Rally Finland WRC (J) - 31 Jul-2 Aug 09

Posted: August 7, 2009 8:53 AM - 8983 Hits

Round 9 - 2009 FIA World Rally Championship

Craig Breen/Gareth Roberts win the Fiesta SportTrophy International Round in Finland.
Photo: Roy Dempster

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Posted: August 7, 2009 8:53 AM

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Posted: August 5, 2009 1:28 PM


Posted: August 5, 2009 12:38 PM

For 19 year old Waterford rally star Craig Breen 2009 has been a year where he has put himself on the rallying map, and now after the weekends WRC Rally Finland, on a World scale.

On his first attempt at one of the most specialised, and fastest rallies on the World Rally Championship calendar, Craig and co-driver Gareth Roberts trounced the International Fiesta competition and brought their Group N Fiesta ST home in a fabulous 26th place overall! It was truly a dream weekend for the Dairwood Design team, and a result that puts Craig back in the hunt for the Fiesta International Trophy honours.

“It was just an amazing weekend, and an amazing rally. Really the test on the Monday before the rally really set us up well, and we got a feel for what the roads were like. There are so many crests, and there are very few crests you just drive over the middle of. There are so many lines over them and really there was a lot of detail put into our pace-notes. Gareth did a brilliant job on the event, as it must have been difficult to get all the pace-notes called out, due to the detail and the speeds we were approaching things at. Every crest really had to be bang on, and on the first run through the stages, we were just able to make detail changes to up our speed for the second pass. I have to admit at night it was difficult to sleep, just thinking whether I’d got this crest marked right or wrong.”

The hard work paid off to produce one of the most significant results for Irish rallying at WRC level in recent years, and in the three days of intense competition the car ran faultlessly. “Tom Gahan and the team did a superb job on the car, and it was tough, really tough at times on the car. There were many rocks, some almost the size of the wheels, but the car ran extremely well, with no mechanical problems.” For Craig the main Fiesta opposition was expected to come from Finnish ace Jussi Kumpumaki, and it was no surprise when he recorded fastest time on the opening super special stage. But the real surprise was to come as Craig stormed into the lead, opening up an impressive 50 second lead by mid day on Saturday. “Then he started to come back at us a bit. He took a few seconds off that buffer, and there was a 30 kilometre stage ahead. We sort of knew he was going to attack, so we just had to go as fast as we could over the stage. At the end we took 3 seconds off him, so it was the right decision, and really I think that helped to sow the rally up for us.” The result moves Craig to within 40 points of Fiesta International series leader Patrick Anglade from Germany, with WRC Rally Catalunya on the Spanish tarmac next up. “I’m looking forward to that one too, but we have a wee while to think about it and a few events to concentrate on in between. The next event for us is the Cork Forestry which we hope to contest in the R2 Fiesta. It’s important for our Billy Coleman Award aims, and it won’t be easy. There are a lot of fast drivers, going well and rallying on a tight budget as well, so it should be a good race. Then we have the Ulster International, and I think that will be an excellent event. It’s just a matter of keeping the head down and getting on with all the rallies.”

For Craig and co- driver Gareth Roberts it was a landmark weekend in Finland.
“It’s by far the best win of my career so far, and the feeling we got driving onto the ramp at the finish was incredible.”

The result of 26th overall was higher than any previous result these little Fiesta’s achieved in Finland, and it would have put him inside the top 6 Junior WRC competitors, with 9 fastest Fiesta times along the way, which accrued the Waterford youngster 9 extra bonus points.
At the present moment Craig leads the British and Irish Fiesta series, is in a strong position in the International series, is second in class in the Irish Tarmac Championship, and is aiming to strike gold in the National Junior Championship. Allied to this fabulous finish in Finland, Craig has to be one of Ireland’s greatest World Rally hopefuls.
“I just need to keep my feet on the ground at the moment. There is a long way to go in all these series, and anything can happen in rallying.”

Prokop becomes J-WRC Champion

Posted: August 5, 2009 12:25 PM

Breen/Roberts push hard for Finnish FSTI victory

Posted: August 5, 2009 12:12 PM

The battle for the 2009 Fiesta SportTrophy International title looks set to go right down to the wire after Craig Breen marked his return to the competition after a two-event absence with a victory at Neste Oil Rally Finland. The result moves him back up to second in the standings and closes the gap between the Irishman and championship leader Patrick Anglade of Germany.

Ireland’s Breen (21) and co-driver Gareth Roberts (23) finished the event in 26th place, just 20.1 seconds ahead of championship newcomer Jussi Kumpumäki (18), making the fourth round of the championship the most closely fought so far. Anglade managed to hold onto his overall lead with a third place finish.

For all nine Fiesta STs entered in the event, Rally Finland turned out to be a huge test, not only their driving skills, but also of their bravery on the ultra-high speed stages around the forests and lakes close to Rally HQ in Jyväskylä.

It was Finn Kumpumäki and co-driver Mikael Korhonen (24) who took first blood in the FSTi battle in front of feverish home support at the Killeri trotting track for the traditional opening Super Special Stage, edging out Anglade on the 2.06km course with Castrol Ford Team Türkiye’s EmreYurdakul (26) and Burak Erdener closely following in third.

But Breen dominated the early proceedings on Day 1 taking victory on the forest roads of the classic stage Jukojarvi, with Anglade in second place ahead of Kumpumäki. Such was the pace of the Irishman on the flowing Finnish roads, that he was catching the cars in front of him. Despite this, he notched up a second stage victory on SS3 with Anglade’s second place moving him ahead of Kumpumäki, who overshot a corner, losing him 20 seconds in the process.

