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WRC Rally Estonia

Losing Estonia from 2024 WRC calendar "a big shame"

Losing Estonia from the 2024 World Rally Championship calendar will be a "big shame", according to the drivers, who hailed last weekend's rally as "what a WRC event should look like".

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

The high-speed gravel rally is likely to be omitted from the 2024 calendar with neighbouring Latvia already confirmed to be joining next year's schedule. Long-time European Rally Championship event, Rally Liepaja is expected to take Estonia's place.

Estonia made its WRC debut in 2020 becoming the first rally of WRC's return from its hiatus following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rally has since grown to become a favourite among drivers thanks to its fast yet challenging stages, meticulous organisation and impressive turnout from spectators.

Despite a government budget cut for this year's edition, the rally continued to attract large crowds. Spectators flocked not only to the stages but the service park and the ceremonial start and finish, where this year a new "meet the crews event" took place in the country's second city Tartu.

The rally has become reigning world champion Kalle Rovanpera's favourite on the calendar and this year's runaway winner was quick to express his disappointment that the WRC likely won't visit Estonia next year.

"This rally is proper enjoyment, I love the stages and the event is organised very well. It's a big shame that we won't be here next year," said Rovanpera.

Hyundai's Thierry Neuville believes Estonia has set an example for other events to follow and believes it is a "mistake" the championship is not heading there next year.

"The event itself was a great event and to be honest the stages look really good on the recce and they held up quite well, it was a pleasure to drive," Neuville told Motorsport.com.

"This is what an FIA WRC event should look like. I think it is one of a kind and I hope in the future we will have more such events.

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

"In terms of organisation, everything has been perfect from the beginning to the end and they put on a real show around the WRC. They managed to get people to come not only for the cars but to see the show and the atmosphere. Everything has been put in place to make it a high level and I think that is missing from many other events.

"The one point to improve was on Saturday we did a 14-hour day for 100 kilometres of driving which is a little short in distance.

"To lose an event which is incredibly well organised, that everyone loves, and to replace it with another event that is going to be the same just in another place, but probably not as good organisation and probably not as nice stages, for me it is a mistake."

Work underway on new Rally Estonia WRC deal

Rally Estonia had an opportunity to renew its WRC deal for next year but was unable to secure a guarantee on a budget from the government.

However, it could only be absent from rallying's top tier for one year as the event and WRC Promoter are working on a new three-year deal. This would see the rally join the European Rally Championship next year with a view to a WRC return.

"We are talking to the Estonians about a medium-term multi-year commitment between ERC and WRC," WRC event director Simon Larkin told Motorsport.com.

"We have always been quite clear that Latvia from its long and very good service in the ERC deserves the chance to come into the WRC next year.

"This [Latvia] is a country that is taking it very seriously and we think it will be a great addition. The reality is, although nothing is fixed yet until it's announced, but it probably means that Estonia will be in the ERC and we are looking at a multi-year commitment to bring them back to WRC after that."

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Rally Estonia director Urmo Aava hopes a decision regarding the event's future will be made next month.

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"We had an opportunity to make the decision one and half years ago and the promoter has been very fair with us letting us know in advance," he told Motorsport.com.

"We didn't make our move because we didn't have a budget guarantee and at the moment the situation is like this. But nothing is broken.

"Now we are talking internally with our government and with our private sector sponsors and we need to make a decision this August I think, and I hope this decision is positive regarding the next three years."

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