Neste Rally Finland 2017 will once again bring world’s best rally gladiators to Finland and Jyväskylä in July, when the competition organised now for the 67th time takes place on 27 – 30 July. This is the first time the new-regulation more powerful World Rally Championship cars will be seen on the legendary gravel roads of Central Finland. Finnish drivers at the wheel of those WRC cars in Jyväskylä will definitely be at least this rock-hard trio: Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hänninen of Toyota Gazoo Racing and M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen.
Neste Rally Finland 2017 starts, in the now customary manner, with the Harju city special stage on Thursday night, 27 July, and ends with the Oittila Power Stage driven on Sunday 30 July in the afternoon. These are some of the similarities with last year’s route, as much is new in the route of Jyväskylä’s gravel circus compared to 2016. This year, the Neste Rally Finland route consists of 25 special stages and there will be a total of 316 special stage kilometres during four days of rallying. The total length of the route is 1 422 kilometres.
– As we all know very well, the amount of gravel roads in Central Finland is not increasing, and there are a great number of other things we must also take into consideration when planning the route. However, we do want to renew the route each year, so that the drivers, spectators and media can get more out of the rally. This year’s route is a compact package that features a wide selection of different types of Finnish rally roads, says Neste Rally Finland Assistant Clerk of the Course Kari Nuutinen, who is responsible for the rally route.
The Harju city special stage made a comeback in 2014 and has since then claimed its place in the hearts of rally fans, so it will rightfully get the honour of being the opening stage on Thursday night. After that, the route moves onto gravel, and for Friday the Neste Rally Finland route team has dug out of mothballs the old Jyväskylä classics of Urria, Laukaa and Lankamaa. Also, the traditional Jukojärvi stage has undergone a major revamp.
The route of Neste Rally Finland was approved already in January, but since then, post Rally Sweden, special attention has been paid to the special stage speeds. According to Nuutinen, it’s highly likely this will be seen also in Rally Finland.
– Safety is of course our number one priority, and now the situation has changed from what it was at the beginning of the year. We will be seeking the best possible solution, also sporting-wise, on this matter too.
No Sunday driving on Friday – 145 special stage kilometres on the longest day of Rally Finland
On Saturday, the changes on the route have been accomplished by changing the driving direction of “the Southern loop”, i.e. the Ouninpohja, Päijälä and Pihlajakoski stages. On Sunday, the route features the much-acclaimed pair of special stages from the eastern side of Lake Päijänne, i.e. Oittila-Lempää. Rally Finland will get a worthy ending in the picturesque Central Finnish scenery of Oittila.
– From the spectators’ point of view, Friday is truly a super day of rallying. The way the schedule is planned means that the special stages driven twice in the morning loop follow each other with a very tight schedule. There won’t be much time to kill between the passes, as the zero cars for the second pass will start off almost immediately after the first pass has been run through, Kari Nuutinen says.
Spectators will also have plenty of time after the second pass to get from the morning’s stages to the Laukaa and Äänekoski area for the afternoon/early evening special stages of “the Northern loop” – or to the second run of the Harju city special stage to enjoy some Friday night fever. Worth noting about this year’s route is the fact that Friday is the day with the most special stage kilometres, a total of 145.
Taking flight in legendary Jämsä on Saturday – Sunday culminates in the extra points from Oittila
On Saturday, rally fans will be treated to the fast special stages of the Jämsä region. Crucial actions that affect the outcome of the entire competition can be expected at the latest in Päijälä and Ouninpohja, the longest stages of the rally. Both stages with their hard-surfaced roads and fast-flowing crests and jumps provide the drivers and spectators with the most characteristic piece of Rally Finland. This year Ouninpohja, the crown jewel of the rally, will be driven from Hämepohja towards Kakaristo, so the Yellow house jump will send the cars flying far and it’ll be a high-speed entry into the Kakaristo fields. Also new for this year is the fact that the Pihlajakoski stage will be driven in this shape for the first time ever. Saturday’s route is complemented by the Saalahti stage familiar from last year. The total special stage length of Saturday’s double loop is 138 kilometres.
