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Finland (S,P,A) - 28-30 Jul 11

Posted: August 3, 2011 2:45 PM - 8132 Hits

Thursday 28th - Saturday 30 July 2011
Round 8 - 2011 World Rally Championship
S - S2000 Championship
P - Production Championship
A - Academy

Petter Solberg and Kimi Räikkönen finish in the points

Posted: August 3, 2011 2:14 PM

Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson finished in fifth place in Rally Finland, the eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. This result has helped them to consolidate their fifth place in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ ratings. Kimi Räikkönen and Kaj Lindström confirmed their recent improvement in form with a ninth-place finish on home turf after a very promising drive.

Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson were soon among the quickest and took fifth place in the overall classification in the short first leg on Thursday afternoon. The Petter Solberg World Rally Team crew got past Jari Ketomaa and went into fourth behind Loeb, Ogier and Latvala during the long day’s stages in Jyväskylä and Lahti. The Norwegian was always on the lookout to find ways and means of improving his performance till the finish, and he saw the flag in fifth place overall.
“I pushed throughout the whole rally,” said Solberg at the finish. “We tried to improve the car by changing the setup during the weekend, but we were not able to match the pace of the leaders. The result’s rather frustrating.
Now, we’re going to concentrate on the next event in Germany on tarmac.”

Kimi Räikkönen and Kaj Lindström, who already showed a promising turn of speed in the previous rally in Greece, confirmed their progress in Finland. The ICE1 Racing driver started his third Rally Finland at a searing pace only a second per kilometre off the reference time, and finished the first leg in thirteenth place. He lost precious time due to a minor error on Friday morning. On the way back to Jyväskylä he got back into the rhythm and moved up to twelfth. Iceman’s confidence was now at full boost, and he upped the pace even further in the home stretch by overtaking his nearest rivals and finished in ninth place.

“These roads are as quick and as difficult as ever,” underlined the Finnish driver. But we still managed to set good times. I’d like to thank the many spectators who cheered us on during the weekend. We were able to maintain a good pace throughout the whole rally despite a few minor mistakes. It’s encouraging for the rest of the season.”

With both Citroën DS3 WRCs at the finish, Benoit Nogier, the Citroën Racing Technologies team manager, was pretty satisfied with the team’s overall performance in Rally Finland:
“Kimi’s made a lot of progress since last season. He’s showing promising steadiness and he’s on the right track. Above all, he’s now getting used to finishing the rallies in the points. It’s both satisfying and very encouraging. Petter Solberg’s rally is more disappointing as he lacked speed. We’ll have to analyze what happened to find out why we were slower than the front-runners. He’ll have the right equipment to shine on tarmac in Germany.”

KUIPERS GRABS AIRMILES AND MANUFACTURERS’ POINTS

Posted: August 3, 2011 2:13 PM

In one of the most specialised rallies in the WRC, the FERM Power Tools World Rally Team managed to score points in the Manufacturers’ championship in their Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Kuipers and Frederic Miclotte managed, in the hilly gravel roads of Finland to finish 11th overall.

"We spent a lot of time in the air," says the Dutch rally driver after competing in the 22 special stages near the university town of Jyvaskyla. The combination of the high speed, and the hills resulted in many long jumps. Finland is so dangerous because one easily jumps too long and ends up in the trees.

"It is very exciting, I still have a smile on my face. " Kuipers completed the eighth round of the World Rally Championship grabbing many air miles. "The difference in speed between the recce and the actual race is huge, I am delighted that we got a lot mileage in this legendary rally.”

"We really benefited from the experience we have gained two weeks ago during the rally in Estonia," said co-driver Frederic Miclotte. "This weekend we had the speed, without overestimating ourselves."

The 11th position confirms the progress Kuipers and Miclotte have made. "We have increase our experience, last year we had a crash, this year we finished and bring home valuable experience and points," concluded a satisfied Kuipers.

FERM Power Tools World Rally Team have now scored Manufacturers’ points in five out of seven WRC events. The total of 16 points brings the Dutch team to eighth position in the overall standings.

The next race is the ADAC Rallye Deutschland, the first tarmac rally of 2011, which will run from 18 – 21 August.

Fisher shines in Finland

Posted: August 3, 2011 2:10 PM

Alastair Fisher underlined his potential by setting four quickest stage times in the FIA WRC Academy section of Neste Oil Rally Finland, the world’s fastest rally. Fisher, who turns 23 today (Saturday), had built up a lead of 28 seconds in the young driver-training category before he slid off the road on the event’s seventh stage on Friday (July 29).

