, but I’m not sure the other rally’s going to be on the same level.
“But we’re going to find out.”
Toyota driver Elfyn Evans likened Estonia to Ypres Rally in its ability to create a proper event out of the rally.
“[I’m a] bit disappointed in a way,” Evans said.
“I don’t know that much about what’s replacing it but it’s a bit like Ypres. In a way maybe you don’t count the stages as the best in the world but when you consider everything, how the rally’s run, the atmosphere, the people, it’s a shame to see it go in a way.
“It’s what I consider a rally where it’s actually wanted, where we seem to have more and more of these slots on the calendar going places where there’s very little interest.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, who has won the WRC2 class on Rally Estonia for the past three seasons, agreed.
“It’s a shame, I really enjoy Estonia,” he remarked.
“Obviously it’s a great rally for us, having won the event three times in a row in WRC2. So for sure I would like the rally to keep on going.
“I think the stages here are very particular, I think they create some amazing TV footage. It’s so fast, and you really see the cars slide completely sideways at 200kph, and there’s not so many rallies where we have exactly this.
“That’s it for the rally, but for the people here, well they are incredible and they are all so passionate. And you can really see that the success that Tänak has had has had a big impact on the country when you see the interest.
“So it’s a really great place to come to rally.”
M-Sport Ford team principal Richard Millener meanwhile believes Estonia should become a “blueprint for all WRC events”.
He explained: “This event is really fantastic and genuinely one of my favorites of the year, such passionate and knowledgeable fans along with some fantastic stages.
“It should be the blueprint for all WRC events. I really hope to be back here again soon.”