Image: 2022 WRC - Rally Finland - M-Sport Ford WRT Puma Rally1 Hybrid (photo: Nikos Katikis / DPPI)
The FIA World Rally Championship’s high-speed double-header continues with Secto Rally Finland from August 3-6, two weeks after Rally Estonia provided a generous helping of epic gravel-based action.
A founding round of the WRC back in 1973, the 72nd edition of Rally Finland features a route that’s 27 per cent new compared to 2022 as organiser AKK Sports continues its policy of varying the itinerary each season.
Its efforts, which are supported by approximately 3500 volunteers, have been rewarded with a 68-car entry, the highest amount in six years, such is the popularity of the event and the WRC as a whole. While Finland is well represented with 26 crews, drivers from a further 22 countries will be taking part.
All the FIA rally car categories are represented on the Rally Finland entry list with nine hybrid-powered Rally1 cars, 36 Rally2 cars, 14 Rally3 cars and eight Rally4 cars set to take part. There is also one car conforming to the Rally2 Kit regulations.
Two notable entrants include Jari-Matti Latvala, who scored three of his 18 WRC wins in Finland, and Justus Räikkönen, who was 17 when he made his Rally Finland debut last season.
Having concentrated on his role as Team Principal of Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC since January 2021, Rally Finland is Latvala’s first WRC outing since Sweden in 2020 and his first in Rally1 machinery. Justus Räikkönen, meanwhile, is the 18-year-old nephew Kimi Räikkönen, winner of the 2007 FIA Formula One World Championship and he will drive a Peugeot 208 Rally4 as a non-priority driver.
Two new-format media and promotional activities trialled on Rally Estonia will be repeated in Finland with FIA WRC Media Pen and FIA WRC Meet the Crews live interview sessions taking place on Thursday.
Aimed at increasing spectator accessibility as well as refreshing the existing offering to accredited media, the tweaks are part of ongoing efforts by the FIA and WRC Promoter to further enhance the show and media service offering.
With doubling motor sport participation across the globe one of FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s key targets, it’s essential that the WRC becomes even stronger by being more accessible and more appealing.
All Rally1 cars competing on Rally Finland will use the Scorpion KX soft and hard tyres from official supplier Pirelli. The soft compound is the first choice for use in cool and damp conditions, while the hard compound is for warm and dry weather. Rally1 teams can use a maximum of 28 tyres for the event including four for Shakedown.
THE ROUTE IN SHORT
Following the 4.48-kilometre Rannankylä shakedown stage from 09:01 hrs on Thursday August 3, the mixed-surface Harju test in Jyväskylä forms the first timed competition of Rally Finland 2023 from 19:05.
Friday’s opening leg covers 108.24 competitive kilometres northeast of Jyväskylä with four repeated stages either side of service in the host city before a return to Harju in the evening. At 160.68 timed kilometres, Saturday’s leg is the longest with twin visits to four stages split by service in Jyväskylä.
Sunday’s route consists of two double-use stages and covers 51.64 kilometres. It’s based around the town of Himos where a Tyre Fitting Zone and the podium finish will be located. Among the many stage highlights is the return of Myhinpää, which is back having not been used since 2015, while Västilä is an all-new stage. The 20.65-kilometre Vekkula test is the longest of the rally.
RALLY FINLAND DATA
Stage distance: 320.56 km
Total distance: 1151.07 km
Number of stages: 22
RALLY1 HYBRID CONTENDERS
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT: World champion and provisional championship leader Kalle Rovanperä heads the Toyota line-up as he bids to win his home WRC event for the first time. Jyväskylä-based Japanese Takamoto Katsuta and Elfyn Evans, the 2021 Rally Finland winner, are also chasing Manufacturers’ championship points for Toyota. Jari-Matti Latvala competes in a fourth Yaris.
Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team: After making his return to the WRC’s top level for his first world championship start driving a Rally1 car in Estonia, Teemu Suninen continues in the third Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid on his home round of the WRC. Fellow Finn Esapekka Lappi and Belgian Thierry Neuville also fly the Hyundai flag.
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team: Ott Tänak defends his Rally Finland title following his 2022 triumph. Pierre-Louis Loubet drives the British squad’s second Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid.
Yohan Rossel (PH Sport Citroën C3 Rally2) heads the provisional FIA WRC2 standings, but Andreas Mikkelsen is closing fast after winning back-to-back events driving a Toksport WRT Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.
Adrien Fourmaux is the highest-seeded Ford Fiesta Rally2 driver, while Emil Lindholm, the WRC2 champion from 2022, starts his first Rally Finland since switching to a Hyundai i20 N Rally2.
Roope Korhonen steps up from FIA WRC3 as a four-time winner to WRC2 and is one of 26 Finnish drivers taking part and one of 36 competing in a Rally2 car.
Among the 68-car entry, the highest on the event in six years, are 14 Rally3 cars and eight Rally4 cars.