Despite his early exit, the Northern Irishman was able to take plenty of positives from his Rally Finland debut.
“Even though we’d built a lead of 28 seconds we still had to commit to our pacenotes and keep pushing because the moment you back off you lose your rhythm and too much time, which is always difficult to recover,” said Fisher.

“The stages are so fast and so difficult because of all the blind crests. It’s easy to make mistakes and just the smallest mistakes are punished very heavily. We were five kilometres into stage seven on a fast right-hander when we got on some loose gravel and got a wheel into a ditch. That kicked the car across the road into a bank.”
With Fisher’s Ford Fiesta R2 suffering bodywork and roll cage damage he was forced to retire.
“Not finishing here is very disappointing,” said Fisher, who is co-driven by Daniel Barritt, from Burnley, Lancashire. “But at least we’ve been able to show our pace and lead a round of the WRC Academy once again.
“Germany (Rallye Deutschland) is next and we go there with some confidence. I’ve done a lot of Tarmac rallies in my career and I’ve always gone well on that surface.
Even if we can’t win the title we can still finish in the top three. We’ll be trying our hardest to achieve that.”

ADAC Rallye Deutschland is based in Trier from August 18-21. It is round four of the six-event FIA WRC Academy Cup.

Titanic Battle in Finland sees Breen/Roberts edged by 2.6 seconds

Posted: August 3, 2011 2:09 PM

2.6 seconds is all that separated Craig Breen (IRE) and Egon Kaur (EST) after the final breath taking stage at World Rally Finland, round three of the FIA WRC Academy. The pair provided a thrilling climax to the young driver category as the result went right to the wire on the final stage. With the last two remaining stages, Estonian driver, Egon Kaur trailed Craig by a slender margin of 2.3s. Kaur then pulled 2.6 sec back on the penultimate test as Breen was hampered by catching slower competitors. The two drivers who had pulled away from the rest of the field were neck and neck all the way through until the last section of the final stage but then the North European driver pulled out 2.3 seconds to claim victory by a meager 2.6s. Afterwards Craig stated “I lost a lot of time on SS16 where I was caught behind two cars. We really wanted to win, we were so hungry for this victory, but that's rallying and we can't think too much about the ifs and buts. We have to focus on the rest of the season now and with Tarmac events to come I think we can do well and maybe still win the Cup.”

The event got underway on Thursday afternoon with three stages and overnight Craig was lying in third overall. Breen lost time on the initial test with a spin and then was hampered on the second, as there appeared to be a problem with the rear of his Fiesta R2, causing some handling issues. In service after the final stage of the day Craig reflected on the opening day “Our first day’s run wasn’t too bad at all. We spun about 1km into SS1 which cost us around 10 seconds and then had some problems with the Fiesta’s rear handling on SS2. Even so we are in a good position heading into tomorrow and I am looking forward to challenging for the lead.”

Alastair Fisher (GBR) held the lead on Friday morning as the rally resumed for a further eight stages. Egon Kaur (EST) was in second place 22.7 second off the lead, with Craig just 1.2 back in third. Over the morning’s stages, Fisher kept up his Day One pace to stay out in front but Breen overhauled the Estonian driver to claim second overall. As the cars entered remote service Craig was 28 seconds down on Fisher and 9.4 up on Kaur in third. In service Craig reported
“A car in front of us had an accident on SS6 so we had to stop and check if the crew were ok costing us 6 or 7 seconds. Other than that no issues - I have a better feeling with the car today after we made some changes to the rear damper settings and that has helped us this morning.”

The first big exit of the rally came on stage seven when rally leader Alastair Fisher rolled out but it was Kaur who inherited the lead as he claimed fastest time on that stage. Kaur then extended his lead over Craig to 15.8 second on SS8 with another fastest time. Breen managed to stem the tide however on stage nine taking his first fastest time of the weekend and cut the lead to just 6.4s. The Irish driver doubled his count of fastest stage times on the day’s last test to hold a 2.4s lead going into the final day.
“I've had a really good day”, Craig said on Friday evening, “Obviously we benefited from Alastair’s [Fisher] retirement, but we had been gaining pace throughout the day. We chipped away at the times and to be leading going into Day Three is great. I know the stages well having competed here over the past two years so I think we are in a very good position.”