– I believe that Saturday will again this year be the decisive day in the competition. The stages are fantastic, high-speed roads of the southern part of Central Finland, and the stage times will vary greatly for sure. These stages also provide wonderful TV images of the nostalgic Rally Finland scenery. Spectators will get an added bonus on Saturday in the form of “Vetomies”, i.e. the Finnish national Group F competition, that is a good complement to the WRC classes.
Sunday, the final day of the rally, is route-wise the same as last year. Then too there were decisive moments, especially in Oittila, in both WRC and WRC2. Oittila and Lempää are driven twice, so on Sunday there will be a total of 34 special stage kilometres. And this year the stakes are even higher than before on the Power Stage, as there are even more extra points up for grabs.
– Last year we got a lot of positive feedback on Sunday’s route from the competitors and media as well as the spectators, so we decided to keep “the grand finale” intact. On Sunday, the road types create their own challenging package, and Oittila works very well as a Power Stage, from the televising point of view among other things.
Four glorious days, 25 fantastic special stages, new WRC cars and great rally atmosphere once again make up the most memorable sporting event of the year, bar none. You can’t experience this anywhere else – so see you in July in Central Finland, the Rally Kingdom!
Tuesday 27 June at 18:00 (17:00 CET)
Closing date for entries
Friday 30 June 2017
Publication of Draft Entry List (Subject to FIA approval)
Thursday 27 July
8:00-13:30 Shakedown Ruuhimäki – 4,62 km
12:30 Meet the Crews’, Service Park, Service Park Paviljonki
13:00 FIA Pre-event Press Conference, Media Centre
18:42 Start Paviljonki
19:00 SS 1 Harju 1 – 2,31 km
Competitive distance: 2,31 km (Liaison 6,17 km, Total 8,48 km)
Friday 28 July
6:05 Service Paviljonki – 15 min
7:12 SS 2 Halinen 1 – 7,59 km
7:45 SS 3 Urria – 12,75 km
8:48 SS 4 Jukojärvi 1 – 21,31 km
10:06 SS 5 Halinen 2 – 7,59 km
10:39 SS 6 Urria 2 – 12,75 km
11:42 SS 7 Jukojärvi 2 – 21,31 km
13:37 Service Paviljonki – 30 min
15:00 SS 8 Äänekoski-Valtra 1 – 7,39 km
16:13 SS 9 Laukaa 1 – 11,76 km
17:11 SS 10 Lankamaa – 21,68 km
18:09 SS 11 Äänekoski-Valtra 2 – 7,39 km
19:22 SS 12 Laukaa 2 – 11,76 km
20:30 SS 13 Harju 2 – 2,31 km
21:00 Service Paviljonki – 45 min
Competitive distance: 145,59 km (Liaison 495,32 km, Total 640,91 km)
Saturday 29 July
7:20 Service Paviljonki – 15 min
8:58 SS 14 Pihlajakoski 1 – 14,85 km
10:06 SS 15 Päijälä 1 – 23,52 km
10:49 SS 16 Ouninpohja 1 – 24,36 km
12:02 SS 17 Saalahti 1 – 4,21 km
13:27 Service Paviljonki – 30 min
14:55 SS 18 Saalahti 2 – 4,21 km
16:08 SS 19 Ouninpohja 2 – 24,36 km
17:16 SS 20 Pihlajakoski 2 – 14,85 km
18:24 SS 21 Päijälä 2 – 23,52 km
20:39 Service Paviljonki – 45 min
Competitive distance: 133,88 km (Liaison 436,17 km, Total 570,05 km)
Sunday 30 July
8:20 Service Paviljonki – 15 min
9:38 SS 22 Lempää 1 – 6,80 km
10:21 SS 23 Oittila 1 – 10,12 km
11:55 SS 24 Lempää 2 – 6,80 km
13:18 SS 25 Oittila 2 (PS) – 10,12 km
14:21 Service Paviljonki – 10 min
15:00 Podium Paviljonki
15:45 FIA Press Conference, Media Centre
Competitive distance: 33,84 km (Liaison 169,06 km, Total 202,90 km)
all times local
25 special stages
Special Stages total: 315,63 km (22,2 %) = the percentage of the total distance of special stages
Liaison 1106,72 km
Route total: 1422,34 km
Swedish constructor of the rally-developed Mitsubishi Mirage/Space Star, MPart AB, is pleased to announce that two of its cars will contest a full season in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. One will be driven by Finnish ace Jari Ketomaa, the other by British National Cup Champion Robert Blomberg from Sweden.
