What to do, when everything around you is plunging back into a pandemic stagnation, autumn mood, and there are still unresolved issues, untested adjustments to car settings, kilometers not covered, and so on? You just take and organize a small rally to put the last points on the letter i.
This rally reminds me of the M-Sport return to stages competition that took place in August. When everything stops around, the country’s biggest rally men take in and pour some gasoline into the dormant season. It goes without saying that everyone involved has their own interest, so there are reasons why in this rally service zones were almost after every special stage. And all is well with that. This is how this World revolves.
For Viru rally organizers, who also organized Kehala, this is another opportunity to learn how to organize the competition in the most unfavorable context and how to do it with the least possible resources. By the way, they were the first to organize the post-quarantine event of the Estonian championship. It is a public secret that O.Tannak’s participation here is due to the fact that WRC teams have limited tests, and now it is only possible to look for suitable solutions during real rallies, which many teams did in one way or another successfully after the first quarantine. And at the moment, the supply of events, especially gravel, is quite scarce, so things like the Kehala Ralli are emerging. For teams, it’s an additional opportunity to rent their cars. Some crews are happy to complete the collection of sports kilometers as late as possible, which was not very easy to gather this year. Others enjoyed the opportunity to test themselves with new equipment or improve their skills, as some drivers recently switched from slower to faster cars. Even the spectators had the opportunity to watch the breathtaking views at an unusually late time of the year.
By the way, this rally is not new. From 2004 to 2013, Kehala Rallysprint competitions took place with various breaks. In the same year 2013, this place gathered athletes once again and it was more likely what was going on here in 2020. Although the mileage was three times lower, the same G.Gross was competing with Ott Tanak – who was taking a break from the WRC. Among other things, the Kehala track in Northern Estonia is almost always part of the Viru Rally, each of which is a regular stage of the Estonian Rally Championship.
Thus, the rally itself consisted of three different special stages, which the participants overcame three times each. Two of them took place on the Kehala quarry track and on the roads around it, and the third was a little further away and more like a normal special stage. A total of 57 kilometers of gravel with small sections of asphalt. Among those nine special stages were as many as 7 service zones. So basically, this event was tests wrapped in a rally format.
Nobody paid too much attention to the overall results – crews had other goals to reach that weekend. But the fastest were the ones who were supposed to be. O.Tannak wiped everyone’s nose, G.Gross was second with his Fiesta WRC, and the podium was completed by another member of the Hyundai factory team, O.C. Veiby with Hyundai i20 R5.But in addition to the first three, it was especially interesting to watch the other participants. Two young Estonian stars – G.Jeets and R.Virves – started in the official race with R5 class cars for the first time, having previously gained enough experience with R2 equipment. A similar situation with a young guest from Finland – Kalle Markkanen. For this, it is only the second rally with R5. Only he was less fortunate than the Estonians – when driving in 5th gear, in a light turn, a scalded stone was waiting for the Finn and threw the car directly into the forest. From there, the Printsport team was left to gather the remnants of Fabia, place next to R.Al-Rashed’s car, whose fate was quite similar and drive home.
Like the Finn, so for Lithuanians – V.Jurkevičius and A.Paliukėnas – this was only the second competition with R5 equipment. The stability shown around Around 7 Lakes Rally has not disappeared anywhere and was far from a “novice success”. Guys in Estonia enjoyed the car, drove in a very professional way, and covered almost half a thousand sports kilometers with Fabia this autumn. So it looks like a very exciting 2021 awaits them. And this is just another great proof of how well the FIA R-Class system works. Infinite examples have shown and show that once the control of R2 is understood, the transition to R5 is extremely smooth.
And last but not least, the face not familiar on the rally tracks – Andre Kiil. This racer came from the world of circuit racing and is already trying a serious rally technique in the second rally. It looks like, that Estonia will have a very interesting championship with a bunch of very fast young drivers in R5’s.
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Kalle Markkanen crash onboard
Photo – Igmar Matto