Saturday dawned to a tough seven stages and the Estonian driver took first blood by retaking the lead on SS12 by just .8 of a sec. This started a tit for tat battle for the lead that would continue right up to the final stage. Breen hit back on stage 13 to edge 8.1 ahead of his rival and looked at this point to have made the decisive move but Kaur turned the tables on SS14 when he recorded the stage win by 8.4 seconds. The gap at this point was an incredible 0.3 of a second and as the cars entered midday service Breen was back in front by 2.3, meaning that over that loop of five stages and nearly 70km’s of rallying the pair were separated by just 0.1 of a second.

On to the penultimate test and the lead changed hands yet again as Kaur took 2.6 out of the Irish driver over the 21.35 km’s, Breen was hampered during the stage as he was caught behind two cars. As the two driver sized up for a final stage showdown there was just 0.3s between them. Breen reflected afterwards “We were still neck and neck all the way through on each of the splits but Kaur edged out a 2.3 second advantage over the final sector to claim victory by 2.6s.

KAUR TAKES WRC ACADEMY GLORY IN FINLAND ON PIRELLI TYRES

Posted: August 3, 2011 12:50 PM

Egon Kaur has made it three wins from three starts in the FIA WRC Academy Cup following an impressive performance on Neste Oil Rally Finland, one of the most iconic and challenging events on the international calendar.

Armed with a Ford Fiesta R2 equipped with Pirelli’s medium-compound Scorpion K4 tyre, Estonian Kaur enjoyed a close battle with Irishman Craig Breen, one of six Pirelli Star Drivers in action on Rally Finland, which finished in the central city of Jyvaskyla yesterday evening (Saturday).

Kaur’s victory, by a slender margin of 2.6s, means he continues to lead the young driver-training category at the halfway point of the season.

“Egon has been very consistent all season but quite cautious on the first two rounds,” said Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery. “In Finland he had to really push, winning the rally on the penultimate stage, because Craig – not to mention a number of the other drivers – proved to be very fast. Our congratulations go to all the crews.”

Pirelli’s engineers selected the Italian firm’s medium-compound tyre to provide consistent grip on the high-speed corners and stability over the flat out crests in a wide range of ambient and ground temperatures. Although much of the event was held in hot and dry conditions, overnight rain on Friday created a damp surface on sections of the early morning stages. With regulations limiting crews to a total of 18 covers for the pre-event test and rally, drivers also had to perfect the art of effective tyre management.

This practice proved particularly challenging when the gravel roads became rutted in places during the second passes on Saturday afternoon. Despite the demanding conditions, only three punctures were recorded although all of these were caused by accidental impacts.

“Rally Finland is ranked as one of the most demanding events on the international calendar due to its combination of high-speed corners and blind crests,” Hembery continued. “The challenge for our medium-compound Scorpion K4 was to provide good grip on the clean lines and good stability in the high-speed sections, a test they passed with flying colours. The tyre also provided a consistent performance in mainly warm weather conditions.”

Pirelli is the official tyre supplier to the entry-level WRC Academy, which pitches 16 young hopefuls together on six WRC events on asphalt and gravel. They drive identical Ford Fiesta R2s prepared by the British M-Sport organisation. The WRC Academy Cup resumes on ADAC Rallye Deutschland, an all-asphalt event based in the historic city of Trier from 18-21 August.

Breen rallies to second place finish in Finland

Posted: August 3, 2011 12:49 PM

Craig Breen got his World Rally Championship season back on track as he finished second in the latest WRC Academy event in Finland. The Waterford driver was an early leader on the previous two WRC events but was unable to finish in Portugal and came eight in Sardinia after car problems.

In Finland the 20-year-old finally lived up to his huge potential, pushing WRC Academy leader Egon Kaur from Estonia to the final stage. Breen has made a slow start on the opening day but at the end of day two he led the WRC academy standings ahead of Kaur. However on the final two stages of the rally, Kaur overhauled Breen to take the win by 2.6 seconds.

While Breen was disappointed not to win, the Waterford native was happy to get some points on the board.
“I lost a lot of time on SS16 where I was caught behind two cars. We really wanted to win, we were so hungry for this victory, but that's rally and we can't think too much about the ifs and buts. We have to focus on the rest of the season now and with Tarmac events to come I think we can do well and maybe still win the Cup.”

