The World Rally Championship returned after a six month COVID-19 enforce break last weekend, with the running of Rally Estonia.
Perhaps not surprisingly, local hero Ott Tanak took the win, but he was made to fight for it.
Here's a summary of what the leading players from the WRC teams had to say after Estonia's debut as a World Rally Championship event.
“I am happy to take this first win for Hyundai Motorsport. It means a lot, especially in my home event. There was a lot of pressure this weekend, to be honest, and moments of stress which are now relief! The first WRC event in Estonia was one that I had to win, while also knowing it would be my first with Hyundai Motorsport. It was extremely important to bring it home.
"I couldn’t afford any mistakes, taking no risks but also performing with the required pace to win; bringing all of that together was a real challenge. We had to use this chance to catch back points for the championship, and thankfully we were able to use it well.
"My thanks to the whole team, who have all been working very hard during the past months; it’s been a truly great job and we must keep on pushing because we’ve shown what we can achieve.”
“What an incredible weekend! I took it easy in the Power Stage, to make sure we made it through safely. I probably didn’t mean to take it that easy, but this is a great result. From the opening kilometres of the rally, everything just clicked.
"The car has done absolutely everything I’ve asked of it and has given me the confidence I needed. The man beside me, Paul, has done a fantastic job and I’d like to thank everyone who has made this possible. I feel like I’m starting my career all over again; I’ve certainly not forgotten how to do it and I want to do it even more!”
Rally winner Ott Tanak in action.
“It has definitely not been our weekend, and we didn’t really deserve it to be honest. Our target today was to salvage some points from the Power Stage, but we had an issue ahead of the start, which meant we couldn’t drive at speed. The issue on Saturday was also unfortunate as we were kicked out of the line and hit something on the outside.
"We saw the videos from other crews at the same place, and it was similar for everyone, it was just we lost a wheel. Disappointing but the next one will be better.”
Thierry Neuville had an event he'd rather forget.
Team Principal Andrea Adamo:
“This is a very emotional result. After Mexico, we all faced a difficult period. Six months later, to be here in Estonia celebrating a 1-2 result, is an incredible feeling. We have kept busy since the last event, working hard in the way we were able, knowing we had to catch up. We used the opportunity that presented itself. I know how much I have pushed my people, while trying to remain calm in the face of the uncertain situation.
"I am proud of them all, and happy we can share this result. It is nice to see Ott and Martin take their first victory with our team; to see them winning at home is special. It has been important for Craig and Paul to show what they are capable of when given the proper tools, matching the pace of the others.
"For Thierry and Nicolas, I am sorry for them as we failed to give them what they needed in the Power Stage due to a problem that should not have occurred; we had some electronics glitches that didn’t allow the engine to run smoothly, so we had to retire them from the event to prevent any further damage.
"A final word to my people and their families for their unwavering support during this tough period. This result is for them.”
Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal):
“The result at the end of Rally Estonia is very good for the whole team and keeps us at the top of both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships. We’re not totally satisfied with our performance. Our set-up was not ideal for the conditions that we faced which were different to our testing.
"Today when we had faster conditions we saw that all of our drivers could set the quickest times. Kalle’s speed is especially impressive for such a young driver. He seems to find his best performance when under big pressure like he did here in the Power Stage. We can only wonder what could have happened without the tyre issue yesterday, because I'm sure he could have had a much better overall result.”
Seb Ogier talks tactics with Toyota bosses in Estonia.
“It’s a positive result for us. To finish on the podium is good for the championship. For sure there is a bit of frustration for us as we know that we could have done better this weekend, there was some potential that we didn’t manage to exploit. To win here would have been difficult but we had the ability to be much closer or at least in second place.
"I also would have liked to get more from the Power Stage but it was the roughest stage of the weekend and when I feel it’s too risky to go for it, I don’t dare and prefer to secure the podium. Still it’s nice to score some good points in a difficult weekend.”
“I’m not fully satisfied at the end of the rally but we come away with fourth overall and second place in the Power Stage. There was obviously good pace there at points but I was just unable to deliver it consistently. We made some changes overnight and in the slippery conditions this morning it seemed to be a bit better.
"Then I struggled when it got quite rough, but it seems to always be a compromise here. Like always there’s some things we can work on but at the end of the day we’re here after a difficult weekend with a decent haul of points.”
Elfyn Evans continued his fine 2020 form in Estonia.
“I’m really happy. My weekend was really good in terms of the pace and the driving. I think I did everything I could and I didn’t make any mistakes, even when driving on this very fast pace. We had some bad luck and it was just not our weekend but that’s rallying sometimes.
"The Power Stage was quite nice, I had a big push there but it was still a clean run so I’m happy. A big thanks to the team because the car was great to drive.”
M-SPORT / FORD
Team Principal, Richard Millener:
“I think we achieved what we wanted to achieve this weekend, which was to get back rallying and get back into the rhythm. Adrien also delivered a really impressive drive with the Ford Fiesta Rally2, and it was great to see him secure another thoroughly-deserved podium in the WRC 2 category.
“When you consider how little experience he has on gravel, it makes his performance all the more impressive – especially when you look at some of the big names he was going up against. Leading the rally through the early stages, he showcased the performance of the car and proved he’s a real talent for the future.
“But in the main team, we knew that it would be difficult to challenge for the top results. We didn’t have the luxury of doing the same level of testing as our rivals and when you’re not in the fight it just becomes that much harder. I know all three drivers enjoyed being back behind the wheel, and I’m confident that we will come back stronger on the next events.
“Finally, on behalf of the whole team, I have to credit the organisers who have delivered an incredible rally here this weekend. If you look at what they’ve managed to achieve in such a short space of time it’s extremely impressive – especially given the current circumstances. They’ve certainly proved themselves worthy of a spot on the calendar, and the only downside was that we couldn’t fully share it with the fans.”
Esapekka Lappi won the opening stage at Rally Estonia for Ford.
“It’s been a really difficult weekend for us. It took a while to get back in the rhythm, but it was good to be back after such a long time away. We were trying our best and today the times were a bit better, but we know that there is still some work to do. Now I’m looking forward to Turkey and Sardinia. We were strong at both those rallies last year, and I hope it will be the same again this year.”
Like everyone in Estonia, Esapekka Lappi was masked up for the WRC's return.
“Firstly I have to say that the organisers have done a fantastic job this weekend. Everything worked smoothly with no problems and it really was an amazing job from everyone involved. It was good to be back in the rally car and to show some pace in the beginning, but after that it became a really challenging weekend for us. There is a lot of work to do on these type of stages, but hopefully in Turkey and Sardinia we can be stronger.”
“We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy weekend as we didn’t have the same experience or preparation as some of the other guys. But we were able to make some improvements throughout the weekend and the times got better the more kilometres we did. Also a big thanks to everyone at M‑Sport. They’ve been working really hard, and it was a big effort from everyone here and back in Cumbria.”
Mads Ostberg was in a class of his own in WRC2.
CITROEN, WRC 2
“Torstein and I were both very pleased to be back competing in the WRC this weekend in the C3 R5 after this long break. I hadn't raced here for eight years, and the itinerary of the rally was more technical, not quite as fast and with more jumps than I remembered, but there was the same atmosphere!
"Our in-competition test at Rally Liepaja in Latvia helped us to prepare for the fast roads in Estonia and we also used the event to keep working on the development of the car.
"All of that meant we had a very fast C3 R5 this weekend and were able to win the WRC2 class. We have therefore extended our lead in the standings ahead of the rest of the season.”
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