Rising star Karl Kruuda, 21, is seeded three for auto24 Rally Estonia, his home round of the FIA European Rally Championship this week. This is what he had to say ahead of the high-speed gravel event from 17-19 July.
The biggest rally in your country and you’re being tipped for a strong result. What’s your target?
“I just want to finish on the podium and I will do everything in my power to do that and hopefully everything will go to plan. The main goal is not to make any double or triple flips like in Poland and to keep the car on the road. Otherwise I will be trying to go flat out and I hope to have a fantastic battle with Ott Tänak, the other Estonians, Esapekka Lappi and everybody else from the ERC.”
How much extra motivation do you get from trying to be the best Estonian driver on the rally?
“It’s always good to be the best from your country but, in my case, I have the second place right now because Ott is the fastest guy. He’s taking absolutely the maximum out of his Fiesta R5, in every crest, and we know he has the speed because he’s shown it in the WRC. At the same time it would be nice to announce myself as the fastest Estonian and one day I would like to take the crown, but today is not the day. I’ll be giving the maximum from my side to show the others I’m the driver behind Ott.”
As well as being your home event, Rally Estonia is great preparation for your next WRC round in Finland. How does that change your strategy?
“The Estonian roads are similar to Finland with the speed, although there are more jumps and crests in Finland. But the speeds are there. For the preparation side it’s one of the best events you can have to get the fast speed knowledge, and knowing where you go flat out and how to take the car to the maximum speed and to come flat out through some corners. But I have also driven local Finnish rallies this year, which has given me most of the performance side for Rally Finland.”
Following your crash in Poland, will you have a repaired Peugeot 208T16 for Estonia or will you be driving a replacement?
“It’s a new Peugeot because the one I had in Poland has got a bit destroyed. I don’t know who was the guy who took the jackhammer and just destroyed a car – he was an idiot! But seriously, Peugeot Sport was very helpful and organised a new bodyshell so we have something new. Unfortunately because I destroyed my car in Poland – or somebody did – I am not 100 per cent sure if I can do a test before Estonia, but I would like to do a short test if there’s the time after recce. It will be good to sit in the car and get the right feeling after a big crash and to know the car works properly before the event.”
You’re not the only Kruuda family member competing on Rally Estonia – tell us about your younger brother Gustav…
“He’s my little brother who I am mentoring and teaching. He’s 16 but around five years ago I gave him the first car I started driving and took him to the tracks a few times a month just so he could start driving. Now I think he’s the youngest guy ever to come to an ERC event because he’s only 16 and three months. I’ve done quite a lot of work with him and theoretically he’s very fast. On the physical side and with the knowledge he needs to catch up a little bit. But he’s a good driver and drives quite fast if he knows the road. I have to take the credit if he is fast in the future because I teach him a bit and he learns from me!”
And finally… what’s good about Estonia?
“The best thing about my country when you arrive home after five different flights is that once you go out the airport everything is quiet – you can hear the birds singing. We are not a big country, only 1.3 million people, but when you turn away from the main roads you can drive alone and see the nature and all the forests. At the same time our country has fantastic technology – there is free wifi everywhere and 4G too. And the girls in Estonia are some of the prettiest.”