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Finland (P/S) - 29-31 Jul 10

Posted: August 26, 2010 12:17 PM - 6175 Hits

Round 8 - 2010 World Rally Championship
P – Production Championship
S - FIA WRC Cup for S2000 Teams

Video Clips: Hirvonen's Crash & More

Posted: August 26, 2010 12:17 PM







Breen/Roberts Debut Kick Energy Ford Fiesta to 19th in World Rally Finland

Posted: August 26, 2010 12:11 PM

First WRC event in the "KICK ENERGY" Ford Fiesta S2000 and Craig records his best result at World level. 19th Overall, 10th in the N4 class and the 5th Ford Fiesta S2000 home. Craig started on Thursday evening’s super special, jumping from his seeding of 67th to 34th and as the most technical rally in the world rally championship resumed on Friday morning Craig started his rise up the leader board. This culminated with the current Irish Young Rally driver of the year claiming his highest finish of his career on the world stage.

Craig, who turned twenty last February has had WRC Finland in the back of his mind from the time he decided to purchase the Fiesta S2000. Twelve months ago he got his first taste of what the locals call "Jyväskylä Suurajot" (the "Jyväskylä Great Race"). On his way to securing the 2009 FSTi title Craig claimed a class win in Finland, on his first outing after a rally long fight with Jussi Kumpumäki. After moving to the S2000, Craig set his sights early in the season that this would be the perfect venue to debut the Kick Energy Fiesta by taking on the world's best and find out where he stood when the last gravel stage was completed.

The biggest accident of his career to date knocked his confidence six weeks ago but it also served to refocus him both mentally and physically. There wasn't to be a class win in 2010 but what has been achieved is, Craig is starting to mature as a driver, he can set a goal and achieve it, he will not let out side influences draw his attention away from the bigger picture. His stage times give an ideal example of this; on every test that was repeated the Kick Energy car improved it's time from the previous run.

Craig got the perfect boast last week just before the event when word came through that he had been nominated by Motorsport Ireland to represent his Country in the forthcoming Northern European section of the Pirelli Star Driver Shootout in Sweden. The shootout will take place in conjunction with the Snapphane Rally in Hassleholm, Sweden, on August 14th. Craig will compete against drivers from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany and the UK.

Citroën scores a double podium in the land of 1000 lakes

Posted: August 26, 2010 12:10 PM

The Citroën Total World Rally Team crews improved their positions on the second day of Rally Finland. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia in their first race for the works team, finished in a magnificent second place a few seconds in front of Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena. This double podium has helped the Citroën Total World Rally Team to increase its lead in the FIA Manufacturers’ World Championship.

After a short night, the crews left the Jyväskylä service park in pouring rain. Around 100 kms from there, the stages of the first of the three loops were also soaking wet. Sébastien Ogier was on the pace straight away in the rally setting the fastest time in Kolonkulma (SS12). In Väärinmaja, the longest stage of the event, it was Sébastien Loeb’s turn to stun the onlookers. By setting the second-best time, Ogier took second place from Petter Solberg and got to within 15s of the leader, Jari-Matti Latvala! The latter fought back in the following stage, but the C4 WRC drivers were more than pleased at the end of the first three stages.

“I’m trying to keep up the pace while leaving myself a small safety margin. My aim’s not to go after Jari- Matti, but to see the finish in the best possible position,” underlined Ogier. As for Loeb he had third place in his sights:
“The gaps between Sébastien, Jari-Matti and me are fairly small this morning. On the other hand, Petter Solberg has lost time and I’m only a few seconds behind him. We’re going to continue to push to overtake him.”
The six-time world champion achieved his objective with two more fastest times in Leustu 1 and Himos 1 (SS15 and 16). Ogier was also setting a searing pace and he closed the gap to Latvala. After posting the fastest time in SS17 (Surkee 2), the Frenchman reduced the Finn’s lead to only 10 seconds!

The rally ended with a second passage through the Leustu and Himos stages. Ogier kept up the pressure on Latvala right till the end:
“Even if it’s difficult for me to be satisfied with second place, I have to say that this result is even better than I expected. For our second Rally Finland, we were able to up the pace without overdoing it. I’m very satisfied with the second day as we’ve finished only ten seconds behind the winner. I’d really like to thank the whole team, which helped to fight right up till the finish.”

Loeb, who came home third, was also satisfied:
“Bravo to Jari-Matti and Sébastien who drove great rallies. It’s good for the sport that the team didn’t give any orders at the end of the race. The fifteen points I scored today are a precious help in view of the championship. I’ve achieved my aim in this rally.”

“With our crews finishing in second and third places, we’ve increased our lead of eight points in the Manufacturers’ Championship,” summed up Olivier Quesnel, the Citroën Racing Team Principal. “Citroën loves the sport and again we chose not to ask our drivers to reverse their positions. Bravo to the two Sebs as they knew how to drive very quickly without making any mistakes.”

Flying Finn succumbs to speedy Swede in epic FSTi battle

Posted: August 26, 2010 12:04 PM

The third round of the 2010 Fiesta SportTrophy International (FSTi) series got underway this weekend as the competition joined the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) for the 60th Neste Oil Rally Finland. Victor Henriksson and co-driver Håkan Palm led the FSTi class from the end of Day 1 but close on his tail throughout was Finnish driver, Jussi Kumpumäki and Jani Laaksonen, who finished just 33.9 seconds behind Henriksson. A record breaking 14 entries tackled 19 stages totalling 310 km around the city of Jyväskäla but only six of the FSTi entries were able to finish. Running alongside the FST series, Jussi Kumpumäki won the third round of FST Finland on Friday. Victor Henriksson was second and Joose Kojo finished third. Kumpumäki took victory in the fourth round of FST Finland on Saturday’s stages, Henriksson was second and Hytönen in third. Team Abu Dhabi won the Muc-Off Best Presented Car Award for the FSTi class in Finland this weekend.

Victor Henriksson (22) & Håkan Palm FSTi final position: 1
Victor Henriksson and Håkan Palm took the fastest stage time in Friday’s opening Super Special Stage by 1.7 seconds to Atte Alanen.
During SS2 and SS3 Atte Alanen took the FSTi lead but Henriksson headed up the FSTi class once again after Alanen was forced to retire after SS3. The young Swede stopped to fix a loose bolt on the road section to SS5, making them one minute late and incurring a ten second penalty.
Henriksson encountered no major problems on Friday afternoon and at the end of Day 1 Henriksson was leading the FSTi class by 16.6 seconds to Kumpumäki.
Henriksson was keen to hold his FSTi lead in Day 2 but had electrical problems in SS13 and the engine cut out twice. He then suffered from the loss of the wheel scraper causing a vibration in the rear wheels. Henriksson felt the pace was too fast but only 6.1 seconds separated Henriksson and Kumpumäki as they pulled into Service E. During SS15, Henriksson took the lead in the FSTi class and at the midday service was leading Kumpumäki by 22.2 seconds. During SS16, Henriksson felt he could relax, safe in the knowledge that he had a lead of over three minutes to Kumpumäki. However, the rally had a sting in the tail and on SS17, the young driver bent his front steering arm approximately three km into the stage. This lost Henriksson approximately 2 minutes and the driver struggled back to service for repair. Henriksson was two minutes late out of service (TC17C) and incurred a 20 second penalty closing the gap to Kumpumaki again.
However, this failed to have any impact on Henriksson’s performance on the final stages of Day 2 and the young Swede took victory in the FSTi class at the end of a demanding Neste Oil Rally Finland and scored 4 stage wins.

FSTi winner Victor Henriksson said:
“This is a great feeling to win after the hard work in the last service, which was followed by a 20 second penalty for being late; I was so scared we were going to lose it all. When I heard Jussi [Kumpumäki] had problems, I thought we could just cruise, but then we got problems ourselves. The days have been long and the stages rough; driving in a rally car for 12 hours a day is really tough. The battle with Jussi was incredible: I was flying and still Jussi was beating me! It’s just unbelievable and feels really great.”

Jussi Kumpumäki (20) & Jani Laaksonen FSTi final position: 2
During Friday’s opening Super Special Stage, Jussi Kumpumäki and co-driver Jani Laaksonen missed a left hairpin corner which cost the duo approximately seven seconds. They finished this stage third-fastest in the FSTi class and moved into Friday’s ten stages 3.9 seconds behind Victor Henriksson.
During SS2, Kumpumäki braked too late into a right-hand corner, ending up in a ditch. There were only four spectators available to help push him out, a process that lost the Finn 50 seconds and dropped him to seventh position. On SS3, Kumpumäki hit a rock on the stage, resulting in a bent rear wheel. Kumpumäki kept a steady pace for the remainder of Friday;s stages and by the end of Day 1, Kumpumäki was just 16.6 seconds from snatching first place in the FSTi class from Victor Henriksson.
Kumpumäki maintained a steady pace on Saturday’s first stage and aimed to close the 16.6 second gap on Henriksson to take the lead in the FSTi class. Before SS13, the driver door catch had become loose and Kumpumäki had to tape it shut. This caused Kumpumäki no problems on SS13 and pushed Henriksson back into second position. During SS14, Kumpumäki missed the penultimate junction but only 6.1 seconds separated the two FSTi competitors as they pulled into Service E. During SS15 Kumpumäki lost the lead to Henriksson as a result of a puncture on the stage which he had to stop and change loosing nearly 4 minutes in the process. During Service F, Kumpumäki’s team found a broken front arm due to the rough stages but the Finn perservered and managed to make it to the end of Day 2 without any further problems and finished runner up in the FSTi classification and scoring 12 stage wins.

Bader Al Jabri (25) & Stephen McAuley FSTi final position: 3
Bader Al Jabri and co-driver Stephen McAuley encountered no major problems in Thursday’s opening Super Special and went into Friday morning’s stages in ninth position. Throughout Friday’s stages, the young Emirate produced steady stage times and finished Day 1 in sixth position overall. Al Jabri was just 45.2 seconds off snatching fifth position from Chrstian Riedemann as he entered Day 2.
On Day 2, Al Jabri noted difficult road conditions on SS14. During Service F, the Emirate reported he was pleased to be in third position so would not push in the final two stages with his main aim to get to the end. Al Jabri stuck to his words and managed to get to the end of SS19 with no problems and finished the FSTi class in third position overall.

