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WRC 2012, Round 8/13 – Neste Oil Rally Finland (August 2-4)

July 23, 2012

WRC 2012

Round 8, Rally Finland

Entry list

Rally map

Results & Statistics

Timetable

Wednesday 1 August: Qualifying

QS [Qualifying Stage] Ruuhimäki 4,90 19.30

Thursday 2 August

Regroup, Lahti Harbour 30 min 16.00
SS 1 Koukunmaa 13,68 17.23
SS 2 Jokimaa 2,00 19.00
SS 3 Mynnilä 14,40 20.50
Service A 45 min 22.35

Friday 3 August

SS Name Length Time
Service B 10 min 6.30
SS 4 Urria 12,75 7.42
SS 5 Jukojärvi 22,33 8.39
Service C 30 min 10.05
SS 6 Mökkiperä 1 11,38 11.28
SS 7 Palsankylä 1 13,92 12.14
SS 8 Lankamaa 1 23,09 13.32
Service D 30 min 14.45
SS 9 Mökkiperä 2 11,38 16.08
SS 10 Palsankylä 2 13,92 16.54
SS 11 Lankamaa 2 23,09 18.12
SS 12 Killeri 20.00
Service E 45 min 20.30

Saturday 4 August

Service F 10 min 7.00
SS 13 Surkee 1 14,90 7.56
SS 14 Leustu 1 21,50 8.54
Service G 30 min 10.07
SS 15 Surkee 2 14,90 11.18
SS 16 Leustu 2 21,50 12.16
Service H 30 min 13.29
SS 17 Ouninpohja 1 33,01 15.37
SS 18 Ouninpohja 2 (Power Stage) 33,01 18.00
Huolto I 10 min 20.03
Podium Jyväskylä, Paviljonki 21.00
SS kilometres 302,82

all times local

Preview

Rally Finland, round eight of the FIA World Rally Championship, continues to evolve its event and remains the only rally on the calendar that is condensed into two and half days of intense competition. As such, qualifying will be on Wednesday and the event starts in earnest on Thursday with three stages near Lahti running late afternoon and early evening. Friday and Saturday are both long days and the event concludes with the legendary Ouninpohja stage. Renowned the world over as a roller-coaster ride, Ouninpohja returns to the itinerary in its full and original 33 kilometre length for the first time since 2004.

Recognised as the spiritual home of rallying, Finland provides spectacular action unlike any other event in the series. Fast flowing gravel roads with stomach-churning jumps snake their way through beautiful forests and past hundreds of scenic lakes; hence it previously being known as the 1000 Lakes Rally.

Rally Finland provides a weekend of all-round entertainment for the family, both out on the stages and in the newly-refurbished Jyväskylä service park area. One of its leading themes this year focuses on safety and there will be a number of different initiatives in support of the FIA’s Action for Road Safety campaign.

The event is the fifth round of the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship and the third outing for the FIA WRC Academy Cup crews.

CHANGES TO THE ROUTE SINCE 2011

The 14.22 kilometre Mynnilä test which will run as the closing stage on Thursday evening was used in 2011 but runs in reverse this year, returning to its more familiar format of the 1980s and 1990s. The Leustu stage (SS14/16) has also changed direction, having never run from south to north previously. Just three stages used back in 2009 are run in the same configuration (Mőkkiperä, Palsankylä and the Killeri super special stage) and all remaining stages run with some modifications to previous years.

RALLY DATA

Total distance: 1,625.69 km
Stage distance: 303.52 km
Number of stages: 18

Team Previews:

Manufacturers: Citröen Total World Rally Team / Citroën DS3 WRC
1 Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (F/MC)
2 Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN)

Having already won twice in the land of a thousand lakes, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena start the eighth round of the season with a comfortable lead in the Drivers’ standings. The eight-time World Champions can expect to find a raft of Scandinavian drivers attempting to block their path, starting with their Citroën Total World Rally Team team-mates, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen. In search of a first victory with the team, the Finnish crew would dearly love to win here!

With five wins in the first seven rallies for Loeb and Elena and the same number of podium finishes for Hirvonen and Lehtinen, the Citroën Total World Rally Team has negotiated the first half of the 2012 season impressively. The team holds a 93-point lead in the Manufacturers’ World Championship, whilst its two crews lie first and second in the Drivers’ standings respectively.

The second half of the season, which will remain in Europe to its conclusion, starts in Finland. Whereas the last three rallies placed greater emphasis on endurance – with over 400km of stages in Argentina, Greece and New Zealand – in Jyväskylä, the Finnish round keeps to its sprint format, with the stages packed into just three days, from Thursday evening to Saturday evening. Winding through the conifer forests, the rally’s gravel roads are famous for their jumps, crests and blind corners. For a long time, this highly specific terrain was the preserve of Nordic drivers, until a certain Sébastien Loeb became the first non-Finn to win the event twice (2008 and 2011).

Despite his recent success here, Seb is not prepared to label himself as the big favourite for the rally: “I say the same thing every year, this is not my favourite rally. The stages are magnificent, but the trees are bit too close to the road for my liking. I have always managed to avoid going off, undoubtedly because I don’t go flat out if I don’t feel totally comfortable behind the wheel. To be totally honest, it is difficult to say whether I’ll be going for the win or not. I’ve got such a healthy lead in the World Championship that I don’t need to take any risks. But if I feel that I am capable of winning, then I’ll go for it. After a good break, I am pleased to get behind the wheel of the DS3 WRC. We are going to be testing this weekend in Finland, so that will give us the perfect opportunity to get back into the swing of things.”

If there is one driver who has made no secret of his desire to win this rally, then it is unquestionably Mikko Hirvonen. The 2011 WRC runner-up grew up in Jyväskylä and won his home rally in 2009. After two years of frustration here, he is totally focussed on winning the ‘1000 Lakes Rally’ for a second time: “I think that I have now collected plenty of runner-up spots, so it’s time to get my first win with Citroën! Obviously, if it could happen at my home rally, I would be overjoyed. I really like quick rallies, and it’s in these kinds of conditions that I feel most comfortable in the Citroën DS3 WRC. I hope there will be a good scrap at the front, not just with Seb but also with the other leading contenders.”

As the Citroën Total World Rally Team features drivers that have won Rally Finland in three out of the last four years, Yves Matton believes we can look forward to some extremely high quality racing: “I think our rivals will be prepared and eager to fight back. They’ll be going all out to end our run of victories. But Seb and Mikko will give as good as they get from the likes of Latvala, Solberg, Ostberg, etc. Our drivers are capable of pushing from start to finish, and they’ll need to do so to ensure Citroën wins this legendary rally once again.”

Manufacturers: Ford World Rally Team / Ford Fiesta RS WRC
3 Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (FIN)
4 Petter Solberg / Chris Patterson (N/GB)

Sprinting will not just be the preserve of the planet’s best athletes next week when Ford’s rally aces journey to Finland for the fastest round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The Finnish fixture is one of the shortest in the series’ history and Ford World Rally Team’s drivers know its increased intensity will push the emphasis even further towards pure speed.

Rally Finland (2 – 4 August) is affectionately known as ‘The Finnish Grand Prix’ as drivers do battle through the Scandinavian forests at average speeds of up to 135kph. The 2012 version will be a sprinters’ paradise with just 303.52km of competition, the least scheduled for a WRC round since accurate records began.

Such is the pace in the country regarded as rallying’s spiritual home, that after 500 WRC rounds since the series started in 1973, eight of the 10 fastest rallies have been in Finland.

Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila know exactly what is required to succeed. The Finns won on home ground in 2010 and finished on the podium in each of the last three seasons. Team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson are eager to gatecrash the Finns’ dominance of their home rally. The Norwegian driver finished second in 2003 and third the previous year.

“This is a sprint in the truest sense,” said 27-year-old Latvala. “The pace is such that time differences are small and if you make a mistake there’s no opportunity to regain the seconds lost. Every error is magnified. Pre-event testing is more important here than elsewhere because you must start the rally 100 per cent happy with the car set-up and feeling,” added Latvala, whose two-day test ends today.

Latvala and Solberg’s Fiesta RS World Rally Cars will carry a special one-off livery highlighting Ford’s EcoBoost engine technology as part of a worldwide initiative in August across Ford’s motorsport programmes.

The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine that powers the rally cars draws on the knowledge of Ford’s advanced EcoBoost technology, which provides increased fuel efficiency and decreased emissions on its latest production vehicles. The livery will also feature on cars in other disciplines, including the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series and the Chinese Touring Car Championship.

Rally Finland is one of the jewels in the WRC crown. It comprises a mix of hard, wide and fast roads combined with narrower, technical sections and huge crowds will pack the forests to view the action.

The characteristics of the smooth gravel speed tests make this one of the most difficult events in the calendar. The blisteringly fast roads are littered with roller-coaster, stomach-churning jumps, which frequently hide bends over the crests.

They demand extreme bravery from the driving seat and pinpoint accuracy in the delivery of pace notes from the co-driver. It is essential to select the correct line before ‘take-off’ to ensure maximum pace through the following curves. Finns who nurtured their careers on roads of this nature have an advantage over ‘outsiders’ who require many years’ experience to fully adapt to the driving style.

“When you approach a big jump at 180kph it’s essential to kill the speed before take-off,” said Latvala. “If the speed is too high, the aerodynamics will force the back of the car down and the front, which is lighter, will rise. The tactic is to brake, perhaps drop a gear, and accelerate full throttle over the jump. Braking over the jump itself means the suspension isn’t free and the landing could be bad.”

