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ERC: high quality entry list for Rally Estonia

Fifty-one crews are set to take on Delfi Rally Estonia’s high-speed gravel stages when the FIA European Rally Championship returns to the Baltic nation for the first time since 2016 from 5 – 7 July. 

Delfi Rally Estonia, which takes place from 5 – 7 July between the cities of Tartu and Otepää, brings the ERC back to the country for the first time since 2016 and provides another high-speed gravel test following last month’s fast-paced Royal Bauhaus Rally of Scandinavia.   

After three action-packed rounds, Michelin-supported Mathieu Franceschi (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) and defending ERC champion Hayden Paddon, who pilots a Hyundai i20 N Rally2 on Pirelli tyres, are equal first on points.  

Following a challenging start to his title defence, Paddon banked his first podium of the season in Sweden and is aiming for another top-three finish this weekend. 

Aside from the ERC’s current top two, a host of other rapid rally drivers are getting ready to pounce. Among them are several local talents including former Junior WRC champion Robert Virves, WRC2 regular Georg Linnamaë and ERC support category graduates Gregor Jeets and Kaspar Kaspari.     

A WRC2 podium finisher on Orlen 80th Rally Poland last weekend, Virves, 23, said: “Winning is obviously something I would really like to do and straight from Poland I should be in quite okay form, straight from the car, so I definitely look for it. We can be quite quick.”  

Fresh from his Poland heroics, where he placed fifth overall on his Rally1 debut, Mārtiṇš Sesks is back on ERC duty in his MRF Tyres-equipped Toyota GR Yaris Rally2. The Latvian will be fired up for Estonia success as he bids for his first ERC win of the season.

Skoda-driving Simone Tempestini continues to build on the momentum generated by his V-Híd Rally Hungary victory in April, while Mads Østberg (Citroën C3 Rally2) is a double Rally Estonia winner. Nikolay Gryazin is also Citroën-powered and has won in the ERC five times.  

Mikko Heikkilä, a podium finisher in Sweden last time out, and Teemu Asunmaa are the Finnish champions from 2022 and 2023 respectively. Miko Marczyk is another driver to watch as are Jon Armstrong (Ford Fiesta Rally2), Frank Tore Larsen (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5) and Andrea Mabellini.   

Benjamin Korhola makes his top-level ERC debut, while former ERC3 contender Yuki Yamamoto, a Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC Challenge Program member, returns to the series but in the ERC1 class. Philip Allen and Giacomo Costenaro have ERC points-scoring potential.