Breen is one of six Pirelli Star Drivers, selected from across the world, to compete in this year’s World Rally Championship Academy. The next round of the WRC Academy takes place in Germany in three weeks time where Breen will hope to cut Kaur’s 52 point lead at the top of the standings.

Latvala second in Rally Finland as Hirvonen wins Power Stage

Posted: August 3, 2011 12:44 PM

Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila finished second in Rally Finland today after an encounter which blended tactical skills and outright speed. The Finns ended this eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship just 8.1sec behind the winners in their Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car after three days of enthralling competition.

Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen staged a superb recovery to finish fourth after losing two minutes when they hit a tree in Thursday evening's opening speed test. Hirvonen's fightback brought him to within 69.1sec of the winner as the 30-year-old Finn reeled off a string of special stage wins. He remains second in the drivers' standings.

He won five of Friday's eight speed tests and added a further eight wins from today's 11 stages, including fastest time in the live TV Power Stage, which earned three bonus points in the drivers' championship. Latvala won two tests as the Ford Abu Dhabi team topped the time charts in 15 of the 22 stages, covering 314.39km near the rally base of Jyväskylä and Lahti.

Rally Finland is the fastest round of the year and the smooth, wide gravel tracks and stomach-churning jumps provided some of the most spectacular action of the season. However, the opening two legs ended in the type of tactics more frequently seen on a chess board, as drivers measured their pace and jockeyed for position to find the most favourable road position for the following leg.

When the strategy ended, 26-year-old Latvala started today's final leg in third, just 2.6sec from the lead and seemingly in the best start position of the leading trio. However, the dry, dusty roads of the previous two days gave way to damper conditions, and the advantage in the start order turned against Latvala and in favour of the two drivers ahead.

The gap to the lead widened to 20sec and a frustrated Latvala explained: "The humidity was so high last night that all the roads were damp. The moisture bound together the loose gravel and the cars ahead didn't have to sweep the dirt off the surface as we expected. Our road position wasn't the advantage we thought it would be. First in the order turned out to be the best because that's the position that offered the most traction."

The roads dried during the second pass this afternoon, and Latvala, aided by some minor changes to the settings in his car's rear differential, began to reel in leader Sébastien Loeb and second-placed Sébastien Ogier. He moved ahead of Ogier, but fell just short of catching Loeb.

"I was closing on the lead all the time but I ran out of kilometres. Just two more stages would have been enough. I drove badly this morning when the car didn't perform as I would have liked and I didn't know what to do. I finally realised that I needed to make a change in the differential, and when I made that everything came together. Unfortunately it was too late," added Latvala.

Hirvonen's rally was compromised when he slid wide into a tree on the opening stage, damaging his car's brakes and suspension. He refocused on winning as many stages as possible and climbing as far up the leaderboard as he could. After starting yesterday in 36th he powered up to sixth, and gained another two positions today.

"I'm disappointed not to win," he said. "My fightback was good and I had great speed all weekend, which makes it even more of a shame that I wasn't able to fight for victory. I have to thank the fans who gave me great support all rally. I love my home event and I enjoyed driving in front of them."

Abu Dhabi's Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr finished 14th in the team's third Fiesta RS WRC. "Yesterday I wasn't so happy, but today was better and I'm glad to have finished with a good pace and no risks," said Al Qassimi.

Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson admitted he was 'disappointed' but added: "I know the disappointment is even greater for the drivers. Jari-Matti did a fantastic job, but he never really felt relaxed with the car until the kilometres were running out. Mikko fought back superbly to maintain second in the championship standings, but it's a rally we should have won."

Ford of Europe motorsport chief Gerard Quinn said: "I'm disappointed personally and for the team that after the huge effort everyone put into this rally, we won 15 out of the 22 stages and yet didn't win. Setting aside Mikko's accident, he was by far the fastest driver of the weekend and his reward was a Power Stage win rather than the overall victory that his speed deserved."

News from other Ford teams

Stobart M-Sport Ford drivers Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson finished sixth in their Fiesta RS WRC, one place ahead of team-mates Henning Solberg and Ilka Minor. Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin were eighth in the team's other surviving car. The FERM Power Tools-entered car of Dennis Kuipers and Frederic Miclotte was 11th. Jari Ketomaa and Mika Stenberg rolled their Fiesta RS WRC out of fifth place yesterday, while Evgeny Novikov and Denis Giraudet retired today on the liaison section after stage 16 with a mechanical problem.

