The World Rally Championship finally returned from its coronavirus enforced break on last weekend’s Rally Estonia. Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja claimed a popular home victory but how did the event perform as it made its WRC debut in challenging circumstances?
According to Hyundai’s Paul Nagle, who finished second in Estonia alongside Craig Breen, the event did everything right when it came to managing a Covid-compliant rally.
“The rally, for its first time as a World Championship round, set a huge standard,” said Nagle. “It was all very safe.”
“We had to test before we left the country, we tested the minute we arrived at the airport, and we had to isolate in the hotel until those results came back.
“There was no media or spectators in the service area.
“If you were in the service area, it was called a high-density area, you couldn’t leave it if you were an official or media.
“You had to have your passes everywhere even though you had your race suits on.
“It was a superbly ran and organised rally. Under a lot of pressure and limelight as well but it set a huge standard and it is a massive credit to Estonia for that.”
The five-time World Rally winner is no stranger to new environments. Nagle has experienced most things in his globetrotting rally adventures but he admitted life as a navigator is a bit different post-lockdown.
“Everything was contactless, I do have a timecard but it is all managed so no timekeeper touches the timecard.
“Whatever time I want, I put my timecard up to the window and they give me the time on the clock, there and then.
“I had to get out for the refueling and tyre-marking the spare wheels.
“More or less, it is the five or six mechanics in the service park plus Craig and I who are the only people who can touch the car.
“All communications, bulletins, and start times were done via an app. Everything was paperless, even the maps were online as well.”
As life adjusts to a new normal it is positive to see the WRC returning in a sensible and professional manner.
Things may be different but thankfully the excitement and thrills of Rally Estonia were still brilliantly captured through onboard cameras, in-stage camera crews, and of course the end-of-stage reporters that showcase those ever-entertaining interviews with Nagle’s pilot Breen.
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Photos courtesy of Hyundai Motorsport