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PREVIEW: TOP DRIVERS DO BATTLE AT TOP SPEED ON NESTE RALLY FINLAND

WRC A FULL 2016

PREVIEW: TOP DRIVERS DO BATTLE AT TOP SPEED ON NESTE RALLY FINLAND.

Sébastien Ogier (F), Julien Ingrassia (F) Volkswagen Polo R WRC (2015) WRC Rally Finland 2015

26 July 2016

The best rally drivers on Earth will reach the highest speeds of the season on Neste Rally Finland, which takes place from 28-31 July as round eight of the FIA World Rally Championship.

First run in 1951, the event has been part of the WRC since the inaugural season in 1973 and has a reputation as one of the most revered challenges in rallying – and all of motorsport – for its high speeds and big jumps along tree-lined gravel roads.
The competition takes place around the city of Jyväskylä in central Finland, about 270 kilometres north of the capital Helsinki. Huge numbers of spectators from this rally-obsessed nation and beyond head out into the forests to catch a glimpse of the spectacular action.

This year’s Neste Rally Finland takes place over a heavily revised route, extended to 24 stages and 334 competitive kilometres.

New stages, same spectacular challenge

The action begins on the evening of Thursday 28 July with the 2.27-kilometre Harju stage in Jyväskylä, providing a mixed-surface challenge for the drivers. It will be run again at the end of Friday’s schedule, which includes four stages that feature twice – including Jukojärvi – and two new short and sharp ‘jab’ stages, Halinen and Äänekoski-Valtra. Ouninpohja, one of the world’s most famous rally stages, runs first thing on Saturday, with the drivers sure to be wide awake after experiencing those thrilling 33 kilometres. The new Päijälä and Saalahti tests also feature in a loop of four stages that is repeated in the afternoon. The final day consists of two stages– Lempää and Oittila – being used for the first time this century. They will both be run twice, with Oittila (last seen in 1994) as the Power Stage.

Latvala looks for three in a row

Last year, Jari-Matti Latvala scored his third ever Neste Rally Finland win, and this time he can make it three in a row. If he does, it will be the 36th win for a Finnish driver at home since the WRC begin in 1973. To make it happen though, Latvala will need to end a run of six different winners in the last six events, having claimed victory in Mexico in March. His Volkswagen team-mate Sebastien Ogier remains on course for a fourth world title, but hasn’t won since Sweden in February, hampered by road sweeping at the head of the order. The third Polo driver Andreas Mikkelsen and the Hyundai duo Hayden Paddon and Thierry Neuville have won already this season, as has Kris Meeke, who has been rapid whenever he has appeared in his Citroën this season. Ford drivers Mads Østberg and Ott Tänak will hope to join the list of winners, the latter having come agonisingly close to his maiden WRC triumph last time out in Poland.

Young Finns set to shine on home soil

Latvala is the only Finn competing at the sport’s highest level this year, but there is a host of local talent hoping to take a big step towards joining him with a top result in the support categories. The WRC2 class is hotly-contested in 2016, and Teemu Suninen is close to the standings lead after three wins from four starts so far. Fellow rising star Esapekka Lappi will hope to repeat his 2015 WRC2 triumph in his works Škoda. Also in the WRC2 ranks are Joonas Soilu and the vastly-experienced Janne Tuohino. Juuso Nordgren will make his debut in the WRC3 and Junior WRC categories in a Citroën DS3 R3T as the Future Rally Star of Finland after winning the AKK assessment process for a fully-funded drive. Max Vatanen, the son of 1981 world rally champion and two-time Neste Rally Finland winner Ari Vatanen, is among the frontrunners in the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy.

Quotes
Jari-Matti Latvala: “Rally Finland is obviously the highlight of the season for me. I am really looking forward to it, even though the pressure is naturally greater than at any other rally. That can also serve as a motivation, as you obviously want to do well in front of your home crowds. The expectations of the Finnish fans are huge, particularly as I have only won once so far this year. The characteristics of the rally suit me. Fast gravel roads and big jumps – that is my kind of rally. The keys to this rally are ensuring the pace notes are correct and choosing the right line for jumps and fast sections. I will relax ahead of my home race in a very Finnish manner – in the sauna.”

Teemu Suninen: “I am really happy with my season so far because I have achieved really good results. It’s even a little bit surprising to have been fighting with the factory cars. The feeling is good before Rally Finland. It’s really nice to compete in my home country, but it’s also going to be difficult, with the jumps and all the crests, because it will be a totally new thing for me for me with this kind of car. To prepare, I did one small rally in Finland last weekend and two days of testing this week and everything felt fine.”

