Up-and-coming Finnish rally driver Max Vatanen will enter Rally Estonia from 17-19 July, a round of the European Rally Championship that takes place two weeks before Rally Finland.

Vatanen, the son of 1981 World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen and a MAXRALLY.com ambassador, is using the event to prepare for his home round of the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy, where he currently lies sixth in the standings after the most recent round in Poland. This highly competitive one-make formula uses identical Ford Fiesta R2 cars built by M-Sport, putting the spotlight firmly on driving talent.

“Poland was a bit annoying for me, as it took me until Saturday night to really feel comfortable with the stages,” said the 23-year-old. “I think that’s because I hadn’t driven the car much on gravel before the rally. So I’m not going to make the same mistake again: before Finland I’m going to make sure I’m as well-prepared as possible.”

When Vatanen is on form; his pace is untouchable. He won two stages in Poland including SS19: the longest stage of the rally at 35 kilometres. His winning margin on that stage was a staggering 37 seconds: outpacing his rivals by more than a second per kilometre. Not only that but it was a notoriously tricky stage as well, which caught out even top factory WRC drivers such as Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke.

“I have to say that I was really pleased by that: it just goes to show that the pace is there – we just need to unlock it,” added Vatanen. “And a lot of that comes down to experience. Estonia isn’t exactly the same sort of thing as Finland: the surface is very different, but the speeds are quite similar. It’s important to be in tune with the sort of speeds we’re going to be doing in Finland so this is good preparation. My objective when we get home to Finland is a very simple one: we’re going out there to try and win.”

Rally Estonia is an event that Vatanen has some previous experience of: he was set for a third-place finish in his class last year, until the radiator broke and he was forced to retire. After Rally Estonia, Vatanen also plans a brief test in Finland before Rally Finland itself – round three of the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy – gets underway from July 31-August 3.

“The competition is going to be very tough because Estonia a European championship round as well, but this is how you improve,” concluded Vatanen. “I’m in the early stages of a long-term plan and for me the most important thing is just seat time.”

Practice, after all, makes perfect.

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