In a titanic battle of the three leaders on SS4, German Anglade (21) and co-driver Björn Röhm (29) snatched the stage win by less than a second from Kumpumäki, with Breen in third. Team Abu Dhabi driver Majed Al Shamsi (29) had to leave the day’s competition after they had misjudged a corner on SS4, left the road and broke a driveshaft.

Despite a heavy landing on a jump on SS5 the German managed to finish second, just behind Kumpumäki and ahead of Breen to keep the three-way battle at the head of the standings alive going into the midday service.

Battle resumed on the second pass over the stages with Breen returning to winning ways on SS6 ahead of Yurdakul and Kumpumäki, who both leapfrogged Anglade. The young Irishman took victory on the next three stages with Anglade and Kumpumäki exchanging blows behind him. But it was the Finn who thrived in the electric atmosphere of the Super Special Stage again finishing on an equal time with Anglade, with Yurdakul in third.

Conditions were entirely different for the drivers on Saturday morning after overnight rain had soaked the stages to the south-west of Service Park in Jyväskylä. Kumpumäki made the most of damp conditions finishing first on the opening two stages of the day with Breen in second and Anglade in third on both. Bader Al Jabri (24) was unlucky to hit a rock on SS12, damaging the car’s lower arm and, unable to replace the wheel, he was forced to withdraw from Day 2 and re-entered on Sunday under SupeRally conditions.

With his Finnish rival looking to encroach on his lead, Breen pulled out all the stops on the rutted roads of SS13 to take the win ahead of Kumpumäki and Anglade. But it wasn’t long before the Finn put his local experience to good use taking victory on SS14 ahead of Breen and Anglade. He closed the gap on leader Breen to 30 seconds with victory on SS15 as the Irishman finished second and the German third. Al Shamsi’s Fiesta suffered from a broken driveshaft on SS15, again forcing his retirement from the day and another SupeRally penalty.

Breen and Kumpumäki continued to battle for the rest of the day, taking two further stage wins each with Breen maintaining his 30 second cushion despite constant pressure from his nearest rival. Behind them, Anglade finished third on all stages but SS17, where Yurdakul broke into the top three again.

Kumpumäki pulled out all the stops on the final day to try to catch Breen, taking stage wins on SS20 ahead of Breen and Anglade and on SS21, with only Burcu Çetinkaya (28) and co-driver Çiçek Güney (27) breaking the dominance of the leading three drivers to grab third place behind Breen when Anglade rolled. The German’s car ended up on its side over a jump and he lost a minute on his rivals as a group of spectators helped get him back on the road.

Breen, however, did not let his rival out of his sights and, with SS22 cancelled, all he had to do was make it safely to the end of the short final stage of the rally to take his second victory of the year.

FSTi winner Craig Breen (21) from Ireland said:
“Competing against Jussi [Kumpumäki] was sheer brilliance. It's the best rally I've ever done - we were both at ten-tenths all the time. His time was so close to mine on the long Stage 19 and I was absolutely on the limit. Jussi is extremely fast and I know I did well to beat him. But we did what we needed to do and I'm absolutely thrilled. The gap between Patrick and I is now 40 points, so I expect that we need to take wins in both Spain and Rally GB in order to seal the championship.”

FSTi Round 4: Driver by driver
Craig Breen (IRE) – A virtually flawless performance from the young Irishman has put him right back in contention for the FSTi title. A brush with a barrier on SS12 caused only minor cosmetic damage to the car. The Irishman did a superb job in driving the car to victory under such constant pressure from fast Finn Kumpumäki. Nine stage wins.

Jussi Kumpumäki (FIN) – The young Finn showed his raw speed throughout the event, but was caught out on Friday morning when he lost 20 seconds on SS3 as he overshot a corner. He continued to push on Day 2, but lost another 15 seconds on SS13 when his engine cut out after a jump. With just 30 seconds between himself and leader Breen, he put all of his efforts into catching the leader on Sunday, but lost a further 10 seconds overshooting a corner on SS20. Make no mistakes, this was a very promising WRC debut from the 19-year-old Finn. Twelve stage wins.

Patrick Anglade (GER) – The championship leader damaged his suspension following a heavy landing from a jump on SS5 and that was followed by an excursion off the road on SS6. Lacking experience on the treacherous Finnish roads, he backed off on Day 2 whilst suffering from understeer and possible engine woes. On SS18 he landed on the nose of his car after a big jump, damaging the gearbox mount, sumpguard and radiator. A roll on SS21 lost the young German further time, but he was helped back on the road by spectators and was able to continue to the finish. Two stage wins.

Emre Yurdakul (TUR) – Despite a largely trouble-free event, the 2008 FSTi champion and 2008 rally winner struggled to match the pace of the leaders on many of the stages.

Ahmed Al Mansoori (UAE) – The young Emirati and co-driver Killian Duffy (26) reveled in the ultra-fast roads on Day 1 of the event, although Al Mansoori (22) was caught out by his speed on SS13 as he clipped a bank and rolled the car. Losing only around one minute to get the car back onto its wheels again, he managed to return to service where the team patched up the Fiesta which had incurred mainly panel damage, although he incurred a one- minute penalty for leaving service six minutes late. Brake problems on section two of Day 2 slowed his progress.

Burcu Çetinkaya (TUR) – After a trouble-free start to the rally, Çetinkaya’s car was hampered by an intermittent brake problem on Saturday morning, resulting in an unfortunate excursion off the road at the end of SS12. The crew managed to extract the car and continue, but lost over four minutes in that stage and had to drive without brakes on SS13 before she could return to service.