Raimo Kaisanlahti & Tero Rönnemaa FSTi final position: 4
Raimo Kaisanlahti and Tero Rönnemaa finished Friday’s Super Special Stage 20.7 seconds adrift of the fastest stage time in SS1 and were placed twelfth overall.
During Friday’s opening stages, Kaisanlahti maintained a steady pace and encountered no major problems apart from his car pulling to the side on SS5. At the end of the morning loop, the Finnish driver was in a comfortable eighth position in the FSTi leader board and after a trouble free afternoon on Friday, the Finn remained in this position until the end of the day. At the end of Day 1, Kaisanlahti was just 32.4 seconds behind Bader Al Jabri in seventh position. During the evening service, the team adjusted the car’s ride height which solved Kaisanlahti’s earlier problems with the car’s handling.
Day 2 held no major problems for Kaisanlahti but during SS17 an oil leak developed in their car after there was a hole in the sump but this was replaced during Service F.

Toni Harsia & Jari Tarvainen FSTi final position: 5
Toni Harsia and co-driver Jari Tarvainen lost their second gear in Friday night’s Super Special which lost the duo valuable time and put them in thirteenth position at the end of SS1.
During Friday’s opening stages, Harsia picked up the pace and the duo gradually climbed the FSTi leader board but on SS4, Harsia overshot a corner on SS4 costing him around ten seconds in time. During SS13, Harsia was given a ten second penalty for arriving one minute late into TC13 to let a faster driver behind get past. Harsia encountered no other major problems during Neste Oil Rally Finland, maintaining a good pace throughout and finishing the championship in fifth position overall.

Kari Hytönen & Heidi Koppe (26) FSTi final position: 6
Kari Hytönen and Heidi Koppe lost approximately two minutes on SS2 due to a loose brake pressure valve. Hytönen retired on the road section to SS3 as a result and incurred 45 minutes in SupeRally penalties in addition to a 20 second penalty for being two minutes late into TC3.
Hytönen reported on SS12 that the car was handling extremely well but in SS14 the Finn spun and lost approximately 15 seconds returning to the road. On the final service, there were no problems and Hytönen reported he was getting used to the car and would take no risks in the day’s final stages. Hytönen stuck to his word and got to the end of Day 2 with no major dramas to finish sixth.

Majed Al Shamsi & Alan Harryman FSTi final position: DNF
Majed Al Shamsi and co-driver Alan Harryman broke a driveshaft at the start of Friday night’s opening Super Special. This forced the Abu Dhabi crew to retire on the first stage and they incurred a ten minute SupeRally penalty.
During SS3, Al Shamsi misunderstood a pace note and went off into a watery ditch. Spectators were plentiful and plunged into the ditch to push the Team Abu Dhabi duo back onto the road but the mishap cost them around three minutes. During SS10, Al Shamsi went wide on the first corner and lost nine seconds. He later picked up a puncture but managed to get to the end of SS10, changing the tyre on the road section afterwards. Due to their SupeRally penalty from Thursday evening, the duo lay twelfth in the FSTi class at the end of Day 1.
On Saturday, Al Shamsi lost oil pressure and retired at the end of the SS16.

Joose Kojo & Sami Taskinen FSTi final position: DNF
Having only driven the Fiesta R2 once in a pre-event test, Joose Kojo and Sami Taskinen were taking time to learn the car in the rally’s opening stages, especially as the brake balance had been adjusted since the test. However, by the end of SS4, Kojo was third in the FSTi class and despite incurring a one minute penalty for checking in early to SS10, the Finn remained in this position until the end of Day 1. Kojo also finished third in the third round of FST Finland at the end of Day 1.
On Day 2, Kojo retired after suffering from a broken driveshaft during SS12. This was a great disappointment for the promising Finn who was lying third in the championship at the end of Day 1.

Harry Hunt (21) & Sebastian Marshall (22) FSTi final position: DNF
Harry Hunt and co-driver Sebastian Marshall maintained a good pace on the opening Super Special to finish in joint fourth position with Joose Kojo and first non-Scandinavian. During Friday’s ten stages, the young British duo maintained a good pace and Hunt snatched fourth place from Dahlström at the end of SS5 by 6.4 seconds. Hunt finished the day fourth in the FSTi class, just 26.3 seconds from snatching third place from Kojo. On SS12, Hunt overshot a corner and ended up in a field down a two foot drop. The young Briton was unable to get back onto the road and was forced to retire from the championship with bent front suspension arms and a broken radiator.
Christian Riedemann (22) & Josefine Beinke (18) FSTi final position: DNF
After SS1, Christian Riedemann and Josefine Beinke were sixth in the FSTi class going into Friday’s opening five stages.
During Friday morning, Riedemann had no problems and maintained a steady pace which moved the young German driver into fifth position in the FSTi class where he remained until the end of SS5. A cracked rear beam was found on Christian Riedemann’s Fiesta R2 during the midday service after SS5 although his team did not have time to replace it in service.
Riedemann started Day 2 in fifth position but by the midday service Riedemann moved up into third position after the retirement of Kojo and Hunt. However, at the start of SS16 Riedemann was forced to retire from the championship with a broken driveshaft.

Sultan Al Ameri (25) & Killian Duffy (27) FSTi final position: DNF
Sultan Al Ameria and Killian Duffy finished Friday’s Super Special Stage ninth fastest in the FSTi class and 16.3 seconds off the fastest stage time set by Christian Riedemann.
The young Emirate encountered no major problems during Friday’s opening stages and pulled into the midday service in ninth position in the FSTi class. After a fast stage time on SS8, Al Ameri moved up into seventh position. En route to SS10, Al Ameri suffered extensive front end damage to his car after crashing into the back on his team-mate Al Jabri on the busy road section. This failed to cost Al Ameri any time and the young Emirate remained in seventh position as he entered Day 2.
On Day 2, Al Ameri clipped a tyre during SS16 which forced the young Emirate to retire from the rally.

Christoffer Dahlström (30) & Kari Kemppinen FSTi final position: DNF
Christoffer Dahlström and Kari Kemppinen finished Friday’s opening Super Special in joint seventh place with Kari Hytönen. They were 9.5 seconds adrift of Riedemann who produced the fastest stage time in SS1.
Throughout Friday’s opening stages, Dahlström led the N3 class, setting some extremely fast times up until this stage. However, the Finn broke his front suspension during SS5 after hitting a rock shortly after hitting a dip in the road, which almost flipped his Fiesta ST into a roll.
At the end of Friday’s morning loop, Dahlström remained in fifth position in the FSTi class and had racked up five N3 class stage wins. During SS8, Dahlström spun and lost approximately ten seconds but this did not alter his position on the FSTi leaderboard. Dahlström and Kariste both suffered the same fate at the start of SS9. Positioning their cars in the sandy ruts created by the 4WD cars running before them, Dahlström broke his gearbox mount as well as both driveshafts. Dahlström incurred a 15 minute SupeRally penalty going into Day 2.
Day 2 started well for the Finn but on the road section to SS13 Dahlström’s gearbox mount failed, forcing the Finn to retire from the rally.

Ilkka Kariste & Mikael Lindberg FSTi final position: DNF
Ilkka Kariste and Mikael Lindberg hit a rock near the start of Friday’s opening Super Special Stage and bent their rear wheel. This mishap cost the duo valuable time and ranked them eleventh in the FSTi class at the end of SS1.
Friday’s opening stages faired well with Kariste and the driver gradually crept up the FSTi leader board finishing Friday’s morning loop in a healthy eighth position on the FSTi leader board. However, Kariste and Dahlström both suffered the same fate at the start of SS9. Positioning their cars in the sandy ruts created by the 4WD cars running before them, Kariste broke both driveshafts as a consequence. Kariste was forced to retire and incurred a 15 minute SupeRally penalty going into Day 2.

Atte Alanen (22) & Pasi Hedman (29) FSTi final position: DNF
Atte Alanen and Pasi Hedman got off to a flying start at Friday’s night opening Super Special and were just 1.7 seconds off claiming the fastest FSTi stage time from Victor Henriksson.
The young duo went on to win SS2 and SS3 and were leading the FSTi class as they entered SS4. During SS4, Alanen took a tight left turn and hit a large stone which he was unable to avoid. This put a large hole in the oil sump of their Fiesta R2, which in turn resulted in an overheated engine and forced the promising young Finn to retire from the rally, however, two fastest stage times was a consolation

Final Event Results

Final Position Driver Final Time 1 Henriksson 3:02:34.6
2 Kumpumäki +33.9
3 Al Jabri +10:53.4
4 Kaisanlahti +17:34.2
5 Harsia +21:57.1
6 Hytönen +51:05.2

Kankkunen and Wilson lead the way for Stobart in Finland

Posted: August 26, 2010 11:59 AM

Stobart M-Sport Ford’s driver Matthew Wilson produced his best ever result at Neste Oil Rally Finland this weekend as he finished sixth place at the eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The duo’s best result prior to this was in 2009 when they finished eighth overall.

Joining Wilson as a guest in the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team was four-time World Rally Champion, Juha Kankkunen, who last contested Rally Finland in 2002. Despite not competing in this event for eight years, the 51-year-old driver, had no problems adjusting to his Ford Focus RS WRC and finished a remarkable eighth overall.

Regular Stobart M-Sport Ford team-mates, Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor, produced the fastest split times for the majority of Friday afternoon’s opening stage and finished the 24.87km stage third-fastest. At the end of SS6, the duo moved into the top five and a comfortable 1.9 seconds ahead of Sebastien Loeb. Taking advantage of BP Ford Abu Dhabi’s Khalid Al Qassimi’s crash in SS6, Juha Kankkunen and co-driver, Juha Repo, moved up into ninth position on Friday afternoon. Wilson remained in seventh.

Solberg maintained his fast pace throughout SS7 and finished the 6.45km stage third-fastest but the Norwegian rolled his Ford Focus RS WRC after a tight corner on SS8. The car’s roll cage was badly damaged and Solberg was forced to retire from the event. Kankkunen's only problem on Friday happened during SS2, where he was hit with a 10-second penalty for a jump start.