Next round

After a string of loose surface rallies, next month's Rallye Deutschland marks the opening asphalt round of the season. The rally is based in Trier on 19 - 21 August.

MINI WRC Team

Posted: August 3, 2011 12:42 PM

The MINI WRC Team cannot pretend to be satisfied that neither of its MINI John Cooper Works WRCs made it to the end of Neste Oil Rally Finland, but this doesn’t mean it has been an unsuccessful outing. The first retirement was of car number 52 for Kris Meeke (GB) and Paul Nagle (IR) after 19 of the 22 stages, while Dani Sordo (ES) and Carlos del Barrio (ES) only missed out on the very last stage. Both retirements were precautionary after a lot of sand and dirt was sucked into the cars’ cooling system, which could have caused damage to the engines.

The problems started on stage 17, Leustu 2, when Meeke suffered from a puncture and then overheating. At that stage he had been lying ninth, but the loss of over a minute and a half to the leaders dropped him to 14th. It was soon obvious how rough the stages were proving on the second run through, and on the next stage, Surkee 2, Sordo, then seventh, also had problems with the sand blocking the air intake and lost 45 seconds to the leaders. The team’s engineers knew they would learn nothing more from cars limping through stages, although Sordo was able to go quicker than Meeke. After Urria 2 the team decided to retire Meeke’s car, and then after Isojärvi 2 Sordo was told to drive back to Jyväskylä and not attempt the Power Stage to avoid engine damage.

David Richards, Team Principal:
“There is obviously a great sense of disappointment throughout the team that the rally should end for both Dani and Kris within sight of the finish. However, we have to take heart from the performance of the cars throughout the event, with their pure speed and the fact we were close to the pace right from the word go. We now go to a very different surface, with the asphalt rally of Germany which will present further challenges and another step in the learning curve for our new team.”

Dave Wilcock, Technical Director:
“The first loop of stages today was very good, and these were stages Dani was familiar with. Here he showed us that the pace of the car on certain splits was very, very good. This was encouraging for us, so in general we were very happy with his performance. Kris was surprised by the speed of the others this morning, but, as we have always said, for him it was just about getting experience and getting through the stages. On the second loop it all started to go wrong for us. The stages had cut up far worse than expected and, even though we had raised the car for the second pass, we ran into some problems with collecting sand into the cooling and air intake systems, which eventually made us call an end to our rally and retire the cars rather than suffer any damage. This was mainly because we didn’t want to damage the engine with dirt getting into or through overheating.”

Dani Sordo:
“I am a little disappointed as it would have been really nice to finish here in Finland, but motorsport is like that. We have had some small problems, but this helps for us to understand our car and improve for the future. I am quite happy today as the stages in the morning today were very good and we were close to the top times. I enjoyed today as they were really nice stages. I would have liked to do the power stage, but it was best not to risk damaging the engine. ”

Kris Meeke:
“It was good to get very nearly a full rally distance under our belts, as it has been a long time since we have done a full rally. I began to really get into the groove yesterday and start to really understand the car in rally conditions. I think yesterday afternoon we felt comfortable, and to get within half a second a kilometre of the top guys on this rally is something that I think we can be very encouraged with. Today we were back to the traditional type of stages, and this morning I was really having to learn them. I think anybody coming here for the first time is bound to be blown away by those stages, as the lines these guys take are impossible to do the first time. I am glad I have seen it all and I have video footage of the entire rally. I will be studying that very closely over the next few days, and will even start making corrections to our notes for next year. It is all an experience exercise, but with that we also proved the car is quite fast when the conditions are good, but we just have a bit more work to do when the conditions get rough.”

DELIGHT FOR FORD AS FIESTA S2000 CLAIMS TWO PODIUM SPOTS

Posted: August 3, 2011 12:32 PM

The fastest rally in the S-WRC calendar – Neste Oil Rally Finland – saw the two Ford Fiesta S2000 crews of Martin Prokop and Ott Tänak finish second and third respectively.

Frigyes Turán and Bernardo Sousa were both contesting Rally Finland for the first time this weekend and despite having no past experience of the blisteringly quick Finnish roads, both drivers secured valuable championship points.

Sousa battled back from a series of setbacks during Friday and Saturday to finish sixth. The Madeira-born driver now lies fourth in the standings, four points behind Tänak who has been elevated into third. Turán is seventh in S-WRC after finishing fifth this weekend.