Following the car’s highly successful debut in the APRC, when Ketomaa finished an impressive second overall in October’s Malaysian Rally, the Mirage proved it was ideally suited to the tough and varied demands that are encountered in this long standing and highly regarded championship.
For MPart, the added appeal of contesting the APRC’s six rounds in Australasia, India and the Far East, is the acceptance by championship officials that the Mitsubishi is eligible to battle for overall positions and championship points alongside homologated R5, R4 and NR4 cars in Class AP4, as MPart boss Tomas Weng explains:
“The Asia Pacific Rally Championship provides a great showcase for our Mitsubishi, as it is given parity against cars of the same specification that it wouldn’t otherwise have in the WRC, ERC and some domestic rally championships. Therefore, it is of great interest to us to be able to compete on a level playing field against other cars of similar specification and therefore challenge for overall positions and the championship title.
“Another major attraction of the APRC is in light of our result in Malaysia last year. It confirmed the car is competitive and, if we can repeat the same performance in other events, then I’m confident we will be able to score even more podium results.”
Whilst he admits that last year’s Malaysian event was tough, Ketomaa, is excited about the challenge of contesting a whole season in the APRC:
“In all my years of competing, I have never driven a tougher event than last year’s Malaysian Rally. To get through it and finish second was a fantastic achievement for all of us as a team and testimony to the durability and performance of the car.
“I am extremely motivated about the Asia-Pacific Championship. I would really like to win it – and I think as a team we can win it. It’s a very high profile championship and to add an FIA title to my CV would be fantastic.”
Ketomaa added that competing in this championship sends out an important message for MPart and its cars:
“Tomas and his team have a set up in Sweden that is worthy of any manufacturer-backed operation. Therefore, competing in the APRC can establish the company as a major player in the motorsport industry and is another step towards other high profile global campaigns in the future.”
Blomberg, with his co-driver Lars Andersson, will run the same Mirage that they used with great success in the UK in 2016:
“Competing in the UK last year was a completely new experience for me. Now I’ve done that, been there, it’s time for something else and, when Tomas said he was considering a season in the Asia-Pacific Championship, I thought well, why not! I enjoy new challenges and, having spent some time working in the some of the countries where the APRC takes place, rallying over there was already on my bucket list.
“The Mitsubishi has proved it can be competitive in the region, so I hope I can help Tomas to promote the cars there and, together with Jari, we will try our best to win the constructor title for the team.”
The two Mpart Mitsubishis have now left Sweden and are currently on a six-week journey to New Zealand for the first round of the APRC, the Rally Whangarei that takes place on the East Coast of the North Island at the end of April.
2017 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship calendar:
April 28/30 – International Rally of Whangarei (New Zealand)
May 26/28 – International Rally of Queensland (Australia) CANCELLED
May 26/28 – National Capital Rally (Australia)
July 7/9 – China Rally (China)
August 11/13 – Malaysian Rally (Malaysia)
September 15/17 – Rally Hokkaido (Japan)
November 24/26 – Rally of India (India)
Three drivers from the 2016 Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy will take up their prize drives and tackle rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship WRC 2 series this year.
The one-make DMACK championship offered the biggest prize in world rallying for three years and has now effectively become the Junior WRC for 2017.
Overall winners from 2016, Welshmen Osian Pryce and Dale Furniss, will compete in Poland and Finland at the wheel of the M-Sport-run Ford Fiesta R5.
Finnish star and runner-up Max Vatanen will be first to sample the action when he starts Rally Portugal. He will also tackle his home round of the WRC in Finland – an event he won during last year’s DMACK Fiesta Trophy.
Finally Northern-Irish star Jon Armstrong will drive in Germany and Spain – hoping his Tarmac experience will help him secure a solid result.
The bonus seventh round at Wales Rally GB will go to the driver who scores the most points in WRC 2 across their pair of events, so there won’t be any cruising for the three stars as they step-up to four-wheel-drive.
The talented trio will all benefit from DMACK’s new 2017 range of tyres for WRC, which have already scored six stage victories on both gravel and asphalt this season.