Mattias Therman and co-driver Janne Perälä made up the fourth crew of the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team at Rally Finland. The duo steadily improved their pace throughout Friday’s stages, moving from 22nd position at the end of the morning loop and finishing the first full day of Neste Oil Rally Finland in 15th position overall. By the end of the first day, Wilson was in sixth position as a result of Solberg’s crash and Kankkunen had moved up into seventh.

The final day of Rally Finland consisted of eight lengthy stages totalling 162.78km. The opening three stages proved troublesome for Mattias Therman who struggled to find the right rhythm after losing control over a jump on SS12. Despite a few hairy moments, the duo made it to the end of SS14 and remained in fifteenth position as they pulled into Service E. Wilson and Kankkunen encountered no major problems on the day’s opening stages and the crews remained in sixth and seventh position respectively at the end of Saturday’s opening loop.

Throughout Saturday afternoon’s stages, Mads Østberg produced a series of fast stage times and slowly crept up the leader board to push Kankkunen back into eighth position. Østberg then started to close the gap on Wilson during SS17 who was suffering from steering problems and as the 23-year-old driver pulled into Service F, just 32.7 seconds separated the two WRC drivers.

During SS18, Østberg closed the gap on Wilson to just 16.6 seconds but the young Stobart driver managed to push to the end of SS19 finishing 7.1 seconds ahead of Østberg and consolidating his sixth place finish. Kankkunen remained in eighth position and Therman finished a credible fourteenth overall.

Despite Solberg’s retirement, the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team still managed to leave the eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship with a healthy haul of 10 points and the Cumbrian based squad remain fourth in the manufacturers’ championship table.

Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
“I’m really happy to have finished sixth at this rally – we maintained a steady pace throughout and it’s definitely paid off. It’s always a difficult event to do well in as there are so many locals competing who know the stages very well. This morning’s [Saturday] stages was tricky but we managed to keep everything under control. There was something wrong with my steering towards the end of the day – I think the car may have go back to the workshop and be fully stripped and checked. It was getting close with Östberg towards the end but we made it out in front which was a great ending to a very difficult rally.”

Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
“I was really enjoying myself here before we had to retire – the car set up was working very well. I was getting very close to catching up on my brother [Petter Solberg] in the last two stages before I crashed so it is very frustrating that we crashed. But I did try my best and I am pleased that I had got into the top five before I had to retire – just like Mikko [Hirvonen], I was very unlucky. The smallest mistake can prove fatal in this rally. I will try not to reflect on the accident too much and just aim for a good result in Germany next month when I will return to drive the [Ford Fiesta] S2000.”

Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Juha Kankkunen said:
”I was proud to hear the support of so many fans this weekend and was very to be here with some of the best rallying people in the world – many of them have known me for more than 20 years. Today was a long day and I struggled to warm up first thing but it was nice to entertain the big crowd with some slides this weekend – even though that’s not the fastest way to go! I drove at my own pace for this rally and didn’t try to catch the title-chasers. My aim was to finish in the top ten finish so I am very happy to have finished in eighth and, of course, ahead of Kimi [Räikkönen].”

Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Mattias Therman said:
“We had some really hairy moments at the start of today [Saturday] and on the first stage this morning [SS12] there was a very long jump and I barely managed to stay on the road. On SS13 overshot a junction and hit a stone then on SS14, I started to find the rhythm but then the engine stalled. The pacenotes were not perfect and we were not quite awake at the start of today. Anyway, the most important thing it to have fun on a rally and we certainly did that. We haven’t come here to sulk and we’re very happy with out end result.”

Stobart M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“It has been a pleasure having Juha [Kankkunen] as part of the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team this weekend. Considering Juha has had virtually no experience of the new generation WRC cars, it really is remarkable that he finished inside the top ten. I’m also very happy that Matthew managed to produce his best ever result here in Finland – it is undoubtedly one of the hardest rallies of the championship and with so many local entries competing this year, it is an impressive result. Mattias Therman also put in a strong performance over the weekend, adopting a mature drive for the team and it was fantastic to have him as part of our crew here in Finland. It was disappointing that Henning had to retire from the team yesterday, especially after he was doing so well, but I am glad that he is OK and I have no doubt that he will bounce back.”

Citroën Junior Team takes flight in Finland

Posted: August 26, 2010 11:56 AM

This year’s Rally Finland was driven at a frantic pace and at the end of it the Citroën Junior Team managed to place its two C4 WRCs in the points. Dani Sordo and Marc Marti finished fifth, reinforcing their position in the World Championship for drivers. Despite a mistake at the beginning of day two, Kimi Räikkönen and Kaj Lindström got to the finish with another 310 kilometres of valuable experience under their belts.

The second day of the Rally Finland got underway at 0550. After a 15-minute service, the crews embarked on a long road section in stormy conditions.

By the time they started the stages the roads were still damp.
“ The conditions weren’t perfect, ” reported Dani Sordo. “I tried to keep up a good pace without taking any risks.” On the first two stages, the Spaniard set fourth-fastest and fifth-fastest times.

Kimi Räikkönen was deprived of another top eight finish on the first stage of the day.
“We arrived a bit too quickly into a corner at the start of the stage,” he said. “The car slid towards the outside and became stuck in a ditch. It was unfortunately a place where there were no spectators nearby.
Several eventually came running to help get us out. We had to change a wheel in order to complete the stage. The front bumper was broken, but there was no other serious damage. We were then able to continue the rally with no further problems.”

Using all the experience he is gradually accumulating, the Finn was able to reduce the gap that separated him from the frontrunners in the afternoon.
“It was an extremely difficult rally. During our first passage through the stages, we just concentrated on checking our notes so that we could continue to make progress. As soon as the terrain became a bit more familiar, I was able to up my pace slightly. But there’s still a lot for us to learn before we can really start to go quickly on this type of terrain.”

Dani Sordo maintained his solid and mistake-free fifth place to the finish, scoring 10 points in the World Championship for drivers.
“We were right on the pace at the start of the rally,” he said. “That’s a really positive thing. The car was competitive too. I would have preferred a better final result but the experience that we have accumulated is important. Now I’m going to concentrate hard on the end of the season.”

Citroën Junior Team Manager Benoit Nogier concluded:
“The Citroën Junior Team C4 WRCs went like clockwork over both days of the Rally Finland,” he said. “Kimi is continuing his learning curve: he did a very good job on the first day but had a setback on the morning of day two. Afterwards he found his pace again and got closer to the frontrunners. It’s very encouraging for the rest of the season. Dani started off really well as he was in the thick of the lead battle between Latvala, Ogier, Loeb and Solberg. He then lost a bit of concentration and conceded a handful of seconds that ruled him out of the fight for victory. But he didn’t make any mistakes and brought the car home safely at the end of his first rally with our team. This was an important event for him and he thoroughly succeeded in it.”

The next rally for the Citroën Junior Team will be on asphalt, when Sébastien Ogier and Kimi Räikkönen take the start of the ADAC Rallye Deutschland from 20-22 August.

Prokop leads the way for Ford Fiesta S2000 crews in Finland

Posted: August 26, 2010 11:52 AM

An action packed Neste Oil Rally Finland saw six of the eight Ford Fiesta S2000 crews make it safely to the end of the fastest event on the Super World Rally Championship (S-WRC) calendar.

Eight Ford Fiesta crews were present in Finland, with four fighting for S-WRC honours. Martin Prokop led the way in the S-WRC class and close on his tail for the majority of the rally was Finnish driver, Janne Tuohino, who finished sixth in the S-WRC.

Jari Ketomaa was retired on Saturday morning, putting an end to the Finn’s hopes for a hat-trick in the support championship in Finland. Ketomaa’s retirement also means that he drops into fourth position in the S-WRC overall standings table behind Martin Prokop who is now third. Xevi Pons maintains his lead in the S-WRC field after the championship’s opening six rounds.

Until this event, the Ford Fiesta S2000 had achieved podium finishes at every S-WRC round but it is hoped that the Fiesta S2000 will return to its winning ways when it joins the FIA World Rally Championship for Rally Deutschland next month.

Martin Prokop S-WRC final position: 4th Overall: 13
Martin Prokop maintained a steady pace throughout Rally Finland and at the end of SS2 was just 10.4 seconds behind the S-WRC leader, Jari Ketomaa. The Czech driver was seventh in the S-WRC class after Friday’s opening loop and only 5.2 seconds behind fellow Ford Fiesta S2000 driver, Janne Tuohino. By SS8, Prokop had taken a 2.6 second lead over Prokop but during SS10, the Czech driver hit a stone causing a puncture. This cost Prokop valuable time and meant that Tuohino snatched fifth place. Prokop produced a quick time on Friday’s closing stage and at the end of Day One, just 0.1 seconds separated Tuohino and Prokop.

A close battle for fourth position in the S-WRC class ensued on Saturday morning and after a quick time on SS12, Prokop moved up into fourth position. As the two drivers pulled into the morning service, Prokop remained in fourth and the gap between the Czech driver and Tuohino had stretched to 19.3 seconds. In the final stages, Prokop managed to hold onto his lead over Tuohini and finished the sixth round of the S-WRC in fourth position.

“It’s my sixth time at Rally Finland and I know the rally much better now but it’s not good enough to keep up with the locals. You could tell that Jari [Ketomaa] was at home on Friday morning – he was so fast on the first stages on Friday that I just couldn’t keep up! “This 60thedition of the event seems more difficult to me than the previous ones. It’s not easy to reach the level of the Finns in their own country. My car worked well throughout the weekend and it’s great to have finished in this position with so much tough local competition.”

Janne Tuohino S-WRC position: 6th Overall: 17
Janne Tuohino had a troubled start to Rally Finland as he reported electrical problems with his Ford Fiesta S2000 which caused a delay at the start of SS2. During SS3, the Finn had problems with his steering and half through SS4, Tuohino lost a rear window due to a heavy landing on a jump. Despite problems with dust in the car, Tuohino lay sixth in the S-WRC class as he pulled into Friday’s midday service.

Tuohino reported further electrical problems and drive shaft issues on Friday afternoon but snatched fifth place in the S-WRC class after Martin Prokop lost time due to a puncture. Only 0.1 seconds separated Prokop and Tuohino by the end of the first day.

