TALLINN - Many efforts have been made to build a proper racetrack in Tallinn, the most recent one failing barely a week ago. But the only dedicated racing circuit in the country is the slightly overconfidently named EstRing near Parnu. The best competition drivers in the Baltics will be there Aug. 7 - 8 for a meeting that will bring together both international and Estonian championship events.
The recently introduced FIA NEZ (North European Zone) Cup has given official status to the long-standing rivalry between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania's finest touring car teams. The racing circus traveling across the three countries includes a class for almost any budget.
The Golf-1600 class is the most affordable and naturally the most popular. Competitors are forced to use first and second-generation VW runabouts with very limited modification allowed. Since no cars are significantly faster than others, and Golf body parts are relatively cheap, this class makes for some of the most entertaining circuit racing this side of the BTCC. Running alongside them in a mixed race are the Super-1600 machines, where engine displacement is limited to 1.6 liters, but teams are allowed to build as fast a car as they possibly can without resorting to forced induction. The third junior touring class is the N-1400, better known as the Yaris Cup. The racing series for lazy people, this is a typical "arrive-and-drive" arrangement: drivers can pay about 20,000 euros for the car and a season's servicing, and leave all the grunt work to the organizers.
Beyond these, there is the B-2000 class, which reflects the regulations of many FIA championships across Europe and therefore brings some extremely well developed machinery to the race tracks. The Honda Civic Type R is the car most drivers go for, including Estonia's own Aivis Ohtla, who has raced his two-liter hatchback with some success in Finland and Russia, as well as jostling for Baltic touring car supremacy with Girts Kruzmanis and Janis Horeliks. The last closed-wheel class is the Free GT championship, which allows just about anything with an FIA stamp of approval on it.
While many cars from lesser classes join the party, what the crowds really come to see are the impressive BMW 325 of Tonu Soomer, the unlikely Chrysler Stratus of Marius Budrikis and the hilarious racing Beetle of Paavo Rebane.
The Parnu circuit will also see some open-wheeler action, with the Formula Baltic - 1600cc engines in scaled-down F1 look-alikes - and a demonstration run by the Estfields, classic Lotus Seven replicas that an Estonian company has been building to order for a few years now.