Bader Al Jabri (UAE) – After making a cautious start to the rally, Al Jabri and co-driver Stephen McAuley found more confidence over the famed Finnish jumps while making changes to their pacenotes. After hitting a rock 7km into SS12, the crew struggled to change the wheel, losing around 17 minutes and the damage forced them to retire from Day 2. Al Jabri lost 35 minutes to SupeRally penalties, but was able to restart on Day 3.

Majed Al Shamsi (UAE) – Brake failure on Friday morning saw Team Abu Dhabi driver Al Shamsi and co-driver Allan Harryman leave the road and damage the driveshaft of their Fiesta ST. Returning to the rally under SupeRally conditions on Saturday morning, Al Shamsi was slowed as he caught the cars ahead of him and his problems continued on SS11 as the Fiesta ST suffered a coolant leak which forced the Emirati to back off. A broken driveshaft on SS15 forced him out of the day. He restarted on Sunday with 60 minutes of SupeRally penalties.

Denis Grodetskiy (RUS) – Grodetskiy and co-driver Safiony Lotko suffered the worst possible start to the event when they misjudged a corner and slid the car into the barriers on the Super Special Stage on Thursday night. A lack of confidence in his pacenotes hampered the Russian’s early progress on Friday morning. Damage to the radiator caused by a rock led to the engine overheating, bringing his rally to a premature end on Friday.

Stobart team secure double points finish in Finland

Posted: August 5, 2009 11:56 AM

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson earned his best ever result and his first drivers’ point at Neste Oil Rally Finland as he took eighth place at round nine of the FIA World Rally Championship. The young Briton climbed steadily through the field during the rally to bolster his position in the drivers’ championship and earn good manufacturer points for the team. Henning Solberg also added to the Stobart team’s points tally as he took a manufacturer point despite competing under SupeRally conditions on Sunday.

One of the fastest and most demanding rallies on the WRC calendar, Rally Finland was dominated by local drivers. Five Finns finished inside the top ten, as they put their local knowledge to good use on the 345kms of high-speed stages, making Wilson’s achievement even more impressive as he avoided any trouble on the final day to secure his best ever finish in four visits to the legendary event.

After the traditional opening Super Special Stage at the Killeri trotting track on Thursday night, 90 crews headed north-west of the Rally HQ in Jyväskylä on Friday morning where two passes of a four-stage loop over the famed Finnish forest roads awaited them.

Solberg and co-driver Cato Menkerud were lying in seventh place after the Super Special, but on the opening stage of the day, the 22.29km Jukojarvi, the Norwegians lost ground on the leaders on the slippery gravel roads. With some minor changes made to his Ford Focus RS WRC during Friday’s midday service, Solberg found his rhythm on the second pass moving up to sixth place by the end of the day, just 2.6s behind Matti Rantanen.

Meanwhile, Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin climbed steadily up the field on Friday morning from their overnight position of 13th. Spurred on by a battle with Citroen Junior driver Sebastien Ogier, they gained confidence on the second pass of the stages. Ogier eventually prevailed in the fight, but Wilson edged victory over the Frenchman on the final Super Special stage of the day.

Wetter road conditions, coupled with the team’s soft compound Pirelli Scorpion tyres, provided increased grip on Saturday morning, really suiting the British crew. Some faster stage times were rewarded with a move up to ninth place overall. Wilson looked set to post an excellent time on SS14 Leustu 2 to continue his climb up the standings, but he lost around 15 seconds when he was forced to pull over and restart the car after the ignition switch on his Ford Focus RS WRC was knocked off on landing from a big jump. But while other drivers were suffering in the concentration-sapping conditions of the longest day of the rally, Wilson managed to produce a calm and reliable performance and was rewarded with a place in the points, finishing the day in eighth position.

Solberg was struck by bad luck on Saturday which ended his hopes of a strong finish. Having moved up to fifth place on the opening test of the day, his Rally Finland challenge ended on SS12 Himos as he sustained damage to the front suspension at a slow hairpin corner. The driveshaft on the Ford Focus RS was loosened leaving the car with no drive and forcing the Norwegian out of the rest of the day.

Returning to SupeRally on the final day, Solberg posted the third fastest time on the opening stage of the morning, signalling his determination to deliver manufacturer points for the team, which he did, eventually finishing in 30th place. Wilson meanwhile put all his efforts into reaching the finish in the points whilst gaining maximum experience on the demanding Finnish stages.

Other rally news
BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Mikko Hirvonen stretched his lead at the top of the driver standings to three points over nearest rival Sebastien Loeb after taking his third successive WRC victory with a win on his home rally. Jari-Matti Latvala made it a double celebration for Ford taking the final podium spot ahead of Loeb’s Citroen team mate Dani Sordo in fourth.

Munchi’s Ford WRT driver Matti Rantanen produced his best ever result in a WRC event taking fifth place by just 0.3 seconds from fast-charging Frenchman Sebastien Ogier. Rantanen’s countrymen Jari Ketomaa and Juho Hanninen also finished in the top ten.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
“It has been a really valuable learning experience and we always pick up more things here than at any other rally. We made changes to our notes after Rally Poland to make them more accurate on the wider roads and that has worked fairly well; it’s made them more precise. It has been good to see that I’m improving and this is my best ever result here. I’ve gained a lot of experience of the new stages which will help me next year.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
“We came to this rally aiming for another top-five and things were looking good but unfortunately part of the suspension broke and we had to retire at the start of the second day. With our aim not possible I had to focus on getting more points for the Stobart team. We tried our best for this and on the final day our times were good; it was also useful to have that extra driving ahead of Rally Australia.”

Stobart VM M-Sport Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“It has been a solid team performance on one of the hardest and most specialised events in the championship. Experience counts for so much here and both crews did a great job to bring the cars home and earn yet more manufacturer points for the Stobart team. It’s a pity that Henning had to SupeRally as I believe that he could have achieved another top-five finish.”