On Saturday, Tuohino struggled to keep a good pace and the gap between the Finn and Prokop had extended. He also lost the same rear window on his S2000 that he had on the first day. During SS15, Tuohino dropped a significant amount of time but the Finn managed to make it to the end of Rally Finland and finished the S-WRC sixth overall.

“It’s not been a perfect day – we’ve had electrical problems, steering problems, rear window problems and a broken driveshaft. At the end of Friday, I think we had more driveshaft problems but I am very happy we are still here and made it to the end of a difficult rally. Even though we had various problems with the car, I still really enjoyed myself this weekend, it’s a very fun rally. Pace notes are extremely important at this rally though as the smallest mistake can put you off the road.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah S-WRC final position: 7 Overall: 29
Nasser Al-Attiyah encountered no major problems on the opening stages of Rally Finland and after SS5, the Qatari driver was eighth in the S-WRC class. In the afternoon, Al Attiyah took advantage of Ketomaa’s misfortune and moved up to seventh position in the S-WRC class going into Friday’s afternoon loop. However, he broke a wheel rim in SS9 and damaged his suspension which meant Al-Attiyah dropped into back into eighth position. The Qatari driver was then forced to retire for the day.

Al Attiyah returned to the S-WRC class on Saturday under SupeRally regulations and had no problems on Saturday. He produced steady stage results and maintained a seventh overall finish in the S-WRC at the end of final day.

“It’s my first time here in Finland and we have tried to learn it as best we can. It’s a really difficult rally because the distances are shorter than anywhere else. The plan is obviously to learn for next year. My Main aim is to improve and to do well next year – I just want to learn the roads.

Jari Ketomaa S-WRC final position: DNF Overall: DNF
Jari Ketomaa won the last two S-WRC rounds which left him on the verge of a hat-trick on home soil this weekend. Rally Finland started well for the Finn and after Friday’s morning loop, Ketomaa led the S-WRC class and was placed eleventh overall. Ketomaa was just 5.7 seconds off snatching tenth position off four-time World Rally Champion Juha Kankkunen.

Friday afternoon, on the other hand, did not fair well for Ketomaa and the Finn was given a penalty for a late departure as his service team tried to sort an electrical issue. Ketomaa took a further knock three stages into the afternoon when he ripped a wheel off his S2000.

Ketomaa hit a pylon leaving parc fermé on the morning of Day Two, damaging the front of his S2000. The car was fixed in time to start SS12, but the repairs failed to withstand a heavy landing over a jump on SS13 and the disappointed Finn was forced to retire from his home rally.

“I’m really disappointed that I had to retire this morning – I was really enjoying myself and I was hoping to close the gap on Pons and to take the lead in the S-WRC class. It is an unbelievably fun rally and there were so many spectators on Friday. The S2000 was fantastic over the jumps on the stages at this event; the team has done a tremendous job but it just wasn’t meant to be. I will learn from this experience in Finland and hope to do improve my results for when I next compete at Rally Japan.”

Toni Gardemeister S-WRC position: N/A Overall: 12
Toni Gardemeister had little experience driving the Ford Fiesta S2000 car before starting this year’s Rally Finland but still managed to finish first out of the eight Fiesta S2000 crews. During SS2, Gardemeister reported overuse of his brakes and that it took a while to get used to the car’s set up. However, after the rally’s opening five stages, Gardemeister was second fastest out of the eight Ford Fiesta S2000 cars and just 51.8 seconds behind Jari Ketomaa who was leading the S-WRC class.

On Friday afternoon, Gardemeister’s engine stopped on a straight during SS7 when the Ford Fiesta S2000’s electronics failed temporarily. Gardemeister had a front right puncture on SS8.At the end of Day One, Gardemeister was 14th overall and leading the way for the Ford Fiesta S2000 cars at Neste Oil Rally Finland after Ketomaa was forced to retire towards the end of the day.

Saturday started well for Gardemeister and the Finn managed to creep up into 12th position overall. He continued to lead the way for the Ford Fiesta S2000 crews but is not registered in the S-WRC class to score any points.

“I have been flat out everywhere in this rally and there hasn’t been many chances for me to improve the times. It was not a good rally for us and I must admit we are a bit disappointed. Before the rally we thought we could produce a better result. Today we were lacking power and I kept on having to shift down from sixth gear. It was going OK on the slower stages but not on the faster ones. I just hoped for a better end result.”

Marko Kakko S-WRC position: N/A Overall: 15
This was Marko Kakko’s second outing in the S2000 car, after his debut at the Mad-Croc Rally in Estonia last weekend where he finished ninth overall in a very competitive field using it as preparation or Rally Finland.

Kakko was last out of the eight Ford Fiesta S2000 crews at the end of the Super Special on Thursday evening. However, on Day One Marko Kakko slowly crept up the leader board and encountered no major problems on the opening loop. At the end of SS5, Marko Kakko had moved from 35th overall up to 28th. At the end of SS9 Kakko had moved up to a credible 19th overall. Kakko kept his steady pace throughout SS10 and SS11 and finished the day in the same position.

On Saturday, Kakko kept a good pace and pulled into service E 17th overall. He upped his pace during the afternoon and had moved into 15th overall by the end of SS17. The gearbox was leaking oil in SS18 but Kakko made it safely to the end of Rally Finland.

Craig Breen S-WRC position: N/A Overall: 19
Following his recent accident at Donegal Rally, Craig Breen adopted a cautious approach for the initial stages of Rally Finland to help build his confidence. Breen’s services on Friday were routine and the young Irish driver was happy with the car’s set up. During SS7, Breen went too fast over a blind crest half way through the stage. This knocked Breen’s confidence and Breen drove cautiously for the remainder of the stage. Breen had no other problems on Friday and gradually picked up his pace throughout the day, steadily improve his times. He finished the day in 21st position overall and fifth out of the eighth Ford Fiesta S2000 cars competing at the event.

Breen’s confidence improved greatly on Saturday morning and this was reflected in his stage times as the young Irishman moved up the rankings and pulled into service E in 19th position overall. Breen remained fifth out of the eight competing Fiesta S2000 cars for the remainder of the day and pulled into the final service in 19th overall.

“I’ve learned more in Finland than in any other event as it is a very specialised rally. It has been hard work but I think I´m stronger now and I can take my experiences here to the British championship.We lost some time on the narrower roads today, which are quite slow. We came here with high gear ratios thinking that they would be best for this event but my times have noticeably improved throughout the weekend so that’s good. Mixing with these boys in the S2000 field is great and considering there are so many local competitors who know the stages, I’m really happy with how everything has gone. I’ve enjoyed every minute and I’m aiming to return next year and do even better than I did this year.”

Dennis Kuipers S-WRC position: N/A Overall: DNF
Dennis Kuipers is an M-Sport entry who made the transition to the Ford Fiesta S2000 this year. The 24-year-old Dutch driver is not registered to score points in the S-WRC class, but was keen to build on his experience and pace in the S2000 car at one of the toughest events on the calendar.

Kuipers had no major problems on the opening day reporting that he had found a good set up on the car and was learning a lot from the stage. By the end of the first day, Kuipers was placed 24th overall and happy with how everything was going. On SS12, however, the young Dutch driver braked too late going over a crest and rolled his Ford Fiesta S2000. The damage was rendered too bad for Kuipers to continue and the young driver was forced to retire from the rally.

“I was really enjoying this rally before this morning. We had been going steady throughout and we had managed to pick up a good pace where I felt comfortable. It really was not a bad rally for us – we learned a lot about faster stages which will hold us in good stead for the future. This morning’s crash was a surprise for both of us – it was such a fast stage. We simply came too fast over a crest and I didn’t have enough time to brake. I will be looking at the data with my engineer to see what went wrong and how I can learn from this crash before I go to Germany next month.”

S-WRC & P-WRC Reports

Posted: August 26, 2010 11:40 AM

KIMI RAIKKONEN EXPERIENCES THE UPS AND DOWNS OF RALLY FINLAND

Posted: August 26, 2010 11:39 AM

There are lots of hippies in Finland. But rather than people who hang around talking about flower power and making love not war, a ‘hyppy’ in Finnish means a big jump.

Naturally, there are more ‘hyppys’ on Rally Finland than there are at Woodstock. Just to reinforce this impression, there are quite a few old camper vans out there too. Hippies, of course, like nothing better than getting high. And so do rally drivers. Of course we’re talking about those flat-out crests that characterise Rally Finland, sending the cars soaring for nearly a hundred metres into the air. As David Copperfield said, you’ll believe a man can fly.

With so many big jumps, it is inevitable that Rally Finland contains several ups and downs. Kimi Raikkonen experienced both during the second and final day of his home event.

On the opening stage of the day, the ‘Iceman’ got caught out by a right-hand corner and slid into a ditch. The car was undamaged but it took some time to drive out of the ditch, as for once there wasn’t a huge crowd of spectators around to help. While the crew were trying to regain the road, the front bumper of the C4 WRC became detached from the rest of it. To make matters worse, both front tyres then came off the rim. With only one spare wheel, the crew then struggled to get the other deflated tyre back on the rim and more than 10 minutes were lost in total.

Had it not been for that, then the ‘Iceman’ would have been comfortably in the points on his home event: an excellent achievement for somebody contesting the most specialised and complex rally on the calendar in a World Rally Car for the first time.

“We were a bit unlucky this morning but it’s all part of the learning process,” said Kimi, the winner of the 2007 Formula One title. “During the first day we tried not to take too many risks to be sure of making the finish, then we just got caught out on a slippery corner at the beginning of day two. With only two days in the rally this year there’s not so much chance to make up the time lost, so from then on it was a question of getting to the finish. We were able to make a lot of progress with the pace notes, which was useful, and have more kilometres behind the wheel of the car, which is the most important thing. Of course I’m a bit disappointed as there was no real motivation today but in the end getting to the finish was the main aim. It’s all about the experience.”

Kimi’s fellow Finn and co-driver Kaj Lindstrom added:
“The really positive thing is we’ve continued the good work that we left off in Bulgaria. But this is a tough sport. You can have a good rally and survive all the complicated things, but then caught out by a place that is reasonably slow and straightforward, which is what happened to us today. We had been going very carefully during the first day and we thought that it might be possible to push a bit harder on day two. In the end we never really got the chance, as after we went off it was hard to find the same pace. We built up more experience though and above all we hope that everybody enjoyed watching us. There were certainly loads of people out there!”