The final leg brings the return of the classic Ouninpohja test, run to its full 33.01km distance for the first time since 2007. Regarded by many as the best special stage in the sport, the first 23km are held over wide, fast roads with many huge jumps, before a spectacular hairpin bend sends competitors back into the forest on narrow, more technical sections.

Solberg set the stage record in 2005 and the 37-year-old Norwegian is happy to see it back on the schedule. “The rally will be decided over those roads. It’s incredibly demanding and difficult. It’s not so technical in the traditional sense, especially on the wide roads. But the speed is so high that if your line isn’t correct over the jumps, it’s easy to make a mistake which can end your rally,” he said.

“It’s an amazing feeling to complete that stage knowing you have driven as well as you could. Relief, happiness, confidence – they’re all feelings you experience when you have mastered Ouninpohja. Without doubt, it’s the best stage in the entire championship,” added Solberg, who was bubbling with enthusiasm after completing what he described as one of his ‘best-ever’ tests on Wednesday.

Manufacturers: WRC Team MINI Portugal /MINI John Cooper Works WRC
12 Armindo Araujo / Miguel Ramalho (P)
14 Paulo Nobre / Edu Paula (BR)

You need nerves of steel to succeed at the Rally Finland. Three MINI drivers will take on the daunting challenge, while a well-known MINI fan will have her fingers crossed for the MINI contingent.

“Sisu” is the Finnish expression for showing strong nerves – something the participants at the Rally Finland will have to do plenty of. With average speeds of over 120 kilometres per hour, giving the rally its nickname of the “Finland Grand Prix”, and incredible jumps that see the cars fly up to 60 metres through the air, Finland is not only the fastest but also one of the most spectacular rallies on the WRC calendar. Anyone not demonstrating enough “Sisu” can abandon any hopes of finishing towards the top of the overall standings at the end of the rally.

From 1st to 4th August, a total of 18 special stages will take the participants at high speed through the captivating Finnish scenery around the university city of Jyvaskyla, in the heart of the country, which also houses the rally’s service park. This year, the organisers have come up with a course that incorporates 302.82 timed kilometres, which must be mastered from Thursday to Saturday. Every day features a number of hotspots, which offer the spectators the best views of the action. And Finland is not only known for its action on the track, but also off it.

Blind faith in the co-driver.
WRC drivers take more risks here than anywhere else. The high speeds require maximum concentration, while the long jumps demand plenty of courage and a high degree of skill, as the track behind the crest is not visible to the drivers as they approach many of the jumps. Every participant has to know exactly what awaits him. This makes an intensive recce, perfect pace notes and, last but not least, blind faith in the word of the co-driver essential to any success at the Rally Finland.

The rally is also a major challenge from a technical point of view. The many jumps demand harder suspensions settings and a larger spring travel. Despite this, the car should lie as low as possible in the corners and be well balanced, in order to achieve maximum grip. Finland expert and Mini legend Rauno Aaltonen says: “Not many teams have found the right combination for the Rally Finland so far. In particular, the third dimension of driving whilst jumping, as the car is still in the air, is not to be underestimated.”

MINI rookie Riku Tahko set to start.

The three MINI driving crews will certainly not underestimate the Rally Finland. Armindo Araujo of WRC Team MINI Portugal is already familiar with the characteristics of the Finnish event and will be making his second outing in Finland, having made his debut in 2011. It is also far from unchartered territory for Armindo’s team-mate Paulo Nobre. The Brazilian will be making his third appearance in the far north of Europe. The man with the most experience of Finland, however, is MINI WRC debutant Riku Tahko. The 27-year-old, who will be in a MINI WRC for the Turkish TOK Sport Team, was born in Finland and grew up on his country’s quick gravel routes. As such, Riku will not be lacking “Sisu”.

“We had some plans to drive a Super 2000 but we struggled to find a nice solution,” says Riku. “When we contacted TOK Sport and they said the magic letters WRC.” That gave Riku his ticket for the outing in front of his home crowds. Riku made his very first start in the WRC back in 2005 and now lines up in a MINI WRC for the first time thanks to a wildcard. All he is missing are his first points in the Drivers’ Championship. However, the qualities possessed by his MINI WRC give Riku every reason to be confident. “Of course the dream would be to collect our first ever WRC point and finish in the top 10,” says the MINI rookie, who promises to go all out to fulfil his dream.

WRC Team: M-Sport Ford Rally Team / Ford Fiesta RS WRC
5 Ott Tänak / Kuldar Sikk (EE)
6 Evgeniy Novikov / Denis Giraudet (RUS/F)

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tänak will be out to impress as the World Rally Championship (WRC) returns to what is known to many as rallying’s spiritual home, and the eighth round of the season, at the 2012 Neste Oil Rally Finland next week.

Characterised by blisteringly quick, tree-lined straights littered with hidden crests and ‘yumps’, Rally Finland favours the brave and M-Sport’s young guns will need to muster all of their ‘sisu’ – a Finnish phrase which loosely translates to ‘having guts’ – if they are to prosper on the ‘Gravel Grand Prix.’

Formally known as the ‘Rally of the Thousand Lakes’, Rally Finland has been a regular and popular fixture on the WRC calendar since its debut in 1973 and this year’s event will see many classic stages return to the fore such as Mokkipera, Palsankyla and the legendary Ouninpohja stage which will form a fearsome penultimate test and Power Stage.

Rally Finland entered the record books in 2005 when Marcus Grönholm completed the fastest ever rally – averaging speeds of 122.86 km/h. Maintaining such high speeds and concentration on the demanding stages requires word-perfect pacenotes and a good knowledge of the route; requirements in which both M-Sport drivers will have an advantage.

Having contested Rally Finland on two previous occasions – claiming his place in Finnish folklore with a flat-out jump in 2009 – Novikov will be hoping to continue this season’s impressive form to claim his first championship points from the Finnish event. With no pre-event testing, the 21-year-old will have to rise to the challenges ahead, but with Frenchman Denis Giraudet in the navigator’s seat, the Russian will be in good hands as the pairing look to secure another strong result behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Over the summer break, Novikov past the time as only a world class driver can – taking in the scenery at the Moscow Rally Show and testing super cars for local media. The Russian took to the wheel of a Maserati Granturismo MC and Ferrari’s limited edition California 30 giving his opinion of the super cars for Russian TV channel ‘Russia 2’.

Returning to the ‘Gravel Grand Prix’ for the fourth time, Ott Tänak will be looking for a strong result, this time at the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. The Estonian has a good record on the Finnish stages, finishing 18th overall in 2010 in a GpN car as part of the Pirelli Star Driver Scheme and securing a S-WRC podium behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta S2000 last year. What is more, with co-driver Kuldar Sikk contesting the event for the tenth time next week, Tänak will benefit from having one of the most experienced co-drivers in field.

The summer break has been a busy one for the 24-year-old who has spent time working on preparing his car at M-Sport and partaking in a number of drive days at the team’s headquarters in Cumbria, Northern England. Tänak also attended a local school in Cumbria with an FIA Action for Road Safety liveried Fiesta RS WRC to highlight the importance of road safety before returning to Estonia to continue his fitness training and make the final preparations for the eighth round of the season.

Evgeny Novikov said:

“I am really looking forward to starting the rally in Finland – it is a very special place. We’ve had no testing, so we will have to see where our pace is when we get there. The stages are very demanding but I really enjoy the flat-out nature of the stages.

“I attended the Moscow Rally Show, just as a spectator, this month. It was a lot of fun with lots of great cars. I also test drove a couple of super cars for a local magazine in Russia [TV channel, ‘Russia 2’], giving them my feeling of the cars, which was also a lot of fun.
“As I say, we will have to judge our pace when we get there [to Finland], but as always we will try our best and hope for another good result.”

Ott Tänak said:

“The feeling is really good ahead of this rally. It is one of the events that I have contested quite a few times before, so it should be ok for us. We’ve had no pre-event testing, but I’ve been doing all the usual things to prepare – checking through the pacenotes and watching some onboard footage [to get a feel of the gravel].

“Rally Finland is one of my favourite events with some of the best stages in the world and I am really looking forward to returning [this time in a World Rally Car]. We will have to see what are times are like from the stages, but for sure we will be looking for a good finish.”

WRC Team: Qatar World Rally Team / Citroën DS3 WRC
7 Chris Atkinson / Stephane Prévot (AUS/B)

Due to his commitments at the London Olympic Games, Nasser Al-Attiyah will be replaced by Chris Atkinson in the Qatar World Rally Team car. With Stéphane Prévot still his co-driver, the Australian has high hopes of doing well on stages that he really loves.

Rally Finland will not feature Nasser Al-Attiyah this year. The Qatari had already missed out on the New Zealand trip to concentrate on preparations for the London Olympics Games. As he will be competing in the skeet shooting competition (clay pigeon shooting), Nasser will not be able to take part in the Finnish round of the WRC. Whilst his fellow WRC drivers will be busy with reconnaissance on Monday 30 July, he’ll be heading for the Royal Artillery Barracks to take part in the qualifying round. The final is scheduled to take place the following afternoon.

Consequently, the no.7 Citroën DS3 WRC will be driven by Chris Atkinson, accompanied by co-driver Stéphane Prévot. The Australian and the Belgian are pleased to be rejoining Citroën after taking part in the 2009 Rally Ireland in a C4 WRC. “I am very pleased to get this opportunity and really enthusiastic about competing again at Rally Finland,” commented Chris. “I’ve already taken part in this rally five times and I finished on the podium last time I was here in 2008. Although I have moved away from the WRC, I’m still actively involved in rally and have been competing in the Asia-Pacific Championship. I hope I can get on the pace with the DS3 quickly, which seems currently to be the best WRC. The four works drivers seem very determined to fight it out for the win, but I hope I can mix it with the leaders!”