Stobart Group CEO Andrew Tinkler said:
“Finland is famous for its high speeds and demanding stages and both Stobart crews have done extremely well to earn manufacturer points. Matthew and Scott have taken a lot from this event and the experience and improvements they have made with their pacenotes will stand them in good stead for the future.”

Citroen Sport Press Releases

Posted: August 5, 2009 11:55 AM

Magnificent Matti leads the way for Munchi's

Posted: August 5, 2009 11:51 AM

Munchi’s Ford WRT driver Matti Rantanen produced a scintillating performance at Neste Oil Rally Finland to finish in fifth place, his best ever result at an FIA World Rally Championship event. It was a strong weekend for the Munchi’s team as Federico Villagra again picked up manufacturer points finishing 11th overall.

After impressing with a seventh-place finish on his home rally last year, Rantanen had set himself high standards for this year’s event and wasted no time in making his mark on the field. Following a tenth place finish on the Super Special Stage at the Killeri trotting track on Thursday night the Finn and co-driver Mikko Lukka put their local knowledge to good use to scythe through the field on the Day 1 stages north-west of Jyväskylä.

By the end of the first day Rantanen had moved up to fifth place overall with only the main championship protagonists in front of him. His early stage times on Saturday morning were affected by a misfire at low revs as he dropped behind Henning Solberg, but this problem was fixed at the first service and by the end of the longest day of the rally the young Finn had recovered to finish the day in the same position that he started.

With Sebastien Ogier pushing him for fifth place there was no let up on Sunday morning. A big moment on SS21 saw Rantanen caught out by a slow corner in another ultra-fast section of Finnish road, but again he recovered to take a four-second advantage into the final two stages of the day. With Ogier challenging hard, the Finn managed to cling on, holding a nerve-jangling 0.3 second advantage at the end with a stunning third place on SS23 Ruuhimäki, the final stage of the rally.

Having sat out the high-speed tests of Rally Poland, Villagra had an uphill struggle ahead of him to adapt to the ultra-fast Finnish roads after his last WRC outing on the Acropolis Rally, one of the slowest on the calendar.

With limited experience of the crests and corners of the Finnish stages the seven-time Argentine Champion lacked the knowledge to push hard on the first pass of the stages.

A steady start to the rally saw him move up two positions on Day 1 from the 15th place that he occupied after the opening Super Special Stage. With co-driver Jorge Perez Companc beside him for the first time since Rally d’Italia Sardegna, Villagra was able to make some good changes to his pacenotes over the day and build his confidence on the challenging forest roads to the north-west of Jyväskylä.

Villagra, who has only completed Neste Oil Rally Finland once before, after retiring from last year’s event, continued his steady progress on Day 2, staying in the battle to gain manufacturer points for the team, whilst climbing up to 11th overall by the end of a largely trouble-free day.

After moving into the top ten on Sunday morning he was caught by another Finn, Juho Hanninen, on the penultimate stage of the rally, finishing in 11th place.

Meanwhile, Mattias Therman and co-driver Janni Perälä made steady progress up the field during their home rally. The Finn, who had prepared hard for the event, was determined to make the most of his drive in the Ford Focus RS WRC and was rewarded by an excellent result which saw him finish in 15th place.

Other rally news
BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Mikko Hirvonen stretched his lead at the top of the driver standings to three points over nearest rival Sebastien Loeb after taking his third successive WRC victory with a win on his home rally. Jari-Matti Latvala made it a double celebration for Ford taking the final podium spot ahead of Loeb’s Citroen team mate Dani Sordo in fourth.

It was a strong event for the Finnish drivers with five inside the top ten. Jari Ketomaa finished in seventh place, just ahead of Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson. While Juho Hanninen took the GpN victory, finishing in tenth place.

Munchi’s Ford WRT driver Matti Rantanen said:
“I’m very happy today, my result last year was great but this one really tops it. I started to think I should be closer to the top drivers but I have to remember that the four people above me are full-time professional rally drivers. The car that M-Sport provided for me has been fantastic and we hardly changed any settings all rally. I found it difficult on the second day and I felt we were a bit too sideways in some of the stages and lost some time on the loose gravel. But the fight with Ogier today was exciting and a really great feeling to come out on top.”

Munchi’s Ford WRT driver Federico Villagra said:
“This has been a very difficult rally but we are happy to finish with no problems and get another year’s experience of competing here. Experience counts for a lot and when I made my pacenotes for this rally I thought they were fine. But the top drivers really know the lines here, especially over the crests, and I’m having to adjust to it a bit more. It’s difficult to find the exact speed for the corners and I’m struggling more on the first pass with this. We came here from Rally Acropolis and it’s a shame we didn’t compete in Poland as it may have helped us to adjust to the high speeds. The car has been working well all weekend and it’s also a real pleasure to compete on this rally; the stages are fantastic fun and very exciting.”

Hirvonen/Lehtinen jumps for joy after netting dream victory in Finland

Posted: August 5, 2009 11:49 AM

BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver Mikko Hirvonen fulfilled a childhood dream by winning Rally Finland in front of his home town fans in Jyväskylä today. Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen won the legendary rally by 25.1sec in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car to extend their lead in the FIA World Rally Championship to three points with three rounds remaining. It was Hirvonen's third straight rally win and Ford's fourth consecutive victory of the 2009 season.

Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila joined their fellow Finns on the podium by claiming third in their Focus RS WRC. Latvala fought off a severe stomach upset yesterday to claim his maiden podium on his home rally. The results enabled Ford to close the gap on the leaders in the manufacturers' world title fight to 14 points, and ended a perfect week in which Ford announced it would extend its commitment to WRC for a further two years into 2010 and 2011.