GREAT RESULT FOR RED BULL RALLY DRIVERS ON RALLY FINLAND

Posted: August 26, 2010 11:37 AM

The second and final day of Rally Finland has concluded with a great result for the Red Bull Skoda drivers: Juho Hanninen, enjoying a one-off outing on his home event, has won while regular driver Patrik Sandell is third.

Both cars are run by the respected Baumschlager Rallye Racing team, headed up by 10-time Austrian champion Raimund Baumschlager.

Hanninen, who normally drives for the Skoda factory team on the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, led from halfway through the opening day to maintain his impressive advantage to the end.

Sandell, who is backed by Red Bull for the entire Super 2000 World Rally Championship this year, was also amongst the frontrunners from the very beginning. He finished the opening day fourth overall and made up another place today to claim a well-deserved podium. Despite breaking a brake hose yesterday afternoon, he won two stages today to climb back to third on what he considers to be a second home event.

“I really enjoyed the battle I had with my fellow Swede P-G Andersson today in another Skoda: it’s been a great fight,” said Sandell. “Without the problem we had with the brake hose yesterday I’m sure that we could have had second, but it’s always good to finish on the podium so I can’t complain. We came here on a mission to get some decent points for the championship, and we have succeeded in doing that. With the Rally Finland taking place over just two days this year it’s been non-stop action from start to finish. For any driver, it’s massive adrenaline rush!”

Hanninen, who won the Super 2000 category with 10th overall last year, improved on that benchmark today to claim ninth overall at the finish, two places ahead of Sandell in 11th. The Finn won the class by over a minute, despite playing it safe on the final day to protect his clear advantage.

“There was no point in pushing today,” he said. “We were conservative with both our driving and the set-up: we raised the car a bit in order to make sure that we did not have too many impacts with rocks for example. The rest of the time I was just driving in the middle of the road: safely, but not too safely - as then it is easy to make mistakes. I’d really like to thank Red Bull for this opportunity and I feel so happy to have made the most of it.”

The final day of the rally took in eight long stages, totalling 162 competitive kilometres. Following the hot conditions of yesterday, temperatures today were much cooler after some overnight rain that dampened down the stages and offered a bit more grip.

Team principal Raimund Baumschlager concluded:
“We’re very happy with this result: it’s hard to ask for much more than two cars on the podium! It’s clear that Juho has enjoyed competing on his home rally in our car, and it’s a great achievement that once again he is in the top 10 overall here. Patrik too has done a fantastic job: he did not give up once and fought his way to an extremely well-deserved result. I’d like to congratulate both of our drivers: to finish in the top three on such a fast and famous rally just goes to show their levels of skill, bravery and commitment.”

Latvala enters record books with Rally Finland victory for Ford

Posted: August 26, 2010 11:35 AM

BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila won a thrilling Rally Finland today to earn a place in the history books. The Finns won this eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship for the first time by 10.1sec in a Ford Focus RS World Rally Car, joining a long list of Finnish greats who have triumphed in their home event.

Latvala and Anttila were mobbed by their fellow countrymen as they took to the podium in Jyväskylä this evening. Twenty-five-year-old Latvala, already the youngest driver to win a world rally, became the youngest winner of Rally Finland since the WRC started in 1973. It was Ford's second consecutive victory in the legendary event following the success of Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen in 2009, and the manufacturer's fourth win in five years.

After a short opening speed test on Thursday evening, organisers packed 18 more stages and 310.05km of action into just two long and demanding days instead of the usual three, providing a blend of sprint and endurance. The rally was fought out over dauntingly fast roller-coaster forest roads in central Finland, and it lived up to its reputation as the fastest in the championship with average speeds reaching 133.09kph.

The weather was as hot as the action on the stages. The rally began on a day when the thermometers recorded Finland's highest-ever temperature of 37.2ºC. The heatwave gave way to thunderstorms which left much of central Finland without electricity yesterday while many roads were blocked by fallen trees, but the rally ran without interruption.

Latvala moved into the lead yesterday afternoon, building a 9.1sec overnight advantage. He extended that to 22.5sec this morning before road conditions turned against him. Overnight rain, which bound together slippery surface gravel and provided more grip, died out and a stiff breeze quickly dried the roads. Latvala was first in the start order and faced the unwanted task of sweeping loose stones from the surface to leave cleaner and faster conditions for those behind.

His lead dropped to 10.6sec with two tests remaining, but Latvala remained unflustered in the face of huge pressure to record his fourth WRC victory and second win of the 2010 season.

"It's amazing to win my home rally and it's something I have dreamed of since I was a small boy," he said. "The first time I watched this rally was in 1992 when I was seven and the only thing I could think about then was that I would never be able to drive as fast as the stars I was watching. In 2003 I drove this rally for the first time and still I never thought I would win. To win in front of my home fans, in a country where rallying means so much to everyone, is a dream.

"The team had some difficult times in the summer but both drivers led this rally and I won. It's a hugely important victory for the team and Ford. It was only during the final two stages that I really thought I could do it. I've learned that if you relax and make no mistakes then you can have a good rally. There have been so many people watching and it was a fantastic atmosphere – this is the best rally in the world," he added.

Team-mates Hirvonen and Lehtinen retired from the lead on Friday morning after crashing heavily following a jump, while the third car of Abu Dhabi's Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr also rolled into retirement on Saturday afternoon. Neither crew was injured.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson was delighted to oversee victory in his favourite rally.
"After a difficult few months, the team has dug deep and bounced back to win the most celebrated rally in the calendar. There has been so much effort and commitment from the entire team in recent weeks and this is our reward. It was a stunning drive from Jari-Matti. There was a lot of pressure on his young shoulders when Mikko Hirvonen crashed out yesterday but he handled it superbly and displayed great maturity in a difficult situation," he said.

Ford of Europe motorsport chief Gerard Quinn said:
"There is no better place for Ford to win a rally than Finland. It is one of motorsport's classic events and to triumph here, after leading for virtually the entire event, is a dream come true. Jari-Matti joins some of Ford's great Finnish drivers who have won their home event, world champions like Marcus Grönholm, Ari Vatanen and Hannu Mikkola. He faced intense pressure here for two days but the mature way in which he handled it shows how well he is progressing as one of the sport's rising stars."

News from other Ford teams
Stobart M-Sport Ford's Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin finished sixth in a Focus RS WRC, two places ahead of Finnish rally legend Juha Kankkunen and Juha Repo. The four-time world champion returned to the sport for a one-off guest appearance almost eight years after his last WRC event. Henning Solberg and Ilka Minor crashed out Friday in the team's third car.

Results

Posted: August 26, 2010 11:34 AM

1. J-M Latvala/M Anttila (Ford Focus WRC) 2hr 31min 29.6sec
2. S Ogier/J Ingrassia (Citroen C4 WRC) 2hr 31min 39.7sec
3. S Loeb/D Elena (Citroen C4 WRC) 2hr 31min 55.6sec
4. P Solberg/C Patterson (Citroen C4 WRC) 2hr 32min 00.3sec
5. D Sordo/M Marti (Citroen C4 WRC) 2hr 33min 14.6sec
6. M Wilson/S Martin (Ford Focus WRC) 2hr 37min 13.3sec
7. M Østberg/J Andersson (Subaru Impreza WRC) 2hr 37min 20.4sec
8. J Kankkunen/J Repo (Ford Focus WRC) 2hr 39min 18.6sec
9. J Hänninen/M Markkula (Skoda Fabia S2000) 2hr 40min 34.6sec
10 P-G Andersson/A Fredriksson (Skoda Fabia S2000) 2hr 41min 45.3sec

DANI SORDO JOINS KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN

Posted: July 27, 2010 2:14 PM

Following the asphalt of Bulgaria, the FIA World Rally Championship gets back to gravel with the legendary Rally Finland. For the first time this year, Dani Sordo and Marc Marti will drive for the Citroën Junior Team. The team’s second Citroën C4 WRC will be in the hands of Kimi Räikkönen and Kaj Lindström, who are competing in front of their home crowd.

For 60 years now, the 1000 Lakes Rally – which then became the Rally Finland – has been a classic fixture for all the crews. The event is often nicknamed the ‘Jyväskylä Grand Prix’ and it has featured seven times in the top 10 fastest rallies ever held in the history of the World Rally Championship. The quickest Rally Finland took place in 2005, with an average speed of 122.86 kph recorded on the event.

For the eighth round of the season, Citroën Racing has made some adjustments to its team nominations. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia join the Citroën Total World Rally Team for the first time, while Dani Sordo and Marc Marti form part of the Citroën Junior Team as team mates to Kimi Räikkönen and Kaj Lindström. The Spanish crew will also be nominated to score points for the Citroën Junior Team in Japan and Great Britain this year.

“The objective of the Citroën Junior Team is to allow young drivers to perform to the best of their abilities at the highest level,” pointed out Team Manager Benoit Nogier. “We have seen this goal being achieved with Sébastien Ogier and we are very happy for him. His results reflect the hard work that the entire team has put in since the start of the season. We hope to be at the same level with Dani, so that he too can show what he is capable of.”

Dani Sordo, aged 27, is currently sixth in the World Championship standings and has finished on the podium twice this year, thanks to third place in Portugal and second in Bulgaria. The Spaniard looks upon his new association with the Citroën Junior Team as a fresh opportunity. “I’ll be feeling less pressure,” he said. “By switching teams, I won’t always have to drive with the fundamental need to score manufacturer points for Citroën at the back of my mind. I’m going to concentrate on just doing my own rally and delivering the best performance possible.”

For the first time in his short World Rally Championship career, Kimi Räikkönen will be starting an event that he has already contested last year. In 2009, the 2007 Formula One World Champion showed some highly impressive pace before unfortunately going off the road. “We were able to get back up to speed on gravel thanks to a good pre-Finland test,” said Kimi. “Those testing kilometres are absolutely vital on a rally like this one. The experience from last year is certainly going to help, but there is such a performance gap between a Super 2000 machine and a World Rally Car that it’s almost like driving a different rally. I’m really looking forward to getting started. When I was in Formula One, I never got the chance to race in front of my home crowd. I know that there are going to be loads of fans out in service and by the side of the stages. For me, this is a real highlight of the season.”