WRC Team: Citroën Junior World Rally Team / Citroën DS3 WRC
8 Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (B)

Constantly improving since the start of the season, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul will be competing at Rally Finland in the Citroën Junior World Rally Team’s DS3 WRC. After taking part in Rally Estonia as part of their preparations, the Belgian crew hopes their experience will help them to master the Finnish jumps.

In spite of the six-week break between Rally New Zealand and Rally Finland, Thierry Neuville has not been taking it easy. The highlight of his preparations for the resumption of the World Championship came at Rally Estonia, which gave him the chance to drive on similar roads to those he can expect in Finland. After finishing second, behind Mads Østberg, the Belgian was fairly pleased with his performance: “I started cautiously and then gradually picked up the pace and won a few stages at the end of the rally. It’s fairly difficult to make direct comparisons with Mads, because he didn’t have the same tyres as we use in the WRC. But in any case, this positive experience helped me to prepare in racing conditions. So, we achieved our goal in that respect.”

Consistently in the points since Rallye de Portugal, Thierry knows that he is about to tackle yet another legendary event in Finland: “It’s a bit like New Zealand, I’ve been dreaming about taking part in this rally since I was a kid. I’m not expecting it to be easy this weekend, and I know that most non-Nordic drivers have struggled the first time they drive on the stages of the ‘1000 Lakes Rally’. I’m not setting myself any excessively ambitious targets, I’m just going to learn about this rally at my own pace and, if possible, avoid making any mistakes that would cut short the experience!”

After three relatively long rallies in terms of timed stages, Rally Finland keeps to its compact format. Following three stages held on Thursday afternoon, the rally will be contested over two long days, the finish scheduled for Saturday evening. The race will conclude with two runs on the legendary Ouninpohja stage, which will therefore host the Power Stage.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Rally Finland
Pre-event Press Conference
Wednesday 1st August

Present:
Mads Ostberg, Adapta World Rally Team
Petter Solberg, Ford World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Chris Atkinson, Qatar World Rally Team

Q:
Mads, it has been a busy off season for you, competing and winning Rally Estonia and testing. You had an accident at shakedown of Rally Bohemia where you injured your back – is it okay now?
MO:
I’m fully fit. I feel very well now. No problems. It was quite painful when it happened, last week it was much better, nothing in the test or shakedown today. We did some big jumps, but nothing.

Q:
You won Rally Estonia, how similar are the roads to Finland and has it put you into the mind-set for this event?
MO:
It was a good test. The surface is lot looser in Estonia, but the character of the roads is very much the same. There are crests and jumps, it’s very similar on that. Okay we need to do some small changes after the test, but just minor ones.

Q:
You have talked about breaking into the ‘big five’ in terms of the top WRC drivers, do you feel you are making progress in that regard?
MO:
I am closer than I have ever been. On a lot of rallies, we have ended up in good positions then slowed down to secure the position rather than fight for the higher position. In the second half of this year we want to fight for the higher positions, we need to show more speed and we’re going to start that on this event.

Q:
Should these guys be worried about you?
MO:
No, I just drive as quick as I can – they do the same and hopefully we can fight for the top positions. Nobody needs to worry. The roads here are enough to worry about!

Q:
There were some issues with funding earlier this year, are you now secure for the year ahead?
MO:
It looked quite good before I started crashing three events ago. I had two crashes: one in the Norwegian Championship and one in Bohemia. It’s not cheap to have crashes, they take quite a lot of budget. It’s looking difficult now, but we are looking hard to find the money. We want to deliver on the rest of the events. It’s not 100 per cent, but it’s looking positive.

Q:
Is a podium realistic for you here?
MO:
I think so, with the optimal rally. I like these type of roads and we have been quick here before. We were able to fight last year; Mikko caught us after his mistake, but our times were close to Petter on the last day. I hope we can be there from the start and fight with all of these guys and some others from the service park.

Q:
Petter, second half of the season is now here. What is the plan from you and from Ford?
PS:
We have made some small changes, just small things which are different with the car, which will mean less mistakes with the back end of the car when we are attacking. It’s really good now and we can push hard. We need some victories and less mistakes. We have made some [mistakes], but hopefully we have no more.

Q:
You haven’t won this event. Can you do it this year?
PS:
These guys will go hard, but this is a fantastic rally. People here know how to organise a rally for the people and I hope on this rally we can fight for the victory. Even with this strange starting number [13th]…

Q:
You tested last week, how did it go and are you happy with the results?
PS:
At the test it worked really well. In shakedown and qualifying, everything went well. It’s lucky that we’re not going first to choose the position. The Ford guys have been the first to choose on almost every rally, but here it was Citroën. It’s not easy. It will be very interesting to see the pace tomorrow.

Q:
Ouninpohja returns to its former glory, you hold the record for the stage from 2004. How much will you defend that this weekend?
PS:
For sure. I don’t know if Mikko has the balls to do it!
MH:
Do you want to check?
PS:
It’s a fantastic stage and I have the record. I am not sure how the cars and tyres can compare, but sure they will all be trying and I will try myself also. It’s a crazy stage. When we did the recce I thought the road was more straight…

Q:
Are you now number one in the team as you have a chance of the Drivers title?
PS:
My plan here was not to win or fight for the Championship, if I’m in the top three then good – the plan is to win the rallies. If we do that then we can fight for the Championship. I have enough podiums, I want wins. It will be a tough weekend, but I’m not going to hold back.

Q:
Ford has a new livery, tell us about that.
PS:
We have something from Ford Motorsport, they brand all the cars around the world [like this], it’s cool.

Q:
Mikko, happy birthday for yesterday! First time in Finland with the Citroën DS3, how are feeling about competing on the stages?
MH:
It’s always nice to come here and have a rally in my hometown. It’s really good and as always the stages are fantastic. The car is good and I’m not here to roll… this is good.

Q:
Mikko, how does the car feel?
Q:
It feels very good. I didn’t make any big changes in the test to make it work – it was just fine tuning and it was perfect. I’m sure the car is fast enough to fight for the win.

Q:
The past two years in Finland have not been kind; will there be a different approach this year?
MH:
For sure I won’t go so fast from the start, but I can’t give seconds away. On the first day, I’m not going to take big risks. In the last two years, the rally has been finished for me on those first two days. So, there won’t be so many risks in Lahti, but then more of an attack in Jyvaskyla.

Q:
You have competed here many times now; does the pressure of a home event ease as time goes by?
MH:
No, I don’t really feel any pressure. I have made my mistakes on this rally and all I can do now is try to improve. Everybody expects Finns to fight, but for us it’s the same on every rally – we will try to fight for the win. There’s no difference for the pressure.

Q:
Tell us about your decision to run 12th on the road…
MH:
It was easy for me: I followed Sébastien [Loeb]. He was scratching his head about where to go, but I said: “That’s your problem, I’m just going to follow you.”

Q:
Can you put pressure on him?
MH:
I’ll try, but all of these guys will be the same.

Q:
Are you glad to see Ouninpohja back?
MH:
It looks good. The only thing is that there are lots of good stages on way to Lahti, I wouldn’t mind to do more kilometres over there. We have a lot of road mileage on many rallies, and if we are going down there we might as well do the other stages on the way and enjoy Rally Finland more.

Q:
Chris, welcome back to the WRC. Earlier this year we saw you in Mexico with a Fiesta and now you are nominated with the Citroën DS3 – how did it all come about?
CA:
I was in New Zealand, working on WRC Live with you! Then I was speaking to the team at the end of the rally and they said did I want to do Finland because Nasser [Al-Attiyah] couldn’t do it. Okay, this was not a bad option: good car and team on a great rally, so I took the opportunity and grabbed it. Nobody would turn this down. It’s really cool. I want to do well here, but that’s not easy – we have to fight hard here.

Q:
It’s a different car to the one you’re driving at the moment in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship…
CA:
This is a different level. On the first day of the test I had to remind myself of the speed. And then today getting used to qualifying, that’s been different as well. I made some mistakes, but we’ll get into it – we’re not going to be a million miles away.

Q:
What’s the biggest challenge on this event?
CA:
Finding the groove for every stage. It’s hard to do that when I’m not competing and not testing all the time. But, the feeling was good as soon as I got in the car. It felt good straight away.

Q:
Can you give the other drivers some pressure?
CA:
There’s not too much for them to worry about with me. I’m not competing on the full Championship.

Q:
Will we see you again in the DS3 this season? What are your plans for next season?
CA:
There’s not many rounds left. I’m focused on the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship right now and I’d like to win that. Next year I’d really like to be back with a full-time [driving] role in the WRC. We’re going to try to do that, and hopefully a good result here will help with that.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:

Q:
Reiner Kuhn
Motorsport Aktuell, Switzerland

Q:
Have there been any bets about Ouninpohja?
MH:
No. I have not thought about it.
PS:
They talk about it all the time in the recce!

QUESTIONS VIA A LIVE VIDEO LINK TO JOURNALISTS IN LAHTI

Q:
Would you like a WRC round in Russia?
PS:
Give us proper roads, a good atmosphere and a well organised rally and we will be there. If they want a rally we will be there.

Q:
How is it to compete on your home roads?
MH:
It is a great feeling being in an area which you know. I have been spectating here when I was a kid. It’s always been a dream to drive, and now I have done it many times, but it’s always fantastic. It’s always nice to drive in front of friends and family.

Q:
Do you agree it would be good to have new stages near the Lahti area?
PS:
Like Mikko said, it’s a long road section. Let’s take some stages on the way and do those. It’s all up to the co-operation and to find a good plan with the organisation. Give us the cars and the roads and fans and we’ll be there.

