It’s one of the fastest rallies on the World Championship calendar, the ultimate rollercoaster, the gravel grand prix. It’s Rally Finland.
The eighth round of the 2015 season kicks off on Thursday evening (30 July). The event takes in 20 jump-strewn stages totalling 199 miles in Finland’s lake district – the event used to be called the 1000 Lakes. Rally HQ is in its traditional home of Jyvaskyla, some 170 miles north of Helsinski. This year’s route sees the return of the legendary Ouninpohja stage, run to its full 21-mile length, a distance that should only take about 15 minutes to cover. Such are the speeds involved.
Last time out in Poland, reigning champion Sebastien Ogier took another imperious win, despite being at a theoretical disadvantage running first on the road. As championship leader he faces the same problem again in Finland; he could lose a lot of time as he sweeps a clear path for everyone else to follow.
Local hopes rest with Jari-Matti Latvala, winner last year in Finland after a straight fight with Volkswagen teammate Ogier. Latvala is keen to get his season back on track; he lies fourth in the championship standings after three non-scores and only a single win. He has the added incentive of matching compatriot Juha Kankkunen’s record of three wins on the event.
Not that Ogier isn’t capable of winning. He did so in 2013 and has finished second or third on three other occasions. Whatever, the battle between the two VW drivers will be fierce.
But Ogier and Latvala won’t necessarily have proceedings entirely to themselves. VW junior Andreas Mikkelsen has enjoyed a stellar run so far this season, five podium finishes giving him second place in the championship. He has yet to score a breakthrough win, though. After missing out in Sweden, a debut win in Finland would be as close to a home win as the Norwegian could hope for. He certainly has the speed.
As does fellow countryman Mads Ostberg. The Citroen man is the only pilot to score points on every round so far this year, giving him third in the standings. He frequently shows immense pace, but rarely has the consistency to string a win together – his only win to date in Portugal in 2012 came after Mikko Hirvonen was excluded. Still, this weekend is as good an opportunity as any for Ostberg to prove that he really is a winner.
Behind is a crowded field of assorted of Citroen, Hyundai and Ford drivers all looking for a strong finish. Rally Finland is never boring and this year will be no different.
Drivers’ Championship standings after 7 events
- Sebastien Ogier — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 161 points
- Andreas Mikkelsen — Volkswagen Motorsport II/VW Polo R WRC — 83
- Mads Ostberg — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi/DS 3 WRC — 69
- Jari-Matti Latvala — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 66
- Thierry Neuville — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — 58
- Kris Meeke — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/DS 3 WRC — 53
- Elfyn Evans — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — 53
- Hayden Paddon — Hyundai Motorsport N/Hyundai i20 WRC — 44
- Ott Tanak — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — 40
- Dani Sordo — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — 37
Manufacturers’ Championship standings after 7 events
- Volkswagen Motorsport — 214 points
- Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team — 125
- Hyundai Motorsport — 123
- M-Sport World Rally Team — 114
- Volkswagen Motorsport II — 49
- Hyundai Motorsport N — 41
- Jipocar Czech National Team — 35
For more information click here
By Only Motors