Three questions to… Dani Sordo

Does joining the Citroën Junior Team feel a bit like going back to your roots?
“I started off on the World Rally Championship driving the Citroën Xsara WRC, when some people from the Citroën Junior Team were also there. These were very happy memories, and we had some good performances that helped me to secure a factory drive. There is a very nice atmosphere in the team and everybody is extremely professional. The results speak for themselves. Everything is there to enable us to have a very good rally.”

Is Finland an event you have been looking forward to this year?
“Finland is a particularly tricky rally that is very fast, and so local drivers tend to do extremely well there. It’s also a rally that personally I love. The speeds we reach are very exciting for any driver and of course we have to take a few risks through the trees and over the crests. It’s an absolutely unique event. You need to have very good pace notes, and to drive precisely and decisively.”

What do you expect from this rally with the Citroën Junior Team?
“I know that I’m joining a very good team. Now it’s down to me to make the most of it. I’m going to try and give it my all on this event, as I always do. For the past two years I’ve finished fourth, less than 20 seconds off the podium, and in 2009 I was only a minute behind the winner. My objective is to show that I can be competitive while setting some good times and remaining consistent throughout the event.”

THE TWO SÉBASTIENS READY TO TAKE UP THE FINNISH CHALLENGE

Posted: July 27, 2010 2:11 PM

Three weeks after winning the Bulgarian Rally, the Citroën Total World Rally Team is preparing for Rally Finland. In the land of 1000 Lakes, the C4 WRCs will be driven by Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena and Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia, who, for the first time, will join the team currently leading the Manufacturers’ Championship in the FIA World Rally Championship.

For the 60th anniversary of their event, the Finnish organisers have condensed the rally into a 2-day period - Friday and Saturday. The event will therefore be run at an even more hectic pace than usual putting the resistance of man and machines to an even sterner test.

Victorious in 2008, Sébastien Loeb achieved a real feat by putting his name on the short list of drivers (alongside Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol) from foreign countries who have won this rally. The six-time world champion, who finished second in 2009, is tackling this year’s event in a humble frame of mind.
“I really wanted to win this rally. Now that I’ve achieved this objective, I see things a bit differently. This year I’ll be starting with sixty-five points in hand over Mikko Hirvonen. I can afford to control my lead as there are three more asphalt rallies to go this season. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going for the win! To do that, though, I have to feel completely at ease.”

Rally Finland with its stages in the forests represents a very special test for the drivers:
“Victory is generally just a question of seconds,” Loeb goes on. “To win here you have to be in complete harmony with your car and your notes. You have to be able to really let go and attack each corner, almost as if you’re overdoing it. When you’ve got this off to a tee, you can really throw the car and place it to take the perfect line in the corner.”

For rally fans, the Rally of a 1000 Lakes is always associated with its famous jumps. In Loeb’s opinion the biggest difficulty of the event lies elsewhere. “You don’t win the rally by jumping high and long. What’s more important is what you find behind the jumps. It’s crucial to position the car correctly to stay on the right line for the corner coming up after you land. Once you’re in the air you can’t make any adjustments! Year after year I fine-tune my notes with this aim in mind.”

While Loeb has already raced in the event ten times, Sébastien Ogier’s experience is much more limited. The winner of Rally Portugal is having his first outing in the Citroën Total Rally Team and he will have to cope with some additional pressure:
“Unlike the previous rounds I’m going to have to drive my rally in view of scoring points for the Manufacturers’ World Championship title. The aim is a little different but the approach is the same. Julien and I have done a lot of work preparing for this rally, and we’ll do our very best. It’s a difficult event with high average speeds and the trees are never too far from the road. It gives you a rush of adrenaline, but we like that; we’re ready to take up the challenge and we’re absolutely determined to show that we’re worthy of the trust that’s been placed in us.”

Three questions to Sébastien Ogier

You’re going to carry the colours of the Citroën Total World Rally Team in Rally Finland. How do you feel about this promotion?
“Above all I feel proud and joyful. It’s every driver’s dream to join a works outfit one day. It was already more or less the case with the Citroën Junior Team, which gave me a top-class car to drive. But this represents a step up to the very top of the ladder as I’m joining the reigning world championship team. I’m happy even if it means a little bit more pressure and greater expectations of me. I’m trying not to ask myself too many useless questions and I’m preparing for this rally like the previous ones.”

Your first outing comes in a particularly difficult rally for foreign drivers. How are you going to make up for your lack of experience?
“I think I’ve lacked experience in all the rallies since the start of the season! It’s true that Finland is one of the most difficult terrains, but I like this rally. Last year, I was happy just to be able to steadily up the pace to the extent that I set the fastest time in the third stage. It remains to be seen if I feel as good again in the opening stages this year. To help my confidence the team has scheduled three days of tests, which is an enormous boost.

What’s your aim for this rally?
“That’ll depend above all on the objectives the team sets for me. Since the start of the season we’ve shown that we can take the fight to the best on gravel. A podium would be a great result.”

Craig Breen Rallying Neste Oil Rally Finland Event Preview

Posted: July 27, 2010 11:36 AM

Every young rally driver that has ambitions of reaching the highest level in the sport dreams of competing in one event in the World Rally Championship calendar and that one event is World Rally Finland. That dream comes true again for Craig Breen next weekend. Twelve months ago Craig made the trip to Jyvaskya (Host City) when he took victory in the Fiesta SportTrophy International series.

After claiming victory in last years FSTi class Craig said
“It's the best rally I've ever done, I was absolutely on the limit.” The Waterford driver has been competing in both the British Rally Championship and the Irish Tarmac Championship but making the return to Finland was always a priority from the time he acquired his Fiesta S2000. Finland is the pinnacle of the World Rally Championship and that’s why the Craig Breen Rallying team have waited until now to debut the Kick Energy Fiesta S2000 on the world stage.

Craig has been out of competitive action over the last five weeks after his crash in round four of the Irish Tarmac Championship at the Donegal International Rally. In the accident Craig sustained an injury to his elbow and the car sustained a lot of damage. A result of the damage to the car, Craig had to withdraw his entry from round four of the British Rally Championship in the Isle of Man but this time off has proved the ideal build up to his biggest challenge of the season. As the clock ticks down the excitement level is starting to grow and now Craig can’t wait for the rally to get under way. Craig still admits that the Donegal accident is on my mind
“A puncture was the cause of our big high speed off in Donegal, so I’m a little more nervous than I would usually feel before a rally.  I competed in this event last year and it was very fast, but I think this year will be even faster. I’ve been studying a DVD which the organisers sent me but with so many top class Fiesta S2000 entries it’s going to be very tough rally for me.”

Hirvonen plans double celebration in Rally Finland speed fest

Posted: July 27, 2010 11:04 AM

Birthday boy Mikko Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen will defend Ford's Rally Finland (29 - 31 July) title next week in one of the shortest FIA World Rally Championship events in history. Since the WRC's launch in 1973, only one rally has scheduled fewer competitive kilometres than this eighth round of the 13-event series. That was in Finland in 1975 when the event was known by its traditional name - the 1000 Lakes Rally.

The BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team duo will be joined by fellow Finns Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila for what many regard as the highlight of the season. Rally Finland is the fastest round of the championship and with just 310.05km of competition amid the lakes and forests in the centre of the country, the action will be fast and furious, with little opportunity to atone for the slightest mistake.

Hirvonen, who fulfilled a lifetime ambition by winning last year in a Ford Focus RS World Rally Car, celebrates his 30th birthday on the final day next Saturday. The rally, which is again based in the traditional host city of Jyväskylä and is affectionately known as the Jyväskylä Grand Prix due to its high speeds, celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Organisers have taken advantage of new-for-2010 regulations to pack all the action into just two legs. So while the distance is shorter than other WRC rounds, drivers face almost 15 hours behind the wheel on Friday's first full day of competition and almost 14 on Saturday, ensuring both endurance and outright speed will be a factor in determining the outcome.

Climbing onto the top step of the podium in Finland is one of the sport's most sought-after achievements. The rally has a huge following and enormous crowds will flock into the countryside near Jyväskylä, Hirvonen's home town, to view the action. Ford's all-Finnish line-up will generate passionate support, raising both the level of expectation and the pressure on Hirvonen and Latvala.

The rally will be fought out on blisteringly fast roller-coaster gravel speed tests. Finns who nurtured their careers on this type of road 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 59 years and such is the speed that Rally Finland boasts five of the six fastest rallies in WRC history, the 2005 event topping the standings at a remarkable average of 122.86kph.

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

This will be Hirvonen's ninth start in his home event and he has also finished second twice. He completed two days of testing yesterday (Thursday), covering about 500km. "There were lots of good things to come from the test so I'm excited about the rally. I'm looking forward to defending last year's victory because I want to keep the title in Finland. Defending the title on your home rally definitely brings more excitement in the run-up to the event," he said.

"The two-day format will be interesting. Recently, Sunday's final leg has contained very few kilometres and the result was effectively decided by what happened in the previous two days. With just two legs this year, the battle could continue through to the final stage of the rally," he added.

Latvala finished third last season and this will be the 25-year-old's eighth start in the rally. "The excitement builds in Finland like no other round," he said. "I always have a few nerves before the start of a rally, but there are a few more before Rally Finland gets under way. The nerves really build on the road section to the opening stage, and then when I reach the finish of that first test I think to myself 'Wow! That was quick!' then everything starts to settle down.

"This year's rally is so short that I will need to be sharp from the first kilometre of the opening stage. But there is also an endurance factor because the days are long. I will try to get as much sleep as possible at the beginning of the week because there will be the opportunity for only about six hours sleep each night during the event itself," added Latvala, who is testing today (Friday) and tomorrow.

The 2010 event marks the return to competition of rally legend Juha Kankkunen in a guest drive in a privately-entered Focus RS WRC. The four-time world champion retired from full-time competition after Rally GB in 2002, which was Latvala's WRC debut.