Q:
Do you like these kinds of super special stages here in Lahti?
PS:
They are very, very important – there are a lot of families and big companies who want to make a special event. It’s not possible for these people to come to the forest all of the time. It’s a nice atmosphere when you see the flags.

Q:
What do you think of the Jokimaa stage?
MH:
Yeah, it’s okay. It’s different to Killeri. I’m sure there’s a lot of space for the spectators – I’m sure it will work well.
PS:
Why not close off the city centre, we can drive through the buildings!

Q:
What about the weather – how does it work when it is raining?
PS:
Of course, you have to be a bit lucky with the position on the road. Some people drive in the full rain, some not – it does not matter to us, we drive in all conditions. But it’s much more fair if it’s the same. There’s nothing we can do about the weather.

FIA SUPER 2000 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Juha Salo
Maciej Oleksowicz

Q:
Juha, you are a multiple Finnish champion and we see you compete here in the SWRC class with Proton Motorsport. How are you feeling ahead of the weekend and what is the plan?
JS:
It’s a very important rally. We need a good result, and that’s what I really want for Proton. But I need to drive in the style of S2000 – I have been driving Group N for a long time and I need to try and forget this.

Q:
You tested extensively in the UK last month, what are your thoughts on the car?
JS:
I tested one day in Estonia then in the [official SWRC] test and now in shakedown. I did almost 300 kilometres and that’s quite much. But still I drive many stages like my Mitsubishi – I am sure I will be able to change this, though.

Q:
How does the car feel?
JS:
I really enjoy the car, it’s very, very nice – the feeling is totally different to what I drive before.

Q:
What sort of result are you aiming for?
JS:
I really want to do a good result for the team.

Q:
Is there a lot of pressure on you?
JS:
No, there is not so much pressure.

Q:
Do you plan to do more rallies?
JS:
I hope much more rallies, we have some more home rallies and then we have to think.

Q:
Maciej it has been a good season so far in SWRC, two podiums puts you in fourth position overall. Are you happy with your progress this year?
MO:
It’s going quite well, but these two podiums were quite lucky. The other drivers hit some problems. I hope we can show our speed and fight for the actual position.

Q:
How do you feel you are developing?
MO:
Every rally is new for me and completely different. Here the stages are like nowhere in the world.

Q:
What are your thoughts on the stages this year?
MO:
Some of the jumps – you look at them on the internet and think: “Okay, it’s flat-out here.” But then you come and it’s really hard. But when you do go flat, it gives a lot of satisfaction.

Q:
What’s your approach going to be?
MO:
We will try to start as fast as possible. The loops are very short and there is a lot of service, so we need to start fast from the beginning.

Q:
What will be the toughest thing about this event?
MO:
The toughest day will be Friday; the weather is not stable and there will be a lot of deep ruts and stones on the road. The rest of the stages will be just a pleasure to drive.

Q:
What’s the perfect result for you?
MO:
First of course! But otherwise on the podium.

QUESTIONS VIA A LIVE VIDEO LINK TO JOURNALISTS IN LAHTI

Q:
What do you think about coming to the Lahti area?
JS:
It’s a good place; it’s close to my home. I like this place, it’s a nice place to start the rally.
MO:
I like these stages most from all the rally, except Ouninpohja. They are fast and flowing [in Lahti].

FIA WRC ACADEMY

Present:
John MacCrone
Fredrik Åhlin

Q:
John, this is your first year in the FIA WRC Academy; with two events complete how are you enjoying the experience so far?
JMc:
It’s been good. The guys have proved the Academy pace is really hot. We had a tough start in Portugal, but we’ve had a fastest time since then. And the chance to come to legendary rallies like these is a dream come true.

Q:
Confident?
JMc:
Yeah, very confident. We had a test on Friday and that was the first chance I’ve had to drive the car before an event. I’ve also been watching a lot of on-boards – I think I’ve spent the last month watching Petter [Solberg] through Ouninpohja and I want to hit those crests now. I know that place pretty well now!

Q:
Petter set the fastest stage time there. Are you going to try and match that?
JMc:
We’ll be chasing that, yeah..!

Q:
What have you learned in the Academy?
JMc:
We’re learning how to drive a WRC rally – it’s completely different to back in Britain, there’s so much more to it. This is a learning year for us. I want to be back and fighting with the guys next year. At the moment, it’s all going well.

Q:
What has been the best part and the toughest part of the Academy experience so far?
JMc:
The accident on the first stage in Portugal was not a great part of my career, but winning the stage in Greece was definitely a high point.

Q:
Are you looking for stage wins here?
JMc:
We will certainly try, yeah. Seven of the guys have been here before, we haven’t. I want to be there or thereabouts mid-way through.

Q:
What sort of preparation have you done?
JMc:
Watching on-boards, some pace-note training, and some testing last week as well. I feel more prepared now than ever before.

Q:
Fredrik, second year in the Academy for you, it seems to have been a bit of a difficult start to the season with no points picked up in Greece – what are your thoughts on it?
FA:
It wasn’t the start we hoped for. In Portugal we were leading the class then we had an off, caught a stone and broke a steering arm. We scored some points and got back to sixth, but then in Greece we had [no] oil pressure again and we had to superally [Rally 2] again. This is not the start we hoped for, but this is one of my favourite events. I’m going to do all I can to win here.

Q:
How can you turn things around? What will be your approach here in Finland?
FA:
Last year we were five drivers who were really quick, but three of the drivers rolled in stages seven and eight, then the pace went down again. I hope we can go at the limit, but not over it this time.

Q:
As this is your second year what do you feel you learnt last year that can help you this season?
FA:
It’s not only about being flat out, but also about understanding the physical attitude of a driver. It’s very hot and hard work and we have been working very, very hard [on fitness] and we’re really feeling the advantages. Maybe this is not showing in the results, but I hope with more cautious planning with the event it will show.

Q:
Who will be your main rivals?
FA:
Alastair Fisher, Elfyn [Evans] and [Pontus] Tidemand. They showed at the test, they will be pushing the most. Like I said, last year some of the drivers rolled – and this is a long event.

Q:
How did your test go for this event?
FA:
I did one [run] and the engine went. Testing has not been going as I planned, but the preparation is going well. Okay maybe it’s not like Mikko [Hirvonen] was telling us at the start of the year, but my co-driver tells me I have some time in the morning – maybe I can do my preparation then!

QUESTIONS VIA A LIVE VIDEO LINK TO JOURNALISTS IN LAHTI

Q:
What about if it rains tomorrow, is this bad or good?
JMc:
I enjoy wet conditions, so I’m hoping for some. A little rain will help the surface.

Shakedown/Qualifying results:

1. Sébastien Loeb, Citroën DS3 WRC, 2:17.417
2. Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2:18.025
3. Mikko Hirvonen, Citroën DS3 WRC, 2:18.276
4. Petter Solberg, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2:18.689
5. Evgeny Novikov, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2:18.693
6. Mads Østberg, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2:19.502
7. Ott Tänak-Kuldar, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2:19.683
8. Thierry Neuville, Citroën DS3 WRC, 2:20.087
9. Chris Atkinson, Citroën DS3 WRC, 2:20.294
10. Jari Ketomaa, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2:20.917
11. Matti Rantanen, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2:21.462
12. Martin Prokop, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2:24.044
13. Riku Tahko, Mini John Cooper Works WRC, 2:26.427
14. Ken Block, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2:26.997
15. Armindo Araújo, Mini John Cooper Works WRC, 2:27.466
16. Sebastian Lindholm, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2:29.065
17. Paulo Nobre, Mini John Cooper Works WRC, 2:33.441

The starting order:

1. Sebastian Lindholm, Ford Fiesta RS WRC
2. Paulo Nobre, Mini John Cooper Works WRC
3. Armindo Araújo, Mini John Cooper Works WRC
4. Ken Block, Ford Fiesta RS WRC
5. Riku Tahko, Mini John Cooper Works WRC
6. Martin Prokop, Ford Fiesta RS WRC
7. Matti Rantanen, Ford Fiesta RS WRC
8. Jari Ketomaa, Ford Fiesta RS WRC
9. Ott Tanak, Ford Fiesta RS WRC
10. Sébastien Loeb, Citroën DS3 WRC
11. Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford Fiesta RS WRC
12. Mikko Hirvonen, Citroën DS3 WRC
13. Petter Solberg, Ford Fiesta RS WRC
14. Evgeny Novikov, Ford Fiesta RS WRC
15. Mads Ostberg, Ford Fiesta RS WRC
16. Thierry Neuville, Citroën DS3 WRC
17. Chris Atkinson, Citroën DS3 WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala´s big jump in the shakedown:

Service Park:

Leg 1 / Day 1, Thursday 2nd August

Rally Finland, one of the most spectacular rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship, got underway this afternoon and Frenchman Sébastien Loeb has inched into an early but significant lead. The reigning FIA World Rally Champion is 7.3 seconds ahead of Finnish heroes Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen, having set a blistering time in the final stage of the day.

Today’s route included just three stages and 29.90 competitive kilometres before the crews head back into the forests for two long days of competition on Friday and Saturday. Loeb set the pace in the opening stage but was being pushed hard by Petter Solberg, who claimed victory in stage two – the Jokimaa super special. However, in stage three Loeb was once again fastest, leaving the chasing pack in his wake. Latvala and Hirvonen have yet to feel comfortable on the stages, but Mads Ostberg is a fine fourth after setting second fastest time in the final stage. Thierry Neuville, in his debut outing in Finland, is also hot on the pace in fifth, nine seconds off the lead. Solberg dropped to sixth having lost over seven seconds in the last stage and Chris Atkinson – replacing Olympic medal winner Nasser Al-Attiyah – is seventh.

