Estonian driver clinches victory in ERC rally qualifying, heavy rain disrupts the field

The qualifying stage of the Estonian ERC rally was held on Friday under challenging conditions.
Georg Linnamäe (EST) and James Morgan. Photo: Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool
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Heavy rain made the roads muddy and the ruts filled with water. This particularly affected the leading cars of Mathieu Franceschi, Hayden Paddon, and Mads Østberg. The top three had to clear the water-filled ruts, resulting in significant time losses. This bodes poorly for the actual race, as starting positions for the rally are chosen based on qualifying times.

Paddon was only the 14th fastest, just ahead of Franceschi. Østberg, who joked about performing rain dances, likened driving to a lottery. The Norwegian managed to secure 11th place. The fastest time on the 3.81-kilometre Räbi special stage was set by the host country’s Georg Linnamäe, who beat Nikolay Gryazin by 0.8 seconds. Mikko Heikkilä, who finished second in the previous round in Sweden, was third in the qualifying, 1.1 seconds behind the leader.

“I can say the same thing as Mads. Really tricky, lots of water on the road. It’s just like lottery,” Heikkilä remarked at the stage finish.

Skoda driver Robert Virves was fourth, ahead of Gregor Jeets and Benjamin Korhola. Martins Sesks, who impressed in the last WRC rally in Poland, was the seventh fastest, 1.7 seconds off the pace.

“I wasn’t as clean as I wanted to be. It is not easy to switch with the cars every weekend! Of course the rain makes some difference with everything,” Sesks said.

“Fifth fastest? Okay! I missed the last junction and I went too fast in. Otherwise, it was quite okay. Difficult with the conditions as I couldn’t know the grip, but it is the same for everybody,” Korhola summarised.

The Estonian ERC rally kicks off on Friday evening. The competition includes a total of 14 special stages. The rally concludes on Sunday.

Results of the Estonian ERC rally qualifying stage:

 1. Georg Linnamäe     Toyota 2:00.5
 2. Nikolay Gryazin    Citroen  +0.8
 3. Mikko Heikkilä     Toyota   +1.1
 4. Robert Virves      Skoda    +1.2
 5. Gregor Jeets       Toyota   +1.3
 6. Benjamin Korhola   Hyundai  +1.7
 7. Martins Sesks      Toyota   +1.7
 8. Simone Tempestini  Skoda    +1.8
 9. Miko Marczyk       Skoda    +2.0
10. Jon Armstrong      Ford     +2.2
11. Mads Østberg       Citroen  +2.9
12. Andrea Mabellini   Skoda    +3.1
13. Mathieu Franceschi Skoda    +3.6
14. Hayden Paddon      Hyundai  +4.4
15. Kaspar Kasari      Ford     +5.0
16. Frank Tore Larsen  VW       +5.4
17. Teemu Asunmaa      Skoda    +9.8

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