Abu Dhabi's Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr will drive a third Focus RS WRC for the team. This will be Al Qassimi's fourth start in Finland, his best result coming last year when he finished ninth. The rally also marks the third anniversary of Abu Dhabi's partnership with the team. "Finland is an amazing rally and a challenge for every professional driver. I feel very confident in my driving, so hopefully I will be able to grab some more championship points at the end of the weekend," he said.

Team News
* Tyre partner Pirelli will provide BP Ford Abu Dhabi with 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.

* An amazing 30 of the 101 entrants are at the wheel of Ford cars. Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin and Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor are nominated in Focus RS WRCs by the Stobart M-Sport Ford team, which has also entered four-time world champion Juha Kankkunen / Juha Repo and Mattias Therman / Janne Perälä. A 2005-specification Focus RS WRC will be crewed by Jouni Arolainen / Seppo Kopra. Eight Fiesta S2000 cars are entered, four of which are competing in the S-WRC, and there are a record 14 Fiesta R2 and ST entries for the third round of the Fiesta SportTrophy International.

Kankkunen joins Stobart for Sixtieth Rally Finland

Posted: July 27, 2010 10:59 AM

The Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team will welcome four-time FIA World Rally Champion Juha Kankkunen to the Cumbria-based squad at Neste Oil Rally Finland next week.

To mark the event’s sixtieth jubilee, Kankkunen will contest the eighth round of the WRC in a Ford Focus RS WRC alongside long-time co-driver Juha Repo. The 51-year-old driver started his professional rallying career at Rally Finland in 1979, but the Finn has not competed in the hugely-popular event since 2002.

Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor will also be back behind the wheel of a Ford Focus RS WRC after contesting the previous WRC round in a Ford Fiesta Super 2000. Last year at Rally Finland Solberg sustained damage to his front suspension, which dropped the Norwegian from fifth position and caused Solberg to compete under SupeRally regulations on the final day.

Regular Stobart M-Sport drivers Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin will lead the way for the Cumbria-based team in Finland. This will be the British duo’s fifth outing at the event and they will be looking to improve on their best result at Rally Finland when they finished eighth overall last year.

Also flying the flag for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team is another Finnish crew of Mattias Therman and co-driver Janne Perälä. The duo contested last year’s Neste Oil Rally Finland driving a Munchi’s Ford Focus RS WRC and finished fifteenth overall. Neither Kankkunen or Therman will be nominated to score manufacturer points for the team.

Event Summary
Formerly known as the 1000 Lakes Rally, Neste Oil Rally Finland is one of the most popular events on the WRC calendar and this year will also commemorate the event’s 60th anniversary. The Scandinavian country is regarded by many as the 'the spiritual home of rally' and this year’s rally has an impressive 30 of the 101 starting entrants behind the wheel of a Ford.

This year’s Rally Finland will consist of a shorter format than previous years and most of the 19 stages covering 310km will be contested over two days. A confident driving approach is essential as Rally Finland will test WRC drivers to the limit as they face extremely fast tree-lined gravel stages combined with blind crests and huge jumps. The smallest of mistakes can prove fatal so maximum concentration from the drivers is essential.

Rally HQ is based in Jyväskylä, a bustling student city located in central Finland, 270km north of Helsinki and located on the northern coast of the beautiful lake Päijänne. The service park will be based at the Paviljonki Exhibition Centre.

The shorter format for this year’s Rally Finland will kick off with a 4.19km forest stage based in the outskirts of Jyväskylä on the Thursday evening. The first full day of action on Friday will consist of ten stages covering 143.8km and the opening loop consists of four 70.08km stages located west of the service park. Friday afternoon will see the WRC drivers cover six 73km stages based north of the service park, culminating with a repeat of the day’s opening stage in Jyväskylä at the end of the day.

The second full day is the longest of this year’s Rally Finland and will include two services. Saturday’s opening loop consists of three stages totalling 59.23km located south of the service park. Väärinmaja (SS13) is the longest of the rally at 29.29km long and the opening stage of the morning, Surkee (SS14 and SS17) is a new stage. The final five stages of the day are once again based south of the service park and total 103.55km of competitive distance. Three stages (SS11, SS16 & SS19) will all be filmed live along with the finish podium ceremony. The pre-event FIA press conference will also be filmed and broadcast live for the first time.

Finland Fires Up Ford Fiesta S2000 Crews

Posted: July 22, 2010 4:18 PM

Eight Ford Fiesta Super 2000 crews will next week contest the most hotly anticipated event on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar - Rally Finland.

The Ford Fiesta S2000 has claimed podium finishes in every Super 2000 World Rally Championship (S-WRC) round so far in 2010, and the Neste Oil Rally Finland will be the sixth round where four of the eight Fiesta S2000 drivers will be competing for class honours.

Jari Ketomaa is currently second in the S-WRC standings and will be aiming for a strong result in Finland to close the gap on current series leader, Xevi Pons, who has chosen to skip this S-WRC round. Ketomaa has won the previous two S-WRC rounds, in Portugal and New Zealand, and the three-time Finnish Rally Champion is one of the favourites to take victory on home soil.

Czech driver Martin Prokop has already racked up two podium finishes in the S-WRC class and is currently just two points from snatching third position in the championship from P-G Andersson. Last year Prokop finished the Neste Oil Rally Finland in fourteenth position overall and took victory in the J-WRC class. This year, the driver will be keen to see if he can up the pace and improve on that result to consolidate his top-three spot in the S-WRC standings.

Six-time Middle East Rally Champion Nasser Al-Attiyah has contested four S-WRC rounds and in his opening round at Rally Mexico Al-Attiyah was running third in the class, but was forced to retire on the second day. His best result was in Jordan when he finished fourth in the S-WRC class. The Qatari driver will be aiming to emulate his win at the Qtel Qatar International Rally in a Ford Fiesta S2000 earlier in the season and take his first S-WRC podium finish in Finland to help him move him up from eighth place in the S-WRC standings.

Janne Tuohino got off to a flying start at the start of the season, finishing second at the opening S-WRC round in Sweden. The Finn was less fortunate in recent S-WRC rounds and suffered retirements at Rally Jordan and Rally New Zealand. Then in the recent Vodafone Rally de Portugal Tuohino reported steering problems, and finished the S-WRC class eighth overall. The experienced driver will be looking to bounce back and try to claim a podium finish in Finland to get his championship challenge back on track.

Dennis Kuipers is an M-Sport entry who made the transition to the Ford Fiesta S2000 this year after previously contesting several European and WRC events in a Ford Focus RS WRC in 2008 and 2009. The 24-year-old Dutch driver is not registered to score points in the S-WRC class, but has built up his experience and pace in the S2000 car in previous WRC rounds this year and will be looking forward to testing himself at one of the toughest events on the calendar.

Craig Breen finished first in the Fiesta SportTrophy International (FSTi) series at last year's Rally Finland and for 2010 the young Irishman has stepped up to compete in the British Rally Championship in a Ford Fiesta S2000. He has not contested in a rally since his accident at the Donegal Rally but is hopeful that his experience of last year's Rally Finland will give him the confidence to make a smooth transition to the S2000 for this year's event.

Toni Gardemeister, a former official Ford team driver, is fresh from the Estonian Mad-Croc Rally last weekend where he finished third overall in his Ford Fiesta S2000. In 2008 the Finn finished eighth overall at his home rally, and will look to use his WRC experience and local knowledge to give him the edge over his S-WRC rivals.

Marko Kakko is another native Finn who will be driving a Ford Fiesta S2000. It is only Kakko's second outing in the S2000 car, after his debut at the Mad-Croc Rally in Estonia last weekend where he finished ninth overall in a very competitive field using it as preparation or Rally Finland.

Jari Ketomaa said:
"We've had two fantastic weeks of weather in Finland recently so I'm hoping the weather will stay good for the rally in two weeks time. I'd say Rally Finland is one of the hardest and fastest rallies of the season, and it will be very tough this year with so many Scandinavian entries that are familiar with the stages. The route is more or less the same as last year, and although it is a shame that it has been changed to two days this year I think the organisers have done a great job of including the best stages and it will continue to be a fantastic rally for the spectators."

Martin Prokop said:
"Rally Finland is a very fast event and definitely one of the best rallies in the championship. There was a fantastic atmosphere last year too and I know that this year will be just the same. The stages require a lot of concentration and they are very technical in parts with many blind crests and fast jumps. I was happy with my overall result in 2009 but I will be pushing to try and do better this year."

Nasser Al-Attiyah said:
"This is only my second outing in the Ford Fiesta S2000 but I am confident that I can do well at this rally. I know that stages in Finland can be very fast so I hope that I encounter no major problems and make it safely to the end. There is going to be some really tough competition over there but I'm trying not to think about that and I will just aim to push as hard as I can for a good end result."

Janne Tuohino said:
"I had a great start to the season in Sweden but was really disappointed when I had to retire in both Jordan and New Zealand. It has knocked my confidence but I know what to expect from the stages in Finland as it's my home country. I am hoping this will give me an advantage and I'm aiming for a top three finish."

Dennis Kuipers said:
"Everyone tells me that you have to prepare a lot for Finland as it us such a fast rally - it's made me slightly nervous. We are planning to do a test on Monday though so if this goes ahead it will help me to prepare and to build my confidence. I've watched some videos of last year's rally on YouTube and it does look like it's very fast and has a lot of jumps. It certainly won't be easy but I really enjoy a challenge and, as always, my main aim will be to get to the finish."

Craig Breen said:
"I had a bad accident at Donegal Rally the other week when my car got a puncture, so I'm a little more nervous than I would usually feel before a rally. I competed in this event last year and it was very fast, but I think this year will be even faster. The rally organisers sent me a DVD with some footage and I've been studying that to prepare myself for next week. With so much competition in the Fiesta class for Finland, I think this will be a very tough rally for me."

Toni Gardemeister said:
"To compete in Rally Finland has been my primary goal for this season. My intention is to drive and get an excellent result which will help my future plans. I want to keep my name on the surface of the world's rally scene and demonstrate that I'm an option in the drivers market for the 2011 season. The Mad-Croc Rally Estonia was a perfect test round for me as there was 180kms of special stages and the stages in southern Estonia are very similar to Finland."