Results after Thursday

1. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Citroën DS3 WRC, 15 min 07.1 sec
2. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 15 min 14.4 sec
3. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen, Citroën DS3 WRC, 15 min 14.4 sec
4. Mads Ostberg/Jonas Andersson, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 15 min 14.6 sec
5. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul, Citroën DS3 WRC, 15 min 16.1 sec
6. Petter Solberg/Chris Patterson, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 15 min 16.3 sec
7. Chris Atkinson/Stephane Prévot, Citroën DS3 WRC, 15 min 22.7 sec
8. Evgeny Novikov/Denis Giraudet, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 15 min 25.3 sec
9. Ott Tänak/Kuldar Sikk, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 15 min 28.2 sec
10.Jari Ketomaa/Mika Stenberg, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 15 min 40.2 sec

Fredrik Åhlin´s crash:

Leg 2 / Day 2, Friday 3rd August

Sébastien Loeb has maintained his hold on the Rally Finland leaderboard but the Frenchman has fought hard to keep team-mate Mikko Hirvonen at bay. At the end of a long day of competition, the battling team-mates are split by just five seconds with Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala further adrift in third position.

Today’s route took in nine stages, three of which were repeated, before the crews returned to Jyväskylä for the closing run around the 2.06 kilometre super special stage. The 133.82 competitive kilometres have taken their toll on some of the leading crews, but the fight at the top of the leaderboard is expected to rage throughout Saturday’s final and longest day of competition.

Loeb started the day with a 7.3 second advantage and was on the pace from the outset. Winning three of the day’s forestry stages, the Frenchman’s lead has however been narrowed, largely due to Hirvonen’s four fastest times. Uncharacteristically, Loeb’s Citroën DS3 also suffered with differential problems for two stages, albeit little time appeared to be lost. While the two Citroën crews are neck and neck at the head of the leaderboard, Latvala and Petter Solberg remain within striking distance but have struggled to regain time lost earlier in the day. Solberg won one of the forestry stages for Ford and has climbed from sixth, but the team-mates are struggling to consistently match the pace of the Citroëns.

Behind them, Mads Ostberg is a fine fifth but has not been comfortable with the balance of the car throughout the day. The Norwegian was in a great battle with Thierry Neuville until the Belgian had a slow roll in the final long stage. Ott Tänak therefore moved into sixth, but the Estonian has been forced to drive with caution after a puncture left him with no spare tyres. Finns Jari Ketomaa and Matti Rantanen hold seventh and eighth with Martin Prokop and Ken Block – in his last WRC outing this season – rounding off the top 10. Chris Atkinson, standing in for Olympic medal winner Nasser Al-Attiyah, suffered in the first stage with intercom problems, and then the Australian misheard a pace note later this afternoon which resulted in him going off the road. Having lost 17 minutes, he then managed to get to the end of the stage but was forced to retire.

Results after Friday

1. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Citroën DS3 WRC, 1 hr 20 min 30.4 sec
2. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen, Citroën DS3 WRC, 1 hr 20 min 35.4 sec
3. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 1 hr 20 min 50.7 sec
4. Petter Solberg/Chris Patterson, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 1 hr 20 min 51.8 sec
5. Mads Ostberg/Jonas Andersson, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 1 hr 21 min 18.1 sec
6. Ott Tänak/Kuldar Sikk, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 1 hr 22 min 06.8 sec
7. Jari Ketomaa/Mika Stenberg, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 1 hr 22 min 58.7 sec
8. Matti Rantanen/Mikko Lukka, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 1 hr 23 min 17.8 sec
9. Martin Prokop/Zdenek Hruza, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 1 hr 23 min 48.8 sec
10. Ken Block/Alex Gelsomino, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 1 hr 25 min 17.4 sec

Motors TV:

Evgeniy Novikov´s crash:

Chris Atkinson´s moment:

Leg 3 / Day 3, Saturday 4th August

The Citroën Total World Rally Team notched up its fourth consecutive one-two finish of the season on Rally Finland today. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena claimed their sixth victory this year, leading from start to finish, with team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen finishing just 6.1 seconds adrift after 303.52 kilometres of competition. Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila rounded off the podium positions.

In the FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers, Loeb has once again extended his advantage and the Frenchman now has a 43 point lead over Hirvonen. Petter Solberg and Mads Ostberg also retain third and fourth respectively. In the Manufacturers’ Championship maximum points for Citroën ensures a commanding advantage over Ford.

Today’s route took in three stages, all repeated, and concluded with the legendary Ouninpohja stage which is regarded as one of the most challenging and spectacular in the sport. The second pass over this 33.01 kilometre stage was the Power Stage, where an additional three, two and one point were on offer for the fastest three drivers. Here, Hirvonen, Solberg and Loeb collected the points, all three of them beating or matching the previous stage record.

Loeb led the rally from the outset; however there was no respite for the Frenchman today as, without team orders, Hirvonen was determined to push to the limit to win his home round of the Championship. Loeb was therefore forced to maintain his pace to secure his 73rd world rally and third Rally Finland win. Behind Hirvonen, both Latvala and Solberg were unable to match the pace and finished third and fourth respectively. Mads Ostberg lost time with a broken prop shaft but managed to reclaim fifth position ahead of Ott Tänak. Finland’s Matti Rantanen and Jari Ketomaa were seventh and eighth respectively, Martin Prokop claimed ninth and Sébastien Ogier rounded off the top 10 for Volkswagen Motorsport. Ken Block was the leading retirement of the day, the American breaking the suspension after a jump when he was holding 10th overall.

The FIA World Rally Championship contenders now head to central Europe for ADAC Rallye Deutschland (24-26 August), an all-asphalt event based in the roman city of Trier.

Final Results

1. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Citroën DS3 WRC, 2 hr 28 min 11.4 sec
2. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen, Citroën DS3 WRC, 2 hr 28 min 17.5 sec
3. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2 hr 28 min 46.4 sec
4. Petter Solberg/Chris Patterson, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2 hr 29 min 07.5 sec
5. Mads Ostberg/Jonas Andersson, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2 hr 30 min 43.5 sec
6. Ott Tänak/Kuldar Sikk, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2 hr 30 min 59.0 sec
7. Matti Rantanen/Mikko Lukka, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2 hr 33 min 03.1 sec
8. Jari Ketomaa/Mika Stenberg, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2 hr 34 min 13.3 sec
9. Martin Prokop/Zdenek Hruza,Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 2 hr 34 min 15.7 sec
10.Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia, Škoda Fabia Super 2000, 2 hr 36 min 57.4 sec

Motors TV:

Ken Block´s unlucky jump:

Craig Breen´s crash:

Armindo Araujo out of the road:

Jarkko Nikara´s big save:

SS 14 & 16 + Sami Sarjula´s accident:

Team Reviews:

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Rally Finland
Post-event Press Conference
Saturda 4th August

Present:

1st – Sébastien Loeb, Citroën Total World Rally Team
1st – Daniel Elena, Citroën Total World Rally Team
2nd – Mikko Hirvonen, Citroën Total World Rally Team
2nd – Jarmo Lehtinen, Citroën Total World Rally Team
3rd – Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford World Rally Team
3rd – Miikka Anttila, Ford World Rally Team
Yves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Total World Rally Team

Q:
Sébastien, congratulations on win number 73 and your third victory at Rally Finland!
SL:
I feel really happy for sure. To win Finland is always something special. It’s a special rally and the roads are incredible. The jumps are big and the speed very high. For sure it’s a great moment to win and to be here having two Finnish drivers on each side is great. Since the start of the rally, the feeling was perfect with the car. From shakedown, qualifying, the first stage: everything went very well and I felt very confident in the car. That’s the base if you want to push hard. You are high speed between the trees and you have to be sure from what you are doing. Everything was perfect.

Q:
When did you decide you would go for the win?
SL:
Qualifying was run in the evening and the first stage was also in the evening and I am not a fan of the morning! Immediately I had a good rhythm. Mikko was faster in the morning, we had seven seconds in the morning and we won by six at the end. But this little gap I could make, I was able to keep it until the end.

Q:
How pleased are you to win in Finland for a third time, it’s some achievement?
SL:
It’s what I said: it’s nice. The third time now, for me this victory, I really had the feeling that it was under control, not that we could win, but the feeling with the car was really perfect. The first year I won I had to take risks, there were some big moments sometimes. Last year, still I had to make some more time than I am able to. This year was a good feeling, it was perfect.

Q:
How much pressure did you feel today?
SL:
For sure when I started the day I was sure of nothing. I knew the day was going well and the feeling was good and I had to try again. The rhythm was there and pushing, I felt well in the car. I was able to do the times with no mistakes or moments. It’s what I said: it was the perfect weekend.

Q:
Will we see you here next year?
SL:
Yes! Maybe in the rally car or maybe to watch the rally…

Q:
When will we know?
SL:
I don’t know. But not now.

Q:
We go to Germany next. Can anybody challenge you?
SL:
Maybe. You never know. For sure I have had a lot of success in Germany. Last year I didn’t win, but it’s a rally where I feel well. The feeling was always good there. I hope to fight there, but you never know. Sometimes it has been a really intense battle and the weather can make it very difficult. I will try my best over there.

Q:
How happy are you to win here?
DE:
When you start Finland, you have the Finnish driver in front… [plays Eye of the Tiger into mic]

Q:
Is that your motivational track?
DE:
Just before Ouninpohja! No, it was a fantastic weekend and a fantastic race. When you push 110 per cent from the first kilometre to the last kilometre with so much pressure, it’s just unbelievable. I love that.

