Q&A: Urmo Aava

FIA European Rally Championship newcomer auto24 Rally Estonia proved a huge success when it took place last weekend Event Director Urmo Aava spoke to Fiaerc.com following the high-speed gravel spectacular.

How satisfied are you with auto24 Rally Estonia’s first appearance in the FIA European Rally Championship?
“I am very, very pleased. For me the rally was 110 per cent a success using our organisation, our knowledge and our budget. We were able to do all the things we wanted to do, and while there are always a few small details you like to improve upon, I don’t know how to organise it better.”

There have been lots of words of praise from drivers, teams and even the Prime Minister of Estonia. How does that make you feel?
“It’s really great because drivers and co-drivers and teams are extremely important to us and the event has to be well organised for them. We have had some positive comments too from the Prime Minister.”

What is the significance of this rally to Estonia and Estonian motorsport?
“Year by year this rally is becoming more and more important. Our main aim was to promote rally sport in Estonia and now with the FIA European Rally Championship we have grown into the biggest sporting event so this is good promotion for rallying and it really grows the sport. Also, all the young Estonian drivers were doing the rally and I was really proud that they could compete against the leader of the European championship, Esapekka Lappi.”

Why was it so important to bring the ERC to your country?
“The ERC is growing and growing and we have a parallel way of thinking. We didn’t just want to be a rally on the calendar – we wanted to grow our event and grow the sport and the ERC allows us to do this. Also, the opportunity to be in the ERC gave our team even more reason to be motivated.”

You had thousands of spectators in attendance. What does this say about the popularity of rallying in Estonia?
“We still have to wait a few days for the numbers but we know the new things we did, like brining the rally to Tartu – Estonia’s second biggest city – meant thousands more people came. Of course we still need the fans in the forests but the activities we did in Tartu, plus the coverage on Eurosport, really added value to this rally and helped to bring rallying to the people.”

There were many volunteers helping out during the rally. What message do you have for them?
“It’s a project where you need a will and a passion to help and a passion about rallying so we are really grateful to those people who invested their time and skills to make it happen. We had almost 1000 people supporting us.”

What’s the challenge now – a return to the ERC in 2015?
“We are already excited about next year but we really have to make this a three-year project. To build everything just for one year is a waste of everything and you are always half a year late. It’s also quite exhausting.”

Finally, what were your personal highlights of the event?
“The opening ceremony in Tartu, the Tartu city stage with so many people and the finishing ceremony in Tartu. All the fireworks, the flames, the music and the emotions from the drivers and the spectators were really great. I was also really amazed about the Eurosport programmes. Eurosport Events made a perfect job. It’s not because I want to be polite but the programmes brought the event to every Estonian’s heart. The balance between the nature, architecture and the sport was so well done. Even the footage was amazing because for a few moments I didn’t realise Estonia can be so beautiful.”