Esapekka Lappi: “For sure, Rally Finland means a lot, it’s one of the most important events. Of course every rally is important but there a special feeling on a home rally; the crowds are cheering for you, you know the stages, everything is familiar. I would say the main challenge on Rally Finland is to make the pacenotes as precise as possible, especially when you have new stages. It’s difficult to judge which crest will launch you really high into the air! I think everything should be ready for a good result. We did a rally here last weekend which was good preparation and helped me get used to the Finnish roads again.”

NESTE RALLY FINLAND IN NUMBERS
Stages: 24
Competitive distance: 333.99 kilometres
Total distance: 1370.66 kilometres
Longest stage: 33.00 kilometres (Ouninpohja)
Shortest stage: 2.27 kilometres (Harju)
Entries received: 81
Nationalities represented: 25
WRC appearances: 43
Most wins (during WRC era): 7 (Marcus Grönholm)

RECENT WINNERS
2015: Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC)
2014: Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC)
2013: Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC)
2012: Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Citroën DS3 WRC)
2011: Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Citroën DS3 WRC)
2010: Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Ford Focus RS WRC)
2009: Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Focus RS WRC)
2008: Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Citroën C4 WRC)
2007: Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen (Ford Focus RS WRC)
2006: Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen (Ford Focus RS WRC)

LEADING ENTRIES
1 Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
2 Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
3 Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC
4 Hayden Paddon (NZL)/John Kennard (NZL) Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC
5 Mads Østberg (NOR)/Ola Fløene (NOR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
6 Eric Camilli (FRA)/Benjamin Veillas (FRA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
7 Kris Meeke (GBR)/Paul Nagle (IRL) Citroën DS3 WRC
8 Craig Breen (IRL)/Scott Martin (GBR) Citroën DS3 WRC
9 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Anders Jaeger (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
12 Ott Tänak (EST)/Raigo Molder (EST) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
14 Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Chris Patterson (GBR) Citroën DS3 WRC
15 Marcos Ligato (ARG)/Ruben Garcia (ARG) Citroën DS3 WRC
20 Kevin Abbring (NLD)/Seb Marshall (GBR) Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC
22 Valeriy Gorban (UKR)/Volodymyr Korsia (UKR) MINI Countryman WRC
30 Yazeed Al Rajhi (SAL)/Michael Orr (GBR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
37 Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA)/Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
(full list)

RALLY ESSENTIALS (all timings local)
Starts: 18:42, Thursday 28 July, Service Park, Paviljonki, Jyväskylä
Finishes: 14:26, Sunday 31 July, Service Park, Paviljonki, Jyväskylä
Headquarters: Jyväskylä Paviljonki Lutakonaukio 12, FI-40100 Jyväskylä, Finland
Service park: Paviljonki, Jyväskylä
Surface: Gravel with some asphalt sections on Harju
Stages: 24
Stage distance: 333.99 kilometres (148.97 kilometres leg one, 150.82 kilometres leg two, 34.20 kilometres leg three)
Liaison: 1036.67 kilometres
Total: 1370.66 kilometres
MEDIA INFORMATION AND ACTIVITIES (all timings local)
Media accreditation:
Sokos Hotel Alexandra Hannikaisenkatu 35, 40100 Jyväskylä
Opening times: 14:00-18:00, Tuesday 26 July; 09:00-22:00, Wednesday 27 July; 07:00-19:00, Thursday 28 July
Media centre:
Jyväskylä Paviljonki, Messukatu 10, 40100 Jyväskylä
Opening times:
14:00-18:00, Tuesday 26 July; 09:00-22:00, Wednesday 27 July; 07:00-24:00, Thursday 28 July; 06:00-24:00, Friday 29 July; 06:30-24:00, Saturday 30 July; 07:00-22:00, Sunday 31 July
WRC drivers meet the kids:
17:30-20:00, Wednesday 27 July, Valtra factories, Suolahti
Shakedown: Ruuhimäki (4.81 kilometres), 08:00-09:30 (for P1 drivers), 09:30-11:30 (for P1-P3 drivers, optional), 11:30-13:30 (non-priority drivers), Thursday 28 July
Pre-rally press conference: 13:00, Thursday 30 July, Media Centre, Paviljonki
Meet the crews sessions: To be held during the end-of-day service halts on Friday and Saturday and at 12:00 on Thursday, Paviljonki service park
Post-event press conference: 15:45, Sunday 31 July, Media Centre, Paviljonki
Television and radio:
The host broadcaster of Neste Rally Finland is Nelonen, which will provide several daily updates of the rally to the nationwide free-to-air channel Nelonen, plus its Ruutu+ digital service, starting from the Sunday the week before the event. The rally will also be covered on a daily basis on national sports news on several other TV channels.
YLE Radio Keski-Suomi is the official radio service and is available at 99.3 MHz in Jyväskylä and 97.0 MHz in Northern Central Finland or at Yle.fi/keskisuomi. The service broadcasts and English and Finnish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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