Rally Finland, round nine in the 12-event championship, is the fastest rally in the series. Famous for its awesome roller-coaster jumps, Latvala topped the speed chart by winning the penultimate special stage at a remarkable average of 131.56kph. Few of the 23 gravel speed tests covering 345.15km fell below a 120kph average and even when heavy rain fell yesterday morning during the second leg, speeds remained high as the rock hard road surface softened to provide even better grip.

Hirvonen, who celebrated his 29th birthday during the first leg on Friday, added his name to the illustrious list of drivers who have mastered the sport's truest test of precision driving and bravery by leading for all but the first couple of kilometres. He steadily pulled away from closest rival Sébastien Loeb and when the Frenchman damaged a tyre yesterday afternoon, Hirvonen was able to measure his pace, reduce the risks and take an emotional victory in front of his family and friends.

"I've watched this rally since I was a kid and now I have won here myself and joined so many of the sport's legends who have won here. It's such a fantastic sensation to win my home rally that I can't put my feelings into words. It has been such a great weekend for the team that there will be big celebrations tonight. I felt in control throughout the rally. It was a great battle with Loeb and when he had a problem, I could afford to take it a little bit easier," said Hirvonen.

Latvala held fourth for most of the opening leg but his chances of improving looked slim when a stomach upset left him drained of energy yesterday morning and unable to drive at full speed. However, the 24-year-old quickly recovered and as his health improved, so did his stage times. He received the ideal tonic by climbing into third during the afternoon and maintained a fast but cautious pace for the rest of the rally to secure a podium place by 16.2sec.

"It's one of the highlights of my career to finish on the podium on my home rally," he said. "After my mistake on the final stage in Poland last month, I was under the biggest pressure of my life here and it took time to regain my rhythm and confidence. Then I fell ill, but overtaking Dani Sordo to move into third was a turning point and my times became better and better. I feel I have grown up mentally since Poland and my role for the rest of the season is to support Mikko's drivers' title challenge in the way I did here."

Abu Dhabi's Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr finished ninth in the team's other Focus RS WRC. "Five of the top 10 finishers were Finns so to take ninth is a credit to the team," said Al Qassimi.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson described his 'dream weekend'. "Both Mikko and Jari-Matti delivered a perfect job for the team. Without question, it was Mikko's best drive. Winning Rally Finland is a turning point in his career, but I never doubted he would take victory here one day. He has increased his lead in the drivers' standings and the destination of the title could go down to the final round. Jari-Matti drove superbly, especially given the pressure he was under," he said.

Gerard Quinn, Ford of Europe's senior manager for motorsport said: "Victory in the country that is regarded as the spiritual home of rallying is a tremendous achievement. Four consecutive wins in conditions ranging from the blisteringly fast roads in Finland to the rock-strewn tracks and searing heat in Greece demands a blend of strength, speed and reliability from both man and machine and I look forward to us challenging in Australia next month."

News from other Ford teams
Matti Rantanen and Mikko Lukka finished fifth on their debut for the Munchi's team, beating Sébastien Ogier by just 0.3sec, with team-mates Federico Villagra and Jorge Perez Companc in 11th. Stobart VK M-Sport pairing Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin claimed their first point in Finland by taking eighth in a Focus RS WRC. Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud finished 30th after restarting under SupeRally rules following yesterday's retirement with suspension and driveshaft damage.

Next round
Rally Australia returns to the series for the first time since 2006 next month. The new-look rally has crossed the country to the east coast and is based in Kingscliff, New South Wales on 3 - 6 September.


Posted: August 5, 2009 11:45 AM


Posted: August 5, 2009 11:42 AM

1. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS WRC 2hr 50min 40.9sec
2. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroen C4 WRC 2hr 51min 06.0sec
3. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Focus RS WRC 2hr 51min 30.8sec
4. D Sordo/M Marti ESP Citroen C4 2hr 51min 47.0sec
5. M Rantanen/M Lukka FIN Ford Focus RS WRC 2hr 54min 59.1sec
6. S Ogier/J Ingrassia FRA Citroen C4 WRC 2hr 54min 59.4sec
7. J Ketomaa/M Stenberg FIN Subaru Impreza WRC 2hr 55min 48.4sec
8. M Wilson/S Martin GBR Ford Focus RS WRC 2hr 57min 14.5sec
9. K Al Qassimi/M Orr UAE Ford Focus RS WRC 3hr 03min 38.2sec
10 J Hänninen/M Markkula FIN Skoda Fabia S2000 3hr 04min 54.6sec

Full Results and Times:

Breen/Roberts Prepare for Finland

Posted: July 25, 2009 3:47 PM

Kel-Tech Engineering team are preparing their familiar Fiesta ST for next weekend’s WRC Rally Finland the latest round of the FST International series, and indeed the car is already on its long trip to make Finland, for a test session on Monday.

“Finland will be all new to me for sure, and I believe there will be one of the local drivers in the FST series, so he should be very rapid. It will be a new challenge, like Portugal was and we will be having a go, that’s for sure. Getting points is important, but at the same time, if we think we can race we will. I’m looking forward to Catalunya also. It will be a different type of attack on tarmac than Irish tarmac, but I’m hoping my karting skills will come in useful there,” said Craig

For Craig it’s been an amazing season to date. Currently he leads the Fiesta Sport Trophy UK. Fiesta Sport Trophy Ireland, the National Junior Rally Championship and is in the frame in the International Fiesta series, a superb achievement for Irish rally-sport.