Q:
Ouninpohja twice – how was that?
DE:
It was good, but the problem was with the tyre. If you wanted to push hard it’s too soft, but it’s the same for everybody. Ouninpohja is the best in the world, it’s indescribable: very funny. But, I prefer Monte Carlo…!

Q:
Mikko, you challenged your team-mate on home turf but you didn’t quite make it, disappointed? You let him win!
MH:
I’m sure everybody will tell me that. I have no excuses. Sébastien was six seconds faster and that’s it. I had no mistakes, there’s nothing I can say.

Q:
You didn’t get off to such a strong start on Thursday, why was that?
MH:
It was a bit of my approach. It’s easy to say now that maybe that was a mistake, but the last two years my rally has been over and I didn’t want to do that. I lost by six seconds and I need to learn for next year.

Q:
How many risks did you take?
MH:
Some. You have to push hard here. Like Sébastien I was really happy with the car. There were a couple of moments on Thursday and one this morning. In Ouninpohja, even though we broke the [stage] record, that stage has never felt so easy. We were pushing, but I felt in the comfort zone all the time. You can push harder, but then there is more risk, and when you do that it can end badly. We didn’t want to go that far.

Q:
Mikko, you are a bit of a master of chatting to the other drivers to wind them up. Much of that here?
MH:
Not enough, obviously! I can’t trick Sébastien like that, he has far too much experience. I can’t talk him into mistakes. It’s been a great weekend, there were a lot of fans out there and it was nice to drive.

Q:
Did you think you could catch him on Ouninpohja?
MH:
I was hoping to. The first five kilometres I have used as a test road, but it was so slippery. I was going into the ditches, of course not into the ditches, but close. I had to take caution all of the time and I couldn’t attack like I wanted to. From then on, I didn’t really think I could take him by driving.

Q:
And now to Tarmac in Germany. How do you feel about that?
MH:
Good, I’m really excited about my first Tarmac event with Citroën, okay we did Monte Carlo, but I’m excited to go back to Germany. I had a good feeling on the test, we have to wait and see. I am in a very positive mind to go and get a good place.

Q:
You have had two bogey years at this event; does this result in some way make up for that?
JL:
I hate to be second. We wanted to start the rally clear and then push. It was too much to give him seven seconds; there was no way to get this back.

Q:
What was the general feeling on the event?
JL:
It was a fantastic fight, one of the best weekends of my career. The car was so perfect over the weekend. The weather turned out nice and there were no big mistakes, just a couple of things on Thursday. Ouninpohja on the second pass felt really nice. Ouninpohja, for me, is not a stage which you can really enjoy all of the time. But this time I enjoyed it for every tenth of every second.

Q:
And you have the record for Ouninpohja…
MH:
It’s nice to take it away from Petter [Solberg]!

Q:
Jari-Matti, you take away a podium place, third position, yet we can all understand your disappointment at not being able to fight for the win – what went wrong this weekend?
J-ML:
I am frustrated, but I don’t want to explain it every time: why we didn’t win. I need to accept this year we were not on the speed. We have work to do. Citroën seem to do an improvement on the suspension. I need to improve, we need to improve, that’s all I’ll say.

Q:
Is it the car or the driver?
J-ML:
For sure, at the start I wasn’t at my best. I was fighting with the set up. Finally, I got the set-up right, but all I could reach is the same level as Citroën – I was never able to be quicker. I pushed really hard, but we had no problems and that was really good. But something was missing. Something was really missing and I don’t have the answer; the difference is very small, but it’s annoying when you can’t respond to their speed.

Q:
When did you realise you couldn’t fight?
J-ML:
Already on Friday afternoon. The only thing I thought was we might be stronger on the ruts, as usual. But we couldn’t do this and I pretty much realised then. You have to keep fighting – the trophies are given at the finish. Even when you are in a good position, I have rolled just before the finish and had no points – you have to keep fighting.

Q:
Were there any mistakes?
J-ML:
Not really. In Ouninpohja there were a couple of very big jumps, one where I landed in the ditch and another was far too long, but nothing else, that’s all I did. That’s something positive, if I can find something, it’s that there were no mistakes. I haven’t had that for a long time – that’s good.

Q:
The Championship heads to its first Tarmac event in Germany next time around – how prepared are you for Tarmac?
J-ML:
Let’s go now. I can drive it already! At least I can get to drive the rear-wheel drive car now, already next weekend. It seems I am stronger in this car, it’s a shame – in the European Historic Championship – there is not the chance for the professional driver! Now they [Citroën] are very strong, but we have done a lot of work [on asphalt] and I believe we can be competitive over there. Everything needs to be perfect over there with the tyre choices and everything though.

Q:
How do you sum up this weekend?
MA:
For sure, I have to say the speed of the top cars was really high. We kept pushing, but there was no chance. The target was first to match the guys and then try to beat them, but it wasn’t possible. On every stage there was one second or two seconds. When you are losing time like this it’s the wrong way. The driving was perfect, no mistakes, no incidents; the times were just not there.

Q:
Can you turn it around on Rally GB?
MA:
Yeah, for sure. We will work and I know the other team has been working. One thing I have to say, normally Sébastien Loeb is very straight, but I think after his career after rallying he should be a politician. This was the first rally he was honest about the car!

Q:
Yves, this is the fourth one-two in a row for Citroën – dominant form! Are you unbeatable this year?
YM:
I hope so! But I don’t think so. We did a great job until now. We saw on the gravel that the work we did in the last months was very good and now we see in Finland, I only hope we continue like that.

Q:
You allowed both Mikko and Sébastien to fight, does that mean you are feeling quite confident in terms of the Championship?
YM:
No. I am never confident. I am only confident if we are champions. This is Rally Finland and the battle is always very close. Sometimes we take risks for the good result. There was a lot of stress this afternoon, but I am here very happy

FIA SUPER 2000 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
1st – Per-Gunnar Andersson, Proton Motorsport
1st – Emil Axelsson, Proton Motorsport

Q:
Congratulations! How does it feel to have won Rally Finland?
P-GA:
It feels great to win in Finland, it is always a very special feeling. I had a good fight and going into Ouninpohja there was a 13-second gap to Craig Breen. Unfortunately he had an off, but they are both okay – that’s the most important thing. On the last stage I backed off to take it carefully, that was very important.

Q:
You had a problem with a driveshaft?
P-GA:
Yes, we had a broken driveshaft on Leustu, the second pass. That cost us 15 seconds. Apart from that the car has been running really well. Emil, me and the team have done a fantastic job.

Q:
Did you think it was all over with the broken driveshaft?
P-GA:
More or less. We had been trying hard all weekend and taken a couple of seconds, but 13 is a lot if you only have Ouninpohja two times. But we never give up.

Q:
What did you think of young local driver Esapekka Lappi?
P-GA:
He was fast, I must admit. Local heroes are always quick and he was young and brave. Confidence is the main key here. If you don’t have that then you have no chance.

Q:
Emil, what’s your analysis of the rally?
EA:
It went really well. The road section was the hardest thing on Thursday. It was a great weekend, we had a safe push all way through – avoiding punctures and we succeeded in that.

Q:
You’re good mates though, the long road section wouldn’t have been a problem…
P-GA:
We have spent most of this year flying to Asia [for the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship], so we talked about it all already!
EA:
Luckily we had the iPhone for some music!

Q:
What was the toughest moment of the weekend?
EA:
Getting the right rhythm in the notes. It’s so fast here and you have to be so precise. You need to give them to the driver so perfectly.

Q:
Will we see you in GB?
P-GA:
Definitely, we will be there. Now it’s the main focus, the SWRC.

Q:
How much do you want to win the Championship?
P-GA:
I’d love to win and I’d love another Championship, we will be fighting hard.
EA:
And it’s nice to go to the FIA ball!

Q:
You’ve had a busy year, how has that helped you progress?
P-GA:
The more time you have in the car the better it is. The pace is easier when you get a lot of time in the car. We have had some issues in the APRC and not been able to show the full speed.

Q:
How is the car developing?
P-GA:
Step-by-step, there is more to come. You can never stop. We are struggling a bit when it is soft conditions – there is more to work on in that area.

Q:
What will you be doing before Wales Rally GB?
P-GA:
There will be a day or two of testing and that should do.

Q:
You both have good experience, though…
EA:
We’ve been there a few times, but not in the same car. We will be fine there. We have good notes.

Q:
How would you rate this rally?
P-GA:
It’s been fantastic from the start. If you could cut down a bit of road section, it would be even better. There are always a lot of spectators here and that’s the key.

Team Reviews:

Manufacturers: Citröen Total World Rally Team / Citroën DS3 WRC
1 Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (F/MC)
2 Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN)

Matching the medal-winning achievements of French athletes at the London Olympic in the last few days, Sébastien Loeb produced another stunning performance to win Rally Finland for the third time.

Chased throughout the race by their team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, Seb and his co-driver Daniel Elena won what was also the 500th event in the FIA World Rally Championship. This fourth successive one-two finish meant the Citroën Total World Rally Team and its crews moved a little further clear in the Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ championship standings.

Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena led from start to finish, showing no shortage of flair in going for a win that they didn’t really need in terms of the championship standings. Leading by five seconds at the start of the long final day, the eight-time World Champions were just as determined to win as their team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen. The day featured three parts: after two runs on a loop of two stages, Surkee and Leustu, the competitors were then faced with two runs on the famous 33km-long Ouninpohja test.

