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Science|Business: How science won the World Rally Championship

Tõnisson’s speciality is predicting how the weather will affect each part of a given rally stage, where road terrain can vary from tarmac and gravel to mud, snow and ice. The photo is illustrative.
Tõnisson’s speciality is predicting how the weather will affect each part of a given rally stage, where road terrain can vary from tarmac and gravel to mud, snow and ice. The photo is illustrative.
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By predicting road conditions, Estonian meteorologist and storm chaser Hannes Tõnisson helped win the World Rally Championship in 2019.

Prudent motorists always check the weather before they set off. But the Estonian rally champions Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja have something better: predictions about the state of every stretch of road, courtesy of meteorologist Hannes Tõnisson.

Professional rally teams typically use detailed weather forecasts, but Tõnisson’s speciality is predicting how the weather will affect each part of a given rally stage, where road terrain can vary from tarmac and gravel to mud, snow and ice.

“The drivers don’t want to know what the weather is, they want to know the conditions on the road,” says Tõnisson, a senior researcher at Talinn University’s Institute of Ecology exploring how climate change is set to impact Estonia. “I always go to the rally many days before, so we have the possibility to drive through all the stages where the drivers are going to drive, so I have quite a good idea of what the roads look like and what’s going to happen with them.”

Drawing on his research experience of monitoring the on-the-ground effects of extreme weather, Tõnisson is using computer models and mapping software to figure out exactly what a weather forecast will mean for the race ahead.  Last year, Tõnisson’s expertise helped Tänak and co-driver Järveoja win the World Rally Championship. Tänak is the first ever champion from Estonia, and the first non-Frenchman to win the title for 15 years.

A long-time rally enthusiast, Tõnisson began making his predictions as a spectator, just for fun, before the value of what he was doing was spotted by Tänak’s team.

Read the full article by Nicholas Wallace in Science|Business.

Photo by: Pixabay.com

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