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WRC Rally Finland: Preview

Written by Apostolos Papageorgiou, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Credit: WRC

Two weeks on from the fast and furious roads of Estonia, the World Rally Championship heads north, to a place one could arguably call as the series’ spiritual home: Finland. Full of spectacular gravel roads carving through the Finnish forests, sky high jumps taken by cars at breakneck speeds - no wonder the drivers are called pilots, and of course, some of the most passionate and dedicated fans in the sport, flooding every single one of the stages. This is no surprise, given a majority of rally drivers are Finnish, and pretty incredible to watch too, especially since these are the roads they grew up on.

One of the many talents the country has produced is Kalle Rovanperä, who absolutely crushed the opposition last time out in Estonia, winning every stage during the final two days of the rally. The Finn says it will be tougher this rally, mainly because it takes him a while to get up to speed. He’ll definitely be fired up to do so, no doubt. However, considering he’s yet to win his home rally, Rovanperä would certainly want to achieve the milestone as soon as possible.

Thierry Neuville put up a valiant effort to keep up with Rovanperä on the third day of Rally Estonia, but ultimately, it wasn’t meant to be. Even still, he impressed with his speed on roads that normally don’t suit him, something that sets him up well for further success this week, the Belgian looking for his first podium in Finland since 2013.

Credit: Dirtfish

Elfyn Evans missed out on third place at the last round, though fourth place still sees him keep second in the standings, albeit 55 points behind his teammate. The Welshman loves this rally, having won here in 2021, and he’ll most certainly be fired up for a good result here, to get his championship back on track.

Ott Tänak broke the Toyota stranglehold in Finland last year, winning out for Hyundai, his third win at the event. The Estonian was forced out of contention in his home rally, thanks to an engine change after shakedown, resulting in a five minute penalty. He made an outstanding effort to climb to eighth, but with fewer Rally1 retirements on the rally, that would be as far as he could get. With his astronomical pace on day two, he probably could’ve finished at least second, so there’s good reason to believe he’ll be competitive in Finland, provided the Puma holds together.

Esapekka Lappi won his first and only rally so far here, back in 2017 and also finished third in 2022, despite a roll on the second-to-last stage. Another podium finish in Estonia two weeks ago is proof of EP getting more and more comfortable with the I20, which sets him up well for his home event, a rally that sees him excel more often than not.

Credit: Toyota Gazoo Racing

Teemu Sunninen finished a very creditable fifth on his WRC return, although he felt a little disappointed not to be on the podium. He will make his second appearance in Finland, and should he repeat his Estonia drive, a good result - not to mention a full-time seat for 2024 - is more than likely.

Pierre-Louis Loubet and Takamoto Katsuta were locked in their own personal battle for sixth in Estonia, the Frenchman edging ahead by just 0.3 of a second. The pair will more than likely be battling each other once again in Finland, though any mistakes from other drivers-a real possibility given a quarter of the rally has been revamped-could easily elevate them to a solid result.

Finally, a surprising name is on the entry list for this week’s rally Finland: Jari-Matti Latvala, former WRC driver, and most importantly, current Toyota team boss. The Finn finally got his wish to drive the current Rally1 car competitively, and with three wins here, the first for Ford in 2010, and two for VW in 2014 and 2015, there’s no better place to do it. The 38 year-old hasn’t competed in the WRC since Sweden 2020, but with 209 starts, he is the most experienced driver in the history of the sport, and he will be counting on that wealth of experience for a top 10 finish.

The WRC2 field is once again filled with all the big names, with championship leader Yohan Rossel returning, alongside Estonia winner Andreas Mikkelsen, defending champion Emil Lindholm, as well as Oliver Solberg, Gus Greensmith, Sami Pajari, and M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux, who cruelly lost his victory in Sardinia when he slid off on the power stage.

Credit: WRC


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