July 23, 2023
Off Road Racer Staff

Increased car performance makes the challenges of the race tougher for the drivers, who faced the rally with only one spare in all special stages

Rovanpera dominates, taking over the rally as early as Friday afternoon

Testoni: "Despite the well-established classification, we saw for the first time the drivers push on Sunday to get as much information as possible ahead of Finland"

Tartu, 23 July 2023 - It is easy to say Estonia. The Baltic country's rally, generally considered to be among the fastest but not among the toughest of the season, has reserved a few surprises this year, mainly related to the incremental speed of the cars. The increased pace made the rally's familiar challenges more difficult to manage: road surfaces marked by increasingly deep tracks passage after passage, fast sections alternating with twisty ones and numerous jumps. To all this was added the presence of loose gravel, quite unheard of on these roads.
ONE-WAY RACE These difficulties did not discourage Kalle Rovanpera who, in his Toyota, drove a sumptuous race in terms of pace and precision, and on Saturday recorded 9 victories out of 9 special stages, making the en-plein on Sunday as well, including the power stage. The pursuers were left to fight for the remaining places on the podium, with the two Hyundai's of Thierry Neuville and Esapekka Lappi (second and third) having to deal with attacks from Elfyn Evans and team-mate Teemu Suninen.
Characterising the race, whose turning point came as early as Friday in SS6 when Rovanpera snatched the lead from Neuville, were the practically autumnal conditions, with low temperatures, erratic weather and intermittent heavy rain. The rainfall littered the course with puddles and made the already poor grip even more difficult, but did not affect the generally high average and top speeds.
SOFT SCORPION POINT OF REFERENCE The higher speeds combined with the race conditions contributed to three cases of bead breakage, such as Neuville's in SS12, which were mainly related to the numerous jumps, but had no bearing on the outcome of the race. On the contrary, the Scorpion Soft tyres were one of the few certain points of reference for the drivers who, as in Rally Estonia in 2022, sang a unique tune in terms of tyre strategy: only soft, as was to be expected, and always 5 spares, being relaxed about betting on the car being lighter, rather than on the peace of mind of an extra spare.
PIRELLI QUOTE Terenzio Testoni, Pirelli Rally activity manager: "The wide working range of our soft tyres on gravel proved once again to be the best ally of the drivers, who can count on high performance in all ground conditions.  We witnessed a fast rally in which the difficulties typical of Estonia appeared more severe than usual due to the consistently high pace. The speeds did not drop, for the first time in this championship, even on Sunday when the race was already decided, as all the teams took advantage of the availability of new tyres and conditions very similar to those in Finland to test for the next rally. There is no doubt that in Finland the soft Scorpions will again be the protagonists, but with even higher speeds than in Estonia and even more challenging jumps. 
In RC2, Andreas Mikkelsen in a Skoda Fabia laid down the law, while in the Junior WRC, Gregoire Munster came out on top.