Mikko gave himself a fright when he clipped an old tree stump in a narrow section right at the start of SS13. Believing – wrongly as it turned out – he had picked up a puncture, the Finn lost a few precious seconds. On the next stage, Sébastien experienced similar feelings to those of his team-mate: “I didn’t hit anything, but it felt like the rear of the car was sliding around a lot. In actual fact, it was just a change in grip that I had misinterpreted. At times like this, when the battle is really intense, a lot of stuff goes on in your head…” This loop had nonetheless enabled the eight-time World Champion to extend his lead to 7.4s. The tussle continued on the second runs, as Seb grabbed another couple of seconds.

The dream of the hundreds of thousands of fans watching the rally – a fight for victory over the Ouninpohja jumps – was therefore set to come true! In front of the TV cameras broadcasting the stage live, Loeb and Hirvonen fought tooth and nail, the two drivers taking it in turns to steal a few tenths at each split. At the stop control for SS17, Mikko had made up 2.2s on Seb. Although he had cut Seb’s lead to 7.2s, the Jyväskylä driver admitted that it was unlikely that his team-mate would let this round slip.

The second run also served as the Power Stage, bonus points being awarded for the best three times. Just like the rest of the rally, the Citroën drivers were very strong again. Mikko pushed hard every inch of the way to set the best time with 15:17.3. With an average speed of 129.54kph, he beat Petter Solberg’s record that had stood since 2004. “I came to win and so I’m obviously a little bit disappointed to finish second,” admitted Mikko. “I tried everything. I drove ‘flat out’ for three days but Sébastien was just faster. I’d like to thank Citroën for letting us race each other freely and I’m proud to be involved in securing this fifth one-two finish for the team.”

“I am really pleased to have clinched this third win here against a competitor as tenacious as Mikko,” said Sébastien Loeb, third in the Power Stage and overall winner by 6.1s. “It’s especially pleasing to have led the rally from start to finish. We pushed a lot, sometimes driving close to the limit. To drive like that, you need to have a car which you have total faith. The upgrades made this weekend to the DS3 WRC, especially on the shock absorbers, enabled us to move up another notch in terms of performance and how easy the car was to drive. I’d also like to thank Michelin – their Latitude Cross soft tyres were fast, durable and hard wearing.”

“I’d like to congratulate and thank our crews: we knew we were taking a risk in letting them fight it out like that, but they proved worthy of our trust by keeping the cars on the road… and in the top two places,” emphasized Frédéric Banzet, Citroën General Manager. “This team has shown once again that it is the best in the world; this fifth one-two finish in eight rallies shows the progress we are making and we are determined to keep the run going at the last five rallies of the season, which are due to be held in countries that are important for the Brand.”

Manufacturers: Ford World Rally Team / Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2011
3 Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (FIN)
4 Petter Solberg / Chris Patterson (N/GB)

Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila claimed a podium finish for Ford World Rally Team on their home round of the FIA World Rally Championship in Finland today. They crewed a Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car to third in Rally Finland, while team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson finished fourth in a similar car.

Fiesta RS WRCs packed the leaderboard with seven finishing this eighth and fastest round of the season inside the top 10 as a fleet of privately-entered cars followed the official Ford entries.

Rally Finland is one of the jewels in the WRC crown. Based in picturesque forests near Jyväskylä, 270km north of Helsinki, the three-day rally was the equivalent of athletics’ 100 metres sprint, with just 303.52km of competition over 18 speed tests. It was one of the shortest rounds in the WRC’s history and was fought at a furious pace, with average speeds nearing 130kph.

Huge crowds packed the forests, especially at the classic Ouninpohja special stage which closed the event tonight. Blisteringly fast roads and stomach-churning jumps over blind crests make this the toughest challenge in the sport and two passes over the 33.01km test provided a fitting finale.

Latvala ended Thursday’s short opening leg tied in second, but the 27-year-old was unable to match the pace of the leaders yesterday. He was initially frustrated at being unable to perfect the set-up on his Fiesta RS WRC. However, once he achieved that, he grew in confidence and pulled away from his team-mate during the final leg to secure third.

“As a Finn competing in Finland, a win is always the target, but I said before the rally that if I finished on the podium I would be happy,” said Latvala. “I enjoyed a clean weekend with no mistakes and no mechanical issues and I can’t say that about many other rallies this year, so that’s a good feeling.

“I wasn’t at my best in the early part of the event, but I battled hard to get the set-up right and that paid off as I found a feeling with which I was happy. Our pace was strong, but not quite strong enough, so we must all go away and work hard to put that right. We’re not far away,” he added.

Solberg set a fastest time during each of the opening two legs and started the final day just 1.1sec behind his team-mate. A set-up change to his Fiesta RS WRC to try to further improve performance failed to pay off and he reverted to his original settings as he settled for fourth, finishing 21.1sec behind Latvala.

“I pushed very hard for the first two days,” said Solberg. “This morning we agreed that I would try some different settings to see if it would allow us to close on the guys ahead. I was looking for the ‘magic’ set-up, but it didn’t work. The car was too low and the sump guard was hitting the road so I reverted back to my original settings.

“Jari-Matti and I had exactly the same speed for the first two days but unfortunately it wasn’t fast enough to win. I tried really hard on the final Power Stage to try to take maximum bonus points, but I missed out by half a second. That seems to be the story of the weekend!” he added.

Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson was pleased with a podium, but admitted he had hoped for more. “We lost ground during Thursday’s short leg and given the pace of Rally Finland we knew it would be difficult to pull time back. That proved to be the case and we weren’t able to claw back the seconds we lost. However, we had no problems with either car and it was also encouraging to have seven Fiesta RS WRCs in the top 10,” he said.

Ford Racing’s European motorsport manager Gerard Quinn said: “I have huge respect for Jari-Matti and Petter for the tremendous effort they put in this weekend. It’s not the result we wanted but they faced a difficult challenge to regain time, and did a great job over the fastest roads in the WRC. We now look forward to Germany, where I hope we can claim a good result on asphalt.”

Manufacturers: WRC Team MINI Portugal /MINI John Cooper Works WRC
12 Armindo Araujo / Miguel Ramalho (P)
14 Paulo Nobre / Edu Paula (BR)

WRC Team: M-Sport Ford Rally Team / Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2011
5 Ott Tänak / Kuldar Sikk (EE)
6 Evgeniy Novikov / Denis Giraudet (RUS/F)

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak showcased a blend of speed and maturity over the final day of competition at Neste Oil Rally Finland today to claim vital points and sixth place overall.

Encompassing six stages and 139.8 competitive kilometres south-west of the rally base in Jyväskylä, Day 3 of Rally Finland was arguably the most challenging yet. Featuring some of Finland’s classic stages with wide roads and fast jumps, the crews then tackled two passes of one of the most daunting stages in the championship – the legendary Ouninpohja which, run in its entirety for the first time since 2007, made up 20 per cent of the rally’s total distance.

With a better road position going into the morning stages, Tänak showed his pace behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC with two top-four stage times. Challenging the front runners, the Estonian was 3.2 seconds faster than Ford World Rally Team’s Petter Solberg on the opening test [SS13] and split the two factory Ford’s through Leustu 1 [SS14].

The top-five times continued for Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk over the second pass as the 24-year-old built his speed throughout the course of each stage. Following a loss of rear-wheel drive for Mads Østberg on SS16, Tänak’s speed paid dividends as the Estonian climbed to fifth place – 2.1 seconds up on the Norwegian going into the final two tests.

Despite losing out to a resurgent Østberg on the penultimate test, Tänak showed his maturity with a composed drive through the two passes of Ouninpohja – securing sixth place and valuable championship points.

Elsewhere, disadvantaged running his Ford Fiesta RS WRC first on the road, Novikov concentrated on maintaining yesterday’s speed and making it to the end of the challenging event. After overshooting some junctions in search of a clean line through the lose gravel on the opening test [SS13], the Russian was back in the top-ten stage times through SS14.

Not giving the stages their usual dose of ‘maximum attack’ so as not to risk further injury to co-driver Denis Giraudet’s back, Novikov’s composure continued over the afternoon loop. Setting the ninth fastest time through SS15 – 4.6 seconds up on Thierry Neuville who was also recovering from a roll on Friday’s stages – the 21-year-old climbed another four places in the overall standings.

Taking the two passes of Ouninpohja in his stride, Novikov climbed another 17 places for 36th place overall and gained valuable experience of one of the most challenging tests on the WRC calendar.

Ott Tänak (6th) said:

“The rally was quite OK. It was a bit frustrating in the beginning but I think that had a lot to do with our starting position. This morning we just decided we had to push a bit harder – and we did and everything was going well. The first stages went well, but for sure Ouninpohja is a very difficult stage and I have never been there before so we took it a bit easier just to make sure that everything is OK in the pacenotes.

“At the moment, sixth place was the maximum we could have achieved, so I am happy with that.”

Evgeny Novikov (36th) said:

“The rally was OK. Not so great but I am satisfied and we are at the finish. We got some good experience from all the stages and I feel much more confident and ready for next year.”

WRC Team: Qatar World Rally Team / Citroën DS3 WRC
7 Chris Atkinson / Stephane Prévot (AUS/B)

Competing in the Qatar World Rally Team’s DS3 WRC, Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot were thrilled to feel the atmosphere of the World Championship again and return to Finland for the first time since 2008.

Whilst Nasser Al-Attiyah was off winning a bronze medal at the London Olympic Games, in the Skeet category (clay pigeon shooting), Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot were excited to experience their first competitive outing in the Qatar World Rally Team’s DS3 WRC. On Thursday, the Australian was running in the chasing group. Lying seventh at the end of day one, he was determined to kick on the following day. But like Thierry, things didn’t work out well for Chris: after suffering radio problems at the start of the leg, he then found himself stuck on an embankment on SS8. Despite losing 16 minutes, he kept racing until one of his wheels was torn off when he hit the same rock as Thierry (SS10).