Marko Kakko said:
"I'm feeling good about Rally Finland. My expectations for the rally are quite high and I think it is possible for me to do very well at this event. I am aiming to finish in the top five in the S2000 class and I have high hopes this will happen. The car is good and I have had a lot of experience in it testing over hundreds of kilometres. I'm very excited about the rally."

Fiesta SportTrophy International - Finns turn out in force for rally’s 60th anniversary

Posted: July 22, 2010 4:15 PM

A record breaking number of entries in the Fiesta SportTrophy International (FSTi) series will travel to Scandinavia next week for the 60th edition of the iconic Neste Oil Rally Finland. Eleven Fiesta R2 and three GpN Fiesta ST entries will prepare for one of the most hotly anticipated events on the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar.

The Neste Oil Rally Finland is the eighth round of the WRC and the third round of the FSTi. 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. The event, which will kick off on Thursday 29 July and will feature a total distance of 1,307 km, will comprise of 19 special stages covering 310 km.

In addition to competing for FSTi honours, each day of Neste Oil Rally Finland will count as one round of the FST Finland championship. Vaunula Motorsport, the organiser of FST Finland, has opened the national championship to all FSTi registered competitors, making everyone eligible for points and prizes, so there will be even more worth fighting for.

With so many entries in the FSTi field, competition is set to be fierce but Harry Hunt (21) and co-driver Sebastian Marshall (22) will be fighting hard to hold onto their eleven point championship lead.

104 - Harry Hunt (21) & Sebastian Marshall (22) – Fiesta R2
FSTi position: 1

The British duo currently lead the FSTi class after seizing victory on their FSTi debut in Turkey and then finishing fifth at the recent Vodafone Rally de Portugal. Since Portugal, the pair have won the IRC 2WD Cup at Rally d’Italia Sardenga, but were less fortunate at WRC Rally Bulgaria last month when they retired on the final day of competition. Hunt currently lies in joint seventh position in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship (J-WRC) and leads the J-WRC Rookie Trophy. The 21-year-old will be looking to gain a third consecutive points finish in the FSTi class as he tackles the Neste Oil Rally Finland for the first time.

Harry Hunt said:
“I'm really looking forward to my first Rally Finland, as I’ve heard there is a fantastic atmosphere in Jyväskylä and I've heard that every stage is fast and exhilarating. It will be tough with so many entries for this round – especially as I’m one of the few drivers in the FSTi class never to have competed on Finnish soil – but it will be interesting to see how we fare against the competition. We’re hoping for a smooth, successful rally with a solid haul of points to build our championship campaign.”

100 - Victor Henriksson (22) & Håkan Palm – Fiesta R2
FSTi position: 2

Victor Henriksson made a huge impression at the Wales Rally GB in 2007 when he sailed to victory at his first FSTi event. After a year’s break, Henriksson impressed with a series of fast stage times during the opening day of Rally Turkey, but failed to classify after the Swede rolled his Fiesta R2 on the penultimate stage. Henriksson finished a creditable third at Vodafone Rally de Portugal, despite the tough conditions. The Swedish duo are quite capable of a win on Scandinavian soil and they will be trying their best to keep the local drivers off the top spot.

110 - Majed Al Shamsi & Alan Harryman – Fiesta R2
FSTi position: 3

Majed Al Shamsi and Alan Harryman finished a creditable sixth overall in 2009’s FSTi championship, but got off to a flying start this year as the duo took victory in the FSTi class on their 2010 debut in the Vodafone Rally de Portugal. The Team Abu Dhabi crew are just one point off third position in the championship standings and are looking to produce a strong performance in Finland to move up into the top three.

111 - Bader Al Jabri (25) & Stephen McAuley – Fiesta R2
FSTi position: 4

Team Abu Dhabi members, Bader Al Jabri and co-driver Stephen McAuley had a fantastic season in 2009, finishing on the podium in Al Jabri’s debut FSTi year. This year, he has contested two Middle East Rally Championship events (MERC), where he won the N3 class at Qatar International Rally and came fifth on Jordan Rally. On their first FSTi outing this year at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal, the duo finished second overall. The duo are will be aiming for a second consecutive points finish in the FSTi class.

103 - Christian Riedemann (22) & Josefine Beinke (18) – Fiesta R2
FSTi position: 5

After pulling out a significant lead on his first gravel WRC event in Portugal, Christian Riedemann was disappointed when the tough conditions proved too much and he was forced to retire on the final day. However, the young German duo quickly bounced back and went on to take a class win and a stunning fourth place overall at the Rallye Niedersachsen. The two youngsters, supported by the ADAC Stiftung Sport, are looking forward to one of the most spectacular rallies in the WRC calendar and are hoping for better luck on their second gravel event. Along with Hunt, Henriksson and Al Ameri, Riedemann is only one of four drivers with no experience of the fast Finnish stages, so his main goal is to gain experience in the Fiesta R2 and to finish the rally.

112 - Sultan Al Ameri (25) & Killian Duffy (27) – Fiesta R2
FSTi position: 6

Sultan Al Ameri started rallying in 2007 and has competed in various Middle Eastern rallies. In 2008, Al Ameri contested the MERC in a GpN Fiesta ST, taking a break from rallying the following year. Al Ameri made his FSTi debut in Portugal last month under the Team Abu Dhabi banner, but was unclassified after rolling his Fiesta R2 on the opening day. The young Emirate will be looking to get to the end of the Neste Oil Rally Finland without any problems to score his first points of the championship.

99 - Jussi Kumpumäki & Jani Laaksonen – Fiesta R2
FSTi position: 7=

Current FST Finland leaders Jussi Kumpumäki and Jani Laaksonen are amongst the favourites for this event, following Kumpumäki’s battle royale with 2010 FSTi champion Craig Breen at this event last year. The young Finn eventually lost out by 20 seconds, so will be fired up to seize victory on his second attempt. The young Finn’s knowledge of Finnish roads and several of the stages from the rally will give Kumpumäki a distinct advantage over other competitors in the same field. Kumpumäki has won the two previous FST rounds in Finland this year so will be hungry for another good result at the Neste Oil Rally Finland.

109 - Raimo Kaisanlahti & Tero Rönnemaa – Fiesta R2
FSTi position: 7=

Currently standing second in second position in FST Finland, Raimo Kaisanlahti and Tero Rönnemaa will look to take advantage of their knowledge of the Finnish roads as they make their debut in the FSTi class at this year’s Neste Oil Rally Finland. Earlier this year, Kaisanlahti finished third in the Fiesta R2 class at the Joensuu Rally, the first round of FST Finland. The Finnish driver went on to finish third in the same class at the Kouvola Rally in June. The Finn will be looking to impress on this rally in order to consolidate his position – he could even take the FST Finland lead if Kumpumäki retires on Days 1 and 2.

101 - Atte Alanen (22) & Pasi Hedman (29) – Fiesta R2

FST Finland position: 1
Atte Alanen began his rallying career in 2007 and took class victory in an Opel Astra at the 2007 Vammala Rally. The 22-year-old Finn switched back to his trusty Ford Fiesta R2 to contest the Kuovola Rally earlier this year and showed competitive speed throughout the rally, producing three fastest stage times and finishing second overall in the Fiesta class. Alanen has previously contested two events in the FSTi series with his last outing at Rally Great Britain last year when the Finn retired on the second day. In 2008, Alanen finished eighth in the FSTi class at Rally Great Britain. Alanen is currently eighth in the Finnish National Championship and currently lies third in the FST Finland Championship standings. The Finn will be aiming to put in a strong performance in order to close the ten point gap on Kaisanlahti in second position.

106 - Christoffer Dahlström (30) & Kari Kemppinen – Fiesta ST
FST Finland position: 2
Christoffer Dahlström and Kari Kemppinen have shown consistency this year and finished the opening FST Finland round, the Joensuu Rally, fourth in his Fiesta ST. Dahlström also finished the Kuovola Rally fourth, which consolidated his overall fourth position in the FST Finland championship standings. The Finnish duo are just two points from snatching third position in the FST Finland championship from Alanen, so will be looking for a good result at Neste Oil Rally Finland in order to move into the top three.

102 - Joose Kojo & Sami Taskinen – Fiesta R2
Jose Kojo and Sami Taskinen have been competing for three years together and have a wealth of experience in a rally car. Kojo took class victory in the Arctic Lapland Rally in both 2006 and 2010 and in 2007’s Neste Oil Rally Finland, Kojo finished third in the A5 class. The Finnish duo have not contested any FST Finland rounds in 2010 so far, but are looking to put in a strong performance in Finland in order to produce their first points of the season so far.

105 - Ilkka Kariste & Mikael Lindberg – Fiesta ST
The Helsinki born duo have contested numerous rallies in the A5 class over the last decade and their vast experience will stand them in good stead against such tough competition. Ilkka Kariste contested the 2009 Neste Oil Rally Finland in a Volkswagen Polo, but retired on the opening day. This year, Kariste and Lindberg have swapped to a Fiesta ST to contest the event and their main aim is to gain experience of the car on gravel and to finish the rally with a good end result.

107 - Kari Hytönen & Heidi Koppe (26) – Fiesta R2
Finn Kari Hytönen and German Heidi Koppe have contested numerous international and national rallies including both the German Suzuki Cup and the Finnish Championship. Hytönen finished first in the A5 class in the 2005 Neste Oil Rally Finland. In 2009, the Finn achieved first in the N2 class at the Neste Oil Rally Finland and was also the winner of the Standard 1600 class in the Finnish National Championship. The Finnish crew’s past experience will hold them in good stead for contesting this year’s rally.

108 - Toni Harsia & Jari Tarvainen – Fiesta ST
Toni Harsia contested his first rally in a Ford Escort in 1997. In 2008 and 2009, Harsia competed in the Finnish Championship in the A5 class in a Volkswagen Polo 16V. In the 2009 Neste Oil Rally Finland, Harsia successfully clinched fifth place in the A5 class. Harsia and Tarvainen are aiming to gain more experience in their Fiesta ST at this event and to improve on their fifth place class finish from last year’s event.

Entry List available - Record number of 4WD Cars (WRC/S2000/GpN)

Posted: July 22, 2010 12:31 PM

Available on event website:

Rally Guide 1 / Route Details

Posted: February 26, 2010 1:54 PM

Event Website / Details

Posted: January 1, 2010 12:01 AM

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