Prokop remains second overall - 18 points adrift of current championship leader Juho Hanninen. However, with three rounds still remaining, the S-WRC title fight will step up a notch next month as the crews tackle the first all-tarmac event of the year - ADAC Rallye Deutschland.

Martin Prokop
S-WRC position: 2
Final position: 12
Former J-WRC champion Martin Prokop reported a few small mistakes when trying to keep up with Ott Tänak on Thursday’s stages but at the end of the first day the Czech driver was third in S-WRC.

On Friday’s opening stage, Prokop reported a fault with his intercom and he struggled with hearing his co-driver’s pacenotes. This was fixed at the short 15 minute service at Lahti and Prokop was promoted to second after Tänak’s incident on Stage 8. Prokop remained second in S-WRC going into the final day.

Prokop had a relatively trouble-free day on Saturday but with Hanninen more than one minute ahead and with no immediate threat behind, the driver adopted a cautious driving approach to consolidate his second place finish and a well-earned 18 championship points.

Martin Prokop said:
“It’s been a difficult weekend but it’s great to finish second. I must concentrate on the championship now - it is still possible to beat Juho [Hanninen] but we have definitely got our work cut out for us. We had a few big moments where I thought I would roll the car this weekend but luckily we are still here and have made it to the end with 18 points. I must now concentrate on the next event and just hope that we can try and keep the pressure on Juho.”

Ott Tänak
S-WRC position: 3
Final position: 13
Markko Märtin’s protégé Ott Tänak got off to a flying start on Thursday posting two fastest stage times. At the end of the first day, the Estonian was leading S-WRC - 8.5 seconds clear of local hero Hanninen.

Tänak held onto the S-WRC championship lead until Stage 5 when Hanninen edged ahead. The driver responded to the challenge with a fastest time on Stage 7 but a spin on Stage 8 cost the 23-year-old three minutes when his exhaust was filled with soil. The incident dropped Tänak from second to fifth in S-WRC but he finished the day fourth, just 3.1 seconds adrift of third place.

Saturday saw flying Tänak post six fastest stage times but the gap between the Estonian and Prokop proved too much for Tänak to pose any immediate threat. The 23-year-old finished third in S-WRC and has moved into third in the overall standings after another strong performance this weekend.

Ott Tänak said:
“I’m happy to have finished on the podium - it’s been my first time in Finland so it’s good to get this result. To be honest, we are quite lucky to be here as we had driveshaft problems on the last stage. It’s been a hard rally because it’s fast but I’ve not been pushing to the limit. We did a test in Estonia before the rally which definitely helped but then after the couple of spins we had yesterday it was difficult to keep the momentum going and I knew the battle with Juho [Hanninen] was over. The gap was too much to catch Prokop in second place so we did not push – the points were really important.”

Frigyes Turán
S-WRC position: 5
Final position: 17
Frigyes Turán was lying seventh at the end of Thursday’s opening three stages after the Hungarian reported making a handful of mistakes on Stage 3.

Turán reported difficulties with confidence on Friday morning and was also hindered with an engine misfire. The team made some adjustments to the differentials and the Hungarian driver reported a better feeling in his Fiesta S2000 for the second pass. Turán was lying fifth in S-WRC going into the final day.

Saturday was relatively trouble-free for Turán and the driver pulled into the final service in a credible fifth in S-WRC.

Frigyes Turán said:
“It’s been a great weekend and I’ve really enjoyed this rally. I’ve had no expectations and I didn’t expect to finish in the top five on my first time here so of course this is a good result for me. I’ve been making changes to my notes along the way - in some places I was too cautious and slowed down when I didn’t need to and in other places I went too quickly. It was great to see some Hungarian fans out on the roads too, it’s really helps having some support as it helped give me an extra boost.”

Bernardo Sousa
S-WRC position: 6
Final position: 24

Bernardo Sousa’s debut in Finland got off to a shaky start when he discovered a broken front differential on his Ford Fiesta S2000 whilst driving on the road section to Stage 1. The problem meant the Portuguese driver had to compete the event’s opening three stages in rear-wheel drive only, losing Sousa significant time in the process. He was eighth in S-WRC at the end of the first day.

More problems followed for Sousa on Friday’s stages when he discovered issues with the limited-slip