Osian Pryce said: “It’s fantastic to have confirmation that we’re competing in Poland and Finland with the DMACK Fiesta R5 this year. Those events were the ones I really targeted and wanted to go for. I want to thank both DMACK and M-Sport for what’s coming this season. All too often you hear drivers complaining that there aren’t enough doors opening in this sport – we gave one door a bit of a push last year and it’s opened really nicely for us.”
Max Vatanen said: “I’m really looking forward to taking up the prize drive. It’s the right step in my career and it’s up to me to make the most out of it with the great combination of DMACK tyres and M-Sport’s Fiesta R5. Winning my class on my home soil of Finland last year is the highlight of my rallying. Having the opportunity to do it in WRC 2 this year is a dream come true.”
Jon Armstrong said: “I’m very excited to take control of the DMACK Fiesta R5 in Germany and Spain this year. We showed great speed on both events last season, so we are confident of setting some competitive times and getting good results. It’s a dream come true to drive in WRC 2, I want to thank DMACK and will aim to make the most of the opportunity I’ve been handed.”
Hayden Paddon will drive a New Generation i20 R5 on the Rallye Sanremo later this month (March 29-April 1). This will be his first taste at the wheel of Hyundai Motorsport’s latest R5 design.
The event, the second round of the premier Italian national championship, will form part of Paddon’s preparations for the Tour de Corse, the first pure tarmac rally of this year’s WRC season. Prior to that, the Kiwi will complete his pre-event testing in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.
The event will offer Paddon the opportunity for more time behind the wheel on tarmac, furthering his continuous preparation and improvement plan on the surface. Much of the 177km of special stages will take place on a similar type of road to those which make up the WRC stages on the French island.
He will be joined on the event by co-driver Seb Marshall, who has more experience with the New Generation i20 R5, having worked with the Customer Racing department throughout the development phase of the project last year. It was announced recently that Hayden and Seb will work together in WRC after Rally Finland and Rallye Sanremo will be a good way to train the crew in real rally conditions.
As well as the WRC pair, the crew of Chewon Lim and Martijn Wydaeghe will also enter the event. The rally will be their third event in less than a month at the start of a busy year for the pairing as part of the Hyundai Motorsport Driver Development Program.
Paddon said: “It’ll be my first time at Rallye Sanremo and I’m really looking forward to it. Competing the week before the Tour de Corse should be the perfect warmup for that event. It will be a good opportunity to get some more mileage on tarmac on very twisty and demanding roads that are similar to Corsica. The Italian drivers who know the stages will be very fast, while it’ll be our first time there so we’re not focusing on results, but instead concentrating on development and improvement for the future. The whole purpose of the rally is just to get more time behind the wheel and to get more comfortable on tarmac. The speed will be a little bit different but I’m excited be able to drive the New Generation i20 R5 for the first time. With Seb sitting in the car with me, it’s also a chance for us develop our partnership with an eye on the future.”
Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing department manager Andrea Adamo said: “Competing in the Rallye Sanremo with Hayden is a great opportunity for the Customer Racing department to add to some interesting mileage on tarmac, as we continue to make advancements with the project in order to support our customers. We will have a number of teams running with the New Generation i20 R5 at the event, so it will be a busy weekend, one we hope will be successful for our customers, as well as Hayden and Chewon. For Hayden, it will be also a great opportunity to prepare for the Tour de Corse. As testing is limited in WRC, he will be able to get some more time behind the wheel of another type of i20, and under the conditions of another tough event.
History-making Kiwi rally co-driver John Kennard will step down from his role as Hayden Paddon’s co-driver in the FIA World Rally Championship after July’s Rally Finland.
Kennard and Paddon have enjoyed a 12-year partnership which has taken the now famous Kiwi pair from domestic rally competition to the heights of world rallying.
Rally Finland is a very special event for Marlborough’s Kennard who first competed there alongside his now-business partner Brent Rawstron in the 1985 1000 Lakes Rally (now Rally Finland). Rawstron and Kennard came home as the top non-Scandinavian privateers in that rally, so it’s fitting for the oldest WRC co-driver to conclude his role as Paddon’s co-driver at his favourite rally.
