taste of WRC came the previous day with a posting on an elevated right-hander past a church that dropped into a switchback crowned with potentially car-cleaving trees at Special Stage 1, Harju. It was here I began to realise I was not alone in holding a chequered interest in proceedings. The howling approach of rally car, met with a forest of tattooed arms waving phone cameras, was little more than a periodic interruption of what was as much a social gathering as a sporting event, with laid-back chatter and cheery quaffing of the watery local lager.
Today, a sea of red Toyota Gazoo banners and fans decked in similarly branded clothes drown out the minority of Citroën and Hyundai supporters meekly folding away their flags; Gazoo’s marketing folk must be shimmying with delight. And that’s it. It is a far cry from my preconceptions of fast, flowing action, with a rapid succession of cars leaping through picturesque pine forests.
Instead, barring a fleeting glance of drifting rally cars, the cheers the Yaris’ appearance on the big screen elicit are followed by a leisurely stroll to transport/ bar/hotdog stall. We’re satisfied at the growing dominance of Gazoo’s Yaris trio after a neck-andneck fight for the day’s honours between Ott Tänak and Citroën’s Mads Østberg sees the Estonian come out on top. Fortunes are mixed for the local boys; Jari-matti Latvala pips Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon for third but a groan-inducing start line stall for defending rally winner Esapekka Lappi relegates him to eighth place.
This flurry of meticulously timed on-off action is also reflected in Toyota’s service park, where there’s the bizarre sight of excited fans craning to get a better view of the swirling, power tool-wielding ballet that is the mechanics hurriedly pulling apart and reconstructing the cars under the glow of TV screens beaming a 45-minute service interval countdown.
The final run tomorrow promises to be a more aerial and electrifying affair; and along with it, the opportunity to observe both rally car and enthusiast in their more natural forest setting.