World Rally Championship co-driver Paul Nagle has revealed the steps he must take so he can compete internationally and comply with COVID-19 regulations at home and abroad.
Nagle and his driver Craig Breen return to the WRC for this weekend’s Rally Estonia, a new event added to the championship roster to replace one of many already cancelled rallies.
It is their first outing with the Hyundai Motorsport World Rally Team since they contested Rally Sweden in February
Rally Estonia, which gets underway on Friday night, is the first WRC rally to run since Rally Mexico was cut-short in March as most of the world went into lockdown.
Nagle’s event preparations started one week earlier in Killarney with a visit to his doctor for a COVID-19 swab – a requirement of both event organisers and his team bosses at Hyundai Motorsport.
Once his test returns negative he is free to start the next part of his journey to Tartu, the rally’s host city in Estonia.
His original plan was to travel via Riga in Latvia, both Baltic countries remain in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, ‘Green List’ nations.
Riga is about three hours’ drive from Tartu and he planned to undertake a 24-hour isolation period at the team hotel (another directive of both the organisers and Hyundai) once he arrived in the host town.
However, that plan changed when Latvia put Ireland on its ‘Red List’ meaning arrivals from this country would have to isolate for 14 days, ruling out all possibilities of making it in time for the rally’s start on Friday night.
This forced a travel re-think and he decided to travel to the event via Estonia’s capital city of Tallinn.
All international arrivals into Estonia are subjected to a swab test at the arrival airport and even those with a negative result are expected to isolate for an extended period.
Throughout the whole process, Nagle sought guidance from Motorsport Ireland and Sport Ireland.
“Everything has to be done above board, it will be the same for the Republic of Ireland soccer team who play Bulgaria and then return to Dublin to play Finland in the space of six days,” he said. “The standards of testing and safety protocols by rally organisers are probably better than some countries efforts but it is all part of international sports while we are dealing with this virus. It about keeping myself safe and those around me safe so I welcome the level of testing and the additional requirements.”
During his self-isolation period, he will be confined to the team hotel and while he can go for daily exercise he will not be expected to attend media or other promotional events typical in the days leading up to a major rally.
He and Breen start their recce on Thursday morning.
Before that, his team doctor will have taken several other COVID-19 swabs to make sure he has not contracted the virus while travelling.
Apart from Friday night’s Super Special in Tartu the bulk of the rally runs over two days, a much shorter affair that a typical three- or four-day WRC event.
Saturday will see over half of the rally’s competitive distance covered with five stages repeated, starting with the longest stage of the event Prangli (20.23km) followed by Kanepi (16.89km), Otepää (9.6km), Mäeküla (14.76km) and Elva (11.72km)
Sunday’s schedule covers three stages Arula (6.97km), Kaagvere (15.46km) and Kambja (20.05km), each run twice with the second pass of Kambja acting as the rally’s Power Stage.
Throughout the event, Nagle and his fellow competitors will be tested multiple times, either by their team’s medical staff or, by event organisers. They will be required to wear face masks while in the service park or while giving media interviews at the end of each test.
“It is the same for everyone,” he added.
The Aghadoe man will arrive home on Monday but as he is arriving from Estonia, which is on the Irish government’s ‘Green List’ he will not be required to isolate on return.
His driver Breen, who has strong family connections to Camp in West Kerry, is relishing the chance to get behind the wheel of a Hyundai i20 Coupe World Rally Car for the first time since February.
“I’m really looking forward to Rally Estonia. It’s an event where I have quite a bit of experience in comparison to other crews. This year will be my fifth time going there and I am definitely looking forward to being back in a WRC car again after this strange and long period without anything,” he said. “It’s great to get back to competing and some form of normality. I think we can perform well in Estonia, as fast rallies generally seem to suit us, so we’ll be aiming for some good results there.”
This article was originally published in The Kerryman. Kerry Motorsport News is the motorsport content provider to The Kerryman