Fri 22 Mar 2024

ERC Take Five with Urmo Aava

Urmo Aava is not only performing a key role in driving Delfi Rally Estonia forward, he also has experience of driving in the FIA European Rally Championship, which returns to his country this summer after an eight-year absence.

Before Aava made excellent organisation and promotion of rallies his speciality, the 45-year-old demonstrated a talent behind the wheel on three ERC events prior to embarking on a short but successful FIA World Rally Championship career.  

Leaving it to the ERC stars to tackle the high-speed gravel stages of Delfi Rally Estonia from 5 - 7 July, Aava has his focus firmly set on making the event one of the highlights of the 2024 season. This is what he’s had to say.

The ERC is back in Estonia this year. How excited are you by that prospect?  “We are very excited because we understand the sporting concept of the ERC. The WRC is the king of rallying, then it’s the ERC. If you look at Estonian rallying and rallying in the Baltics, organising an ERC event can give much more to the sport in terms of producing the next generation of stars. Everybody knows how hard it is to get a drive in a Rally1 car. Luckily, we have one Estonian star [Ott Tänak] driving at this level. But for producing the next generation of stars, the ERC is the perfect platform. If a driver from the Baltics has enough skill and it’s possible to gather the sponsorship, it’s possible to have a chance to show yourself in the ERC and potentially win a rally outright. I would say it’s a big gamechanger for the next generation. That’s why we are really excited with this opportunity. To have the ERC in 2024 and 2025 we are back in WRC. It’s the perfect combination.”

Given the focus on young talents, being part of the Junior ERC Championship as well must be very important, right?
“We have a big list of drivers in Estonia with potential. As organisers we want to invest in the sport so before we have been organising the Estonian championship on the same weekend as the WRC. But if you look how you can put together the Estonian championship and the WRC, the Estonian championship and the ERC combine much better. The rally is shorter and easier to make a good itinerary also for the Estonians. The ERC is giving value to the Estonian championship.”  

You mention Ott Tänak, is there are any chance you could tempt him into trying to make it five wins on Rally Estonia? It’s also Kalle Rovanperä’s favourite rally…
“It has not been discussed so we will see. It’s not easy with the schedule with lots of rallies close together, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and then Finland all in a few weeks. For Kalle, it’s really good there is now a Toyota Rally2 car and Toyota is one of our partners. There has been no discussion with Kalle but this is something we have to see for the long term. But, generally, it would be very, very good to have drivers with WRC experience doing ERC events, each manufacturer with a Rally2 car. It’s just a dream but if we dream of a life without contracts it could happen.”

Looking at Delfi Rally Estonia, what’s new for 2024?
“Some sections are new with some direction changes and combinations. We don’t use the stages north of Tartu because, to make a good schedule for two days, it’s not worth to travel so far so we are mainly with the stages from Tartu to the south and that’s why the service park is in Otepää because it’s central to the stages, so quite logical. It’s nice to have these competitors who have been regularly in ERC, even some who maybe could have experience from Rally Estonia from 2014 up to 2016. But please be prepared because it’s a different rally and the stages have changed with some hard jumps and hard landings. We will also have one new city stage in Elva. In the WRC it used to be a gravel stage through a rallycross track. Now we are planning to do something totally in the city centre of Elva, the hometown of Martin Järveoja.”  

What else should fans be getting excited about? 
“Tartu, where the ceremonial start and finish will be, is the European Capital of Culture in 2024. Through the whole year there will be many different sporting and cultural events and July is going to be the busiest. We have combined our schedule with the Tartu 2024 promotional schedule. For example, on the Sunday of the rally there will be a Bryan Adams concert so it will be a big festival of sport and culture. Nothing new for us there but this year there will be more.”

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM