If rallying did super Saturdays outside of the World Rally Championship, tomorrow would very definitely be one of them. Four cars, three teams, two rallies all with one aim… to be the best of the best eight days on in Umeå.
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team sends a brace of Puma Rally1s to central Estonia for the Otepää talveralli. Local hero Ott Tänak will be looking to recreate his 2021 win on the event, but most of all he’ll be looking to further dial himself into the Puma after a season-opening fifth in Monte Carlo.
Shadowing the 2019 world champion on this Saturday adventure to land more Rally Sweden setup and seat time will be team-mate Jourdan Serderidis – even if he isn’t actually competing in Sweden!
A few hundred miles directly north of Otepää sit the roads around Kuopio, home for Saturday’s second round of the Finnish championship. Hyundai new boy Esapekka Lappi starts SM-Ralli Kuopio in an i20 N Rally1, while Takamoto Katsuta returns to the Finnish series (where he competed regularly as recently as 2016) for more match practice ahead of the WRC’s winter event.
Staying in Finland, Lappi and Katsuta will get the biggest variety of roads, even if they do marginally fewer miles. Their 59-mile route includes eight different stages. While there has been snow in the area in the last few days, there’s no more forecast for the event itself. The temperature, however, is set to drop to -15C overnight.
Talking about the conditions in Finland, Toyota’s team principal Jari-Matti Latvala told DirtFish: “I think there should be a good ice base, the weather has been cold. Maybe we don’t have the big snow, but it can be a good rally.”
Katsuta admitted he was a little bit in the dark, adding: “I didn’t do this rally before. I don’t know so much about it – I did a lot of events in Finland, but not this one. For me, it’s good to get ready for Sweden. From last year, I had good feeling with the Yaris on the snow, so hopefully this will be the same.”
Heading south, the weather’s about the same. There’s more snow around and even some in the forecast for today and tomorrow, but the temperature only dips to around -10C.
M-Sport’s Malcolm Wilson said: “It’s a good opportunity for Ott to work on the setup he’ll be looking for Sweden. We did a pre-event test last week and everything worked from there, so this is just an opportunity to refine the setup and take more seat-time in the car.
“For the conditions, I’m not sure. I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of snow, but they’ll make the best from what they have.”
The Otepää itinerary brings 68 miles and four stages repeated.
The factory cars aren’t, of course, the only stars in town, with Jari Huttunen (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) Niclas Grönholm (Citroën C3 Rally2) and Heikki Kovalainen (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) offering plenty of entertainment in Finland while last year’s Otepää winner Georg Linnamäe starts in a RedGrey-run Hyundai i20 N Rally2 in his native Estonia.
Both rallies will offer plenty of meaningful mileage ahead of Thursday’s start for Rally Sweden. But if DirtFish had to chose one, it would be Otepää.
The action as well as the support for home hero Tänak will be outstanding, but another huge draw is Café Elsa in the middle of town (pictured above).
This place was HQ for much of DirtFish’s Rally Estonia coverage last season and will be the same this time around. If you’re in town, dive in and go for one of the fruity-cakey-deserty things after a bowl of soup. Then enjoy the barn of books before taking in the town’s awe-inspiring ski jump.
Naturally, the make the most of your Saturday, follow both events as they unfold on eWRC-results.com.