Fri 05 Jul 2024

Linnamäe keeps it tidy to top Estonia ERC Qualifying Stage order

Georg Linnamäe has made a rapid start to his home round of the FIA European Rally Championship by topping Delfi Rally Estonia Qualifying Stage times.

Benefiting from a momentary break in the unseasonal weather, Linnamäe completed the rain-hit 3.81-kilometre Räbi stage in a time of 2min 00.581sec aboard the Michelin-equipped Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 he shares with British co-driver James Morgan.  

Nikolay Gryazin, the four-time ERC event winner, was second fastest in his Pirelli-shod Citroën C3 Rally2, 0.783sec behind Linnamäe, with Michelin-supplied Mikko Heikkilä rounding out the top three in another Yaris.  

“It felt quite clean,” Linnamäe said. “I tried to be as neat as possible, it was quite tricky out there but it was good.” 

Gryazin admitted his lower starting order had given him an advantage as he was able to watch the early runners tackling the stage – and getting a better understanding of the weather conditions – through the live coverage on the ERC’s social media channels.  

“It’s good for us,” Gryazin said. “I cannot say we’re super-strong on the fast road but we are trying to do our best. I’m also really pleased we have Mads Østberg here [in another Citroën] to compare with him because I just want to compare with the best one.”  

Behind Heikkilä, who described the conditions as “a lottery”, Robert Virves was fourth fastest followed by Gregor Jeets and rising Finnish star Benjamin Korhola, who impressed with the sixth fastest time despite being “too fast into the last junction”.

Fresh from his Rally1-driving heroics on ORLEN 80th Rally Poland last weekend, Mārtiṇš Sesks was seventh quickest for Team MRF Tyres as Simone Tempestini, Miko Marczyk and Jon Armstrong (Ford Fiesta Rally2) rounded out the top 10.  

Following a dry and bright Free Practice, heavy rain before the start of the Qualifying Stage made for a challenging time for the ERC starts.  

Defending champion Hayden Paddon, who was first on the road in his Pirelli-equipped Hyundai i20 N Rally2, was 14th quickest and is now braced for a higher starting position for leg one under ERC rules.  

“Obviously very slippery, hoping it’s going to rain tomorrow because we’re going to get torched because the lines from the ruts from Free Practice are just completely full of water and we’re just aquaplaning everywhere,” he said. “Not good being first on the road.”  

Paddon finished up one place behind Mathieu Franceschi, with whom he jointly tops the ERC standings after three rounds.  

Andrea Mabellini, driving a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 on MRF Tyres, reported “six times aquaplaning” on his way to the 12th quickest time, while Finnish champion Teemu Asunmaa completed the stage with a damaged front-left tyre caused by striking an anti-cut device during the run.” Østberg, meanwhile, was 11th fastest. Kaspar Kasari completed the top 15.  

The Ceremonial Start in Tartu is next from 18:30 local time with SSS1, Tartu vald, due to get under way at 19:35. The fan-focused 1.48km stage is the first of 14 timed tests included on the itinerary for round four of the 2024 FIA European Rally Championship, the final gravel event of the ERC season.

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