FSTi battle gains pace as championship moves to Finland

Posted: July 25, 2009 3:44 PM

Competition in the Fiesta SportTrophy International is heating up as competitors prepare to take part in the fourth round of the championship at Neste Oil Rally Finland. The high-speed challenge is sure to be a test for all nine Fiesta STs entered, as the battle for the title gains pace.  

FSTi leader Patrick Anglade will be defending his position at the top of the standings, although Rally Finland sees the return of Round 1 winner Craig Breen who will be attempting to renew his title challenge.  Team Abu Dhabi drivers Bader Al Jabri, Majed Al Shamsi and Ahmed Al Mansoori are all battling for podium places, currently lying second, third and fourth in the standings respectively. They will be joined in Finland by Castrol Ford Team Türkiye drivers Emre Yurdakul and Burcu Çetinkaya and Russia’s Denis Grodetskiy. Finnish newcomer Jussi Kumpumäki makes up the last of the FSTi competitors and will be an unknown quantity as he makes his FSTi debut on his home event.  

One of the oldest and most popular rallies on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar, Rally Finland is also the fastest, and will provide a stern test of the FSTi competitors’ driving skills, concentration and bravery as they take on the scorchingly fast stages around the host town of Jyväskylä in the Finnish lake district.  

Anglade (21), along with co-driver Björn Röhm (29) has dominated the last two rounds of the championship, extending his lead at the top of the standings to 45 points over nearest challenger Al Jabri.  The young German showed maturity and reliability in racing to his record-breaking victory at Rally Poland.  But with limited gravel rally experience, the ultra-fast stages in Finland will be a new challenge for him.  

Breen (19) and co-driver Gareth Roberts (21) were clear winners in Portugal, but in order to maintain their hopes of taking the FSTi title, they must aim for victory again in Finland. Only the best four results for each driver will count towards the title and, as Breen is entered in just four events this season, he cannot afford to drop points to his rivals.  

Al Jabri (24) is locked in a battle with his Team Abu Dhabi compatriot Al Shamsi and will again be looking to prevail in that fight.  With second-place finishes under his belt in Sardinia and Poland he and co-driver Steve McAuley will also be looking to stay ahead of Breen and put pressure on Anglade.  

Al Shamsi (29) and co-driver Allan Harryman will be aiming to pick up where they left off in Poland and continue to pressure the championship leaders.  Meanwhile, Al Mansoori (22) and co-driver Killian Duffy (26) have shown good pace so far this season, but will be aiming to find the consistency that has so far eluded them in order to stay in touch with their team mates.  

Burcu Çetinkaya (28) suffered from gearbox problems at Rally Poland which put paid to her challenge for a podium finish.  But, with regular co-driver Çiçek Güney (27) returning in Finland, she will be looking to challenge the leaders again with the same early pace she showed in the last round.  

Her Castrol Ford Team Türkiye team mate Emre Yurdakul saw his rally ruined by electrical problems in Poland, but a series of stage wins proved that the reigning champion still has the pace to challenge for overall victory.

Despite a series of problems in Poland, Denis Grodetskiy and co-driver Safiony Lotko produced a confident performance to complete the rally in sixth place. Having shown improving pace throughout the season so far the Russian duo will be looking to maintain that momentum as they take on the high-speed challenge of Finland.  

Series newcomer Jussi Kumpumäki (18) grew up competing on the hard-packed gravel roads that feature in Rally Finland. His experience could catapult him and co-driver Mikhael Korhonen into contention for a strong finish in his first ever WRC event.   

Away from the stages, the all-new Fiesta R2 will also be on show in Finland as it continues on its tour of Europe.  The car will be on static display in the Ford WRC Service area for the duration of the rally.  

FSTi leader Patrick Anglade said:
“Jussi Kumpumäki has enrolled in the FSTi and he will probably decide the pace of the rest of the FSTi field. For us it is important to achieve valuable points and to finish the race without any accidents. We have already won twice and came second once. The best four results will be taken into account and, after Finland, there are still two rallies ahead. So, there is no reason to take a risk on this rally.”  

FSTi Driver Goals (Rally Finland):  
Patrick Anglade (GER) is aiming to defend his lead in the championship.  He will have to be on top form with Craig Breen back in the championship and local man Jussi Kumpumäki likely to be making a charge.  

Bader Al Jabri (UAE) is locked in two exciting battles. The first is for a podium finish in the championship as he defends his second place behind Anglade. Meanwhile, he will be aiming to stay ahead of his Team Abu Dhabi team mates.  

Majed Al Shamsi (UAE) will be looking to get the better of Al Jabri after being edged out by his team mate in the last two rallies.  

Ahmed Al Mansoori (UAE) must now add consistency and reliability to the out-and-out pace that he has shown in flashes so far this season.  The high speeds of Rally Finland should suit Al Mansoori, but concentration will be key,  

Craig Breen (IRE) - a strong finish is vital for the Irishman who is only contesting four rounds of the championship. His goal is to take victory to add to the win achieved in Portugal earlier this year.  

Denis Grodetskiy (RUS) – the Russian’s improved speed was hampered by mechanical problems in Poland. If he has a trouble-free run in Finland then he can challenge for stage victories.  

Burcu Çetinkaya (TUR) – the only female in the championship will be aiming to put pressure on the leaders with more of the pace that she showed on the opening day of Rally Poland.  

Emre Yurdakul (TUR) – after the disappointment of his result in Poland, reigning champion Yurdakul will be looking to get his challenge back on track with a strong finish as he competes in Rally Finland for the third time.  

Jussi Kumpumäki (FIN) – home advantage should play into the hands of the young Finn who will be more familiar with the roads around Jyväskylä and he could spring a surprise on the other competitors.  