During his time in world rally competition, Kennard made his own mark, particularly in the years alongside Paddon. He competed in New Zealand as a driver back in the late ‘70s, but moved to the co-driver’s seat in 1985, claiming his first WRC podium alongside Kiwi driver Malcolm Stewart at Rally New Zealand in 1988. Kennard has also worked for WRC teams, firstly as team co-ordinator for Mitsubishi Japan, a similar role with Prodrive’s Subaru World Rally Team and then a year managing Mitsubishi’s rally programme in USA. Having commenced his Marlborough vineyard business with Rawstron in 2003, the introduction to Paddon in 2005 bought Kennard back into the sport competitively. Together, Paddon and Kennard won the New Zealand Rally Championship in 2008 and 2009. The year 2010 saw the pair part of the Pirelli Star Driver Programme, securing third in the Production World Rally Championship. Four straight PWRC wins the following year secured the championship title for the Kiwis – a history-making achievement in New Zealand motorsport as the first Asia-Pacific driver/co-driver combination to ever win a world rally championship title. In 2013, the pair secured their third NZRC title, then in April last year Paddon and Kennard again made history with their victory at Rally Argentina as the first New Zealanders to ever win a round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Kennard says: “After 12 years as Hayden’s co-driver, it will be hard to lever myself out of that Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC seat for the last time. But our deal has always been that I help Hayden in the most effective way possible and to have been his co-driver for so long, has been incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. When we first got in a car together, in 2006, the dream of winning the WRC seemed so far away, but now, as we push to achieve that ultimate goal, it’s timely that we re-arrange roles for maximum effect and to help complete the quest we’re all on – to bring the WRC Championship trophy home to New Zealand.”
Paddon pays tribute to Kennard who has played a huge role in the team.
Paddon says: “Obviously, John has played a huge part in my career since we started working together at the end of 2005. We have achieved so much together and it has been quite a journey of highs and lows. It’s certainly sad to end the partnership, but we have been discussing over the last couple of years when was the best for both of us to make the transition with an eye towards the future.
“I can’t thank John enough for everything he’s contributed in these 12 years, but this is not the end. He will stay involved, helping me behind the scenes and, as he has played an important part in the journey so far, it’s only natural that he remains a part of it.”
An announcement regarding Paddon’s new co-driver from Finland onwards will be made within a few days.
Kalle Rovanperä, the teenage rally sensation from Finland who has already won a national championship aged just 16, will drive for Peugeot Italia as team mate to Paolo Andreucci on the Italian Rally Championship, with backing from Pirelli. Rovanpera’s first confirmed outings are Rally Il Ciocco from March 17-19 and Rallye Sanremo from March 30-April 2.
“I’m very grateful to Pirelli for helping to make this amazing opportunity possible,” said Rovanpera. “I really want to build up my experience on asphalt because most of my rallies so far have been held on gravel. With Paolo as my team mate and support from Pirelli, I also have the best possible teachers when it comes to driving on sealed surfaces. For me, this programme is all about learning: I’m not looking at the results.”
Peugeot Italia communications director Carlo Leoni added: “We’re delighted that Kalle has chosen the 208 T16 and Pirelli: the most competitive car and tyres on the Italian Rally Championship. Working alongside Paolo and taking part in the championship will mark an important chapter in Kalle’s professional growth.”
Rovanpera has starred on Italian asphalt twice before with Pirelli. Last year he took part in the Monza Rally Show and also in the Bettega Memorial at the Bologna Motor Show, where he nearly won on his World Rally Car debut.
Pirelli’s rally activity manager Terenzio Testoni commented: “At Pirelli we firmly believe in supporting champions of the future, so we are delighted to offer Kalle this unprecedented opportunity. The combination of our knowledge, alongside that of Paolo and Peugeot Italia, should help Kalle take big steps towards realising his phenomenal potential.”
Rovanperä has already tested the Peugeot 208 T16 R5 on asphalt, running on Pirelli’s RK dry tyres and RW Cinturato rain tyres. He will have one further test on similar Tuscan hill roads to those used for the Rally Il Ciocco: round one of the Italian championship. On account of his age, co-driver Risto Pietiläinen will drive the road sections, with Rovanpera taking over for the stages.