Like his stable-mate, Chris was able to compete on the final day thanks to the work of Citroën Racing Technologies’ mechanics, whose night was reduced to its strict minimum. Having to deal with running second on the road, he rebuilt his confidence before really enjoying the Ouninpohja stage: “It was really fantastic to drive on this stage again. I’d really like to thank the entire team. We have spent the weekend in a top class car. If I hadn’t made that mistake, I think we could have achieved my goal of finishing in the top 5. I don’t know when I’ll be back in the WRC, but I hope it will be soon and with Citroën if possible!”

WRC Team: Citroën Junior World Rally Team / Citroën DS3 WRC
8 Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (B)

Reputed to be one of the most difficult events to get to grips with, Rally Finland provided Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul with the perfect opportunity to show off their talent. In their first ever outing here, the Citroën Junior World Rally Team crew matched some of the leading lights of the WRC with their stage times.

Well prepared after taking part in the Rally Estonia, Thierry Neuville waded into battle right from the word go. On Thursday afternoon, the Belgian finished third, fourth and fifth on the early stages. Bombarded with questions from Finnish journalists who were finding it hard to believe that a rookie could be fifth overall, the Citroën Junior World Rally Team driver nonetheless remained hard on himself: “I didn’t always feel that I was driving well, because I tended to ease off a little on the trickiest bends. I wanted to start at a good pace to be right up there fighting with my usual rivals. For the time being, things are obviously going pretty well.”

On Friday, Thierry enjoyed a great scrap with Mads Østberg, separated by just a few seconds. On the second run on Mokkipera (SS9), the Belgian got the better of the Norwegian to cut his lead. Unfortunately, a series of unfortunate incidents led to Thierry being forced to retire on SS11: “We hit a rock on SS10 on the racing line, the same one that Chris Atkinson had hit. The continued to drive normally, but we had a lot of vibration and a loud noise that prevented me from hearing the Nicolas’ pace notes, who also had also lost his voice! On the next stage, I went off on a tight bend. The car went into a roll and we couldn’t manage to get it back on the road.”

Thierry and Nicolas were able to rejoin the next day under Rally2 regulations: “It was important for us to complete all the stages, including the famous Ouninpohja test. It helped me to fine-tine my pace notes and assess how much progress I still have to make. When we crossed the finishing line, I felt disappointed because I believed I had it in me to make it to the finish without making any mistakes… My only wish now is to come back to this rally and continue to make progress!”

WRC Team: Adapta World Rally Team / Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2011
10 Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (N/S)

WRC Team: Adapta World Rally Team / Ford Fiesta RS WRC
10 Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (N/S)

After 3 days and a total of 303 km special stages in Rally Finland, Mads and Jonas came 5th. overall. The last day proved to be more exciting for the team than what was expected. After a technical problem on SS16, Mads lost approximately 50 seconds, and a comfortable 5th. position to Ott Tanak.

Ott, who is a very good driver, gained 2,1 seconds advantage to Mads after SS16, and he was beating Mads on 3 consecutive stages prior to Mads’ problem. Mads had to transform from test mode to competition mode at the moment. Successfully.

After the 2 final stages, Mads and Jonas gained the 5th. position back. They were quicker than Ott on both, beating him with 15.5-second margin overall, and Tanak finished 6th.

Sebastian Loeb won the rally, with Miko Hirvonen, Jari Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg following.
“My ambition was to battle for a podium position,” Mads says. “I failed to keep the top speed during the last 4 stages on Friday. Losing some time in Rally Finland, you automatically know that it is very difficult to gain it back. Therefore I cannot be 100% satisfied. But I am happy to be the best private driver, and I am pleased that I have not caused a single scratch in the paint of the car during the rally, which means I have been doing it with full control. In such a fast and demanding rally that is not so bad. Great stages, crowds of fans, a fantastic atmosphere and a rally format that is the best in WRC; I am obviously happy, and I am very pleased that we won back 5th position.”

An interesting perspective is that Rally Finland 2012 is the fastest WRC rally ever. Our Russian colleagues, Alm Rally Team Russia are the source, they have a large database with results; Sebastian Loeb’s new record for average speed in a WRC Rally sat in Rally Finland 2012 is 122.89 km. The previous record was from 2005 with 122.86. In 2005 water injection to the engines and active computerized diffs “allover” were legal. After the regulations changed in 2006, water injection and active diffs front and rear disappeared. The next generation of previous WRC cars never broke the record from 2005. But the new generation, less high-tech and with a smaller 1,6 l. engine, used only one and a half years to break the old record. That tells everything about the level and strong competition within the current WRC.

Monster World Rally Team / Ford Fiesta RS WRC
43 Ken Block / Alex Gelsomino (USA/I)

Monster World Rally Team driver Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino were having a fantastic rookie Rally Finland until SS14 on day three of racing. A landing after a jump 4km in on the stage broke their control arm bracket, which resulted in a loss of steering. This forced Block into a wild skid to the edge of the road, where he then pulled off course and immediately retired, knocking him out of the remainder of the rally.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Block. “I was having a really great rally up until SS14. I’d stayed consistent and clean through days one and two and we’d managed to work ourselves up 7 positions yesterday from 17th to 10th overall. To have been in points-scoring position here in Finland my first time ever is an incredible feeling, I was definitely exceeding my personal expectations for my performance at the event. It’s a shame that I got knocked out by a mechanical failure—especially before I got to take a run on Ouninpohja! Hopefully I’ll be able to come back in the future and race Rally Finland again.”

Prior to the mechanical failure on SS14 of Rally Finland, Block and Gelsomino had logged two solid days of racing at what is regarded by most as the WRC’s toughest event on the calendar. Prior to their retirement on Saturday’s second stage, the pair were sitting in 10th overall, which, had they maintained the position, would have marked their third consecutive WRC rally this season with points being scored. Unfortunately, the mechanical failure brought their streak to an end.

“I’m extremely proud of how Ken drove here in Finland,” said team manager Derek Dauncey. “Finland is such a tough event, even for the top drivers who have done the event for years and years. For him to come out and put down pace that was quick enough to work himself into the top ten while still keeping the car clean and on the road really shows just how much natural talent he has behind the wheel. I’m confident that if he hadn’t suffered the mechanical failure, he would have maintained his position and scored points here.”

Volkswagen Motorsport / Škoda Fabia Super 2000
21 Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (F)
22 Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (N)

Rally drivers speak reverentially of Formula 1 in the forest: Volkswagen driver Sébastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia recorded the seventh consecutive S2000 class win in the so-called ‘Finnish Grand Prix’. The French duo, which will compete for Volkswagen with the Polo R WRC in the top class of the World Rally Championship in 2013, secured tenth position overall behind winner Frenchman Sébastien Loeb. Volkswagen Board Member Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg and Finnish racing legends like Ari Vatanen, Juha Kankkunen, Mika Salo and Tommi Mäkinen followed the action at this, the season’s most dangerous and fastest WRC round. Ogier’s and Ingrassia’s team mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene from Norway finished 10th in the class.

Ogier: “I’m satisfied with tenth place. On the fast gravel tracks like the legendary Ouninpohja stage we extracted absolute everything that was possible from our Škoda when compared to the significantly more powerful WRC cars. Obviously next year we aim to be higher up with the Polo R WRC.” Exactly one year after Volkswagen’s debut in the World Rally Championship the Volkswagen crew produced a flawless performance for the near 300,000 enthusiastic and vocal fans along the 18 special stages over 303.52 kilometres. Huge demands are made of both man and machine at speeds of up to 200 km/h along forest tracks and jumps of almost 50 metres. Most prominent retirement of the 114 registered starters: US superstar Ken Block.

“It’s my first visit to a rally and I can say I’m impressed,” said Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Board Member for Technical Development of Volkswagen. “It’s fascinating to see with just how much enthusiasm the fans along the stages cheer on their heroes. I’m obviously very pleased with the excellent performances our driver pairings have produced during these demanding stages. The anticipation for 2013 and our entry with the Polo in the WRC are accordingly great.”

“With its hard and fast gravel tracks this Rally Finland certainly numbers to the most challenging and spectacular rallies this year,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “The entire team deserves great praise for doing a great job and for quickly solving the small problems that appeared. The driver teams were in good form despite the difficult and tough conditions and collected valuable experience for our WRC programme next year.”

Volkswagen winning streak continues at 1000 Lakes Rally

Exactly one year ago the Volkswagen Motorsport team competed in Finland, the land of a thousand lakes, in a WRC rally again for the first time since 1991. Unfortunately the cars did not make the finish last year, this time the 270 hp Fabias from Group brand Škoda fielded by Volkswagen fulfilled expectations – even if the brutal demands made of the material in the Finnish forests did not go unnoticed. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia had to battle with a faulty damper on the tenth special stage. Team mates Andreas Mikkelsen and co-driver Ola Fløene lost almost nine minutes, which could not be made up, on the same stage due to an electronic problem. On the final stage the Norwegians were also unlucky to suffer a puncture, which cost about another five minutes on the 33.01 kilometre Ouninpohja stage. Thanks to his fighting performance throughout the entire rally the 22-year old Mikkelsen, who currently leads the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) for Škoda UK with co-driver Fløene, still finished in 27th position in the overall standings.

This year Volkswagen Motorsport fields two Fabia, from group brand Škoda, in the FIA World Rally Championship in order to prepare in competition for its entry with the Polo R WRC in 2013.

Proton Motorsport / Proton Satria Neo Super 2000
33 Per-Gunnar Andersson / Emil Axelsson (S)
34 Juha Salo / Marko Salminen (FIN)

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