Citroen Previews

Posted: July 25, 2009 3:42 PM

Stobart focus on another podium in Finland

Posted: July 25, 2009 3:20 PM

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford drivers Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson are preparing to take on one of the most hotly anticipated events on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar, Neste Oil Rally Finland, the ninth round of the championship.  One of the oldest events on the calendar, Rally Finland is also a firm favourite with drivers and fans alike as it lives up to its fearsome reputation as the fastest rally of the year where only the most skilful and brave drivers will succeed.  

The team arrive in Jyväskylä after a strong performance at Rally Poland, which saw Solberg and co-driver Cato Menkerud take their second podium finish of the season.  That rally proved to be excellent preparation for Rally Finland, with the fast, flowing stages giving the crews a taste of what to expect when they take on one of the calendar’s classic rallies next week.  

Pre-event testing in their reliable Ford Focus RS WRCs in the lead up to the event should also ensure that both Stobart crews are on top form when the rally gets underway on Thursday night.  

Solberg was frustrated by his car on the opening day of Rally Poland as he fought to find the right set-up.  But things came good for the Norwegian as the rally progressed and a hard-charging performance on the closing day saw him move up to take a hard-fought third place.  That result, and the knowledge gained from his experience in Finland last year where he was lying third after day 1, should put him in contention for another podium battle.  

Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin also performed well in Poland and, with three years’ experience of Rally Finland now under his belt, Wilson is ready to make the step up from his previous best finish of ninth, in an event that is rarely won by anyone who did not grow up on the blisteringly fast roads of the Finnish lake district.  

The rally gets underway on Thursday night with the traditional opening Super Special Stage at the Killeri trotting track where thousands of fans are expected to turn out and cheer on their idols over the 2.06km course.  A season-record 90 cars have been entered for the rally with competition set to be fierce throughout the field.  

Around 50 per cent of the stages used in last year’s rally remain in the itinerary for this year’s edition but many others have been modified while three new stages have been introduced to the schedule.  Gone are the famous, but ultra-fast, Ouninpohja tests but the unique challenge of Rally Finland still remains.  

Day 1 will take the crews to the north west of Service Park through 130.84kms of high-speed gravel roads where the accuracy of their pacenotes will be properly tested for the first time in the rally. Fearsome crests in the stages hide fast bends and the drivers will also have heavy demands placed on their concentration.  

Day 2 features the longest stage of the rally SS19 Vaarinmaja at 29.29kms along with one of the rally’s new stages, SS18 Kavala where the Stobart team will be relying on the Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyres on the hard-packed gravel roads.  The last day of the rally provides just 47.44kms of stages before returning to Rally HQ at Paviljonki for the finish ceremony.  

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team news since Rally Poland Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin set themselves the gruelling summer challenge of completing the Raid des Alpes, a 700km bike trek over some of the highest peaks in the French Alps.  The duo, along with trainer Barry Johnson, completed the ride from the shores of Lake Geneva to Antibes on the Mediterranean coast in less than a week.   

Wilson and Martin will take part in a short pre-rally test in Hauhanpohja on Monday to complete their preparations for the rally.  

Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud will also test on Monday.  While Menkerud has been continuing his training for September’s Berlin Marathon, Solberg swapped his car for a boat as he joined brother Petter at the Norwegian round of the Class One World Powerboat Championship in Arendal.  Continuing the long-running family rivalry, Petter was fastest in practice but Henning took family honours in the race.  

Solberg will be back in a car this weekend when he takes part in the third round of the Nordic Rallycross Championship in Strangnas, Sweden in his Ford Fiesta.  

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
“Doing Rally Poland before Finland was really good preparation for us.  We picked up a lot of things in Poland, including changes with our pacenotes that will really help in Finland.  Hopefully we can get a good feeling with the car at the test.  It always helps to have some time in the car in Finland before the rally starts as it is such a technical event and the speeds are so high.  I’ve been there three times before so I’m in a much better position now as it is a rally where you do need experience.”  

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
“I’m feeling very upbeat after the podium finish in Poland although it took me a couple of days to settle into the characteristics of the rally there.  I hope that I will be able to start quicker in Finland.  It is an important rally for my sponsors Expert, who have a big presence in Finland, so it is imperative for me to get a good result for them.  I was third after day 1 last year and I hope that I can repeat that kind of pace this year; two podiums in two rallies would be amazing.”  

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“Matthew has gained invaluable experience in this event over the past three years and is now ready to step up and take a good points finish for the Stobart team.  He and Scott learned a lot from their strong result at Rally Poland and should be able to translate that into another consistent and reliable performance in this challenging event.  Henning has a good record at Rally Finland in recent years and we hope that he will be able to maintain the momentum that he built in the last rally to produce another excellent result for the team.”

Ford's Flying Finns bid to extend victory run on home ground

Posted: July 25, 2009 3:18 PM

Ford's all-Finnish pairings tackle their home fixture next week determined to maintain the momentum that has propelled the team to three straight wins in the FIA World Rally Championship and the lead of the drivers' series. Rally Finland (30 July - 2 August) is regarded by many as the highlight of the season and an epic contest awaits as BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team's Flying Finns take to the high-speed roads on which they grew up, impatient to secure a maiden victory on their home event.

Victories in Greece and Poland last month for Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen with the record-breaking Ford Focus RS World Rally Car ensure they take a one point lead into this ninth round of the 12-rally campaign. Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila won in Italy in May and the hat-trick of triumphs has revitalised the squad's season ahead of one of the sport's classic rallies.

Landing the top step of the podium in Finland, regarded as rallying's spiritual home, is one of the sport's most sought after achievements. It has a huge following and enormous crowds will flock into the countryside amid the lakes and forests near the traditional host base of Jyväskylä – also Hirvonen's home town – to cheer on their fellow countrymen and visiting drivers alike.

The rally will be fought out on blisteringly fast roller-coaster gravel speed tests. Finns who nurtured their careers on these types of roads have a clear advantage over 'outsiders' who require several years' experience before they can hope to mount a genuine victory challenge. Only seven non-Finns have won in 58 years. Such are the speeds that Rally Finland boasts five of the six fastest rallies in WRC history, with the 2005 event topping the all-time list at remarkable average of 122.86kph.

The hard, wide roads are as smooth as a billiard table so it is not a hard rally on machinery. However, it is incredibly difficult from a technical perspective. Awesome stomach-churning jumps frequently hide bends over the crests, so accuracy and delivery of pace notes must be exact and selecting the correct line before 'take-off' ensures maximum pace through the following curves.

Hirvonen has twice finished second from seven starts and a good performance here would boost his challenge for the drivers' title. "The view I'm taking is that the season is now a mini-four round championship with three rallies on gravel and one on asphalt. I'm leading by a point so the outcome is in my own hands. First in the start order for the opening leg isn't the easiest position to be, but I'll have to deal with that. I lost the rally last year by dropping time from the same position on the opening leg so I need to overcome that," said Hirvonen, who celebrates his 29th birthday on the first day.

"The time differences on this rally are always so small. If a driver wins a stage by five seconds then that's a huge gap, so even a small mistake can prove costly. And the speeds are so high that a big mistake often results in an accident. When you're flat out and fighting hard for tenths of a second, you often find surprises on jumps or corners that you think you know well. The car can fly further or higher and those are the kind of surprises that can bring problems," he added.

This will be Latvala's seventh Finland start and the 24-year-old acknowledges he will feel more pressure here than at other rounds. "Driving in Finland brings more excitement than elsewhere. Huge numbers of fans line the stages hoping to see their own drivers do well. That brings more pressure, but it's a special feeling to experience that encouragement. I also have a little more pressure after my mistake in Poland, but I have the support of the whole team and that makes me relaxed," he said.

"I have a job to do here and that is to score solid points to help Mikko in his challenge for the title. Poland was a fast rally, so it should be OK to find the speed in Finland to do that. There are several new stages, which I'm looking forward to. It's sad we're not driving the famous Ouninpohja stage but Myhinpää is on the schedule for the first time in many years and that's also a legendary test," he added.

Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr will drive a third Focus RS WRC, the third Finnish start for the 37-year-old Abu Dhabi driver. "Finland will be another great test. It's always an incredible experience with some extremely technical stages, and if we can do well it will really show the progress we are making. After missing Rally Poland, I can't wait to get back behind the wheel to try to build on the points we won in Greece. We will try to rise to the occasion but always remembering that it is a three- day event and consistency will be the key to success," said Al Qassimi.

Team News
* Tyre partner Pirelli will provide BP Ford Abu Dhabi with just the one regulation tyre pattern. The Scorpion gravel tyre will be available in soft compound only. Teams are not allowed to hand-carve additional cuts into the rubber and each car can carry two spare wheels.

* The team completed a four-day test in Finland yesterday to finalise set-up. Hirvonen covered 554km on Monday and Tuesday while Latvala racked up 520km. Each spent the first day on narrow technical roads before tackling wider, faster sections on the second day. The test roads were close to Jämsä.

* Six other Focus RS WRCs will start. Henning Solberg / Cato Menkerud and Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin are nominated by the Stobart VK M-Sport squad. Munchi's Ford has nominated Federico Villagra / Jorge Perez Companc and Matti Rantanen / Mikko Lukka, and a third car will be crewed by Mattias Therman / Janne Perälä. A privately-entered 2005-specification Focus RS WRC will be driven by Jouni Arolainen / Risto Pietiläinen. The rally is the fourth round of the Fiesta SportingTrophy and nine Fiesta ST cars are entered.

* Team engineer Tim Jackson attended Rally Bulgaria last weekend on a fact-finding visit ahead of the rally's debut appearance in the 2010 championship.

Rally Route
Organisers have continued their recent policy of ringing the changes and more than 30 per cent of this year's route has changed, including three all-new special stages. However, the traditional central Finland base of Jyväskylä remains, along with the central service park at the town's Paviljonki exhibition area. After the traditional Thursday evening super special stage at the town's Killeri trotting track, Friday's action is based north-west of the city, ending with a second pass at Killeri. Saturday's leg contains almost half the rally's competitive distance and takes drivers south-west for two loops near the town of Jämsä, before a late afternoon cluster of tests near Mänttä. Missing from the middle leg is the awesome Ouninpohja, a roller-coaster section of road full of sweeping bends and jumps and regarded as one of the sport's ultimate tests of skill and bravery. The short final leg covers four tests east of Jyväskylä. Drivers face 345.15km of competition in a 1449.61km route.

Entry List

Posted: July 8, 2009 4:59 PM

Petter Solberg top use Xsara

Posted: July 8, 2009 4:58 PM

Petter Solberg will use his Citroen Xsara WRC in Finland. Solberg tested a 307 WRC, and was linked to a C4 for the next round of the WRC, but has decided to stick with the Xsara.

Craig Breen / Gareth Roberts

Posted: July 8, 2009 4:55 PM

Craig Breen and co-driver Gareth Roberts have entered Rally Finland, which is be Round 4 of the Fiesta Sporting Trophy International. Breen and Roberts took maximum points on the opening round in Greece, but missed rounds 2 and 3.

Regulations / Event Website / Details

Posted: January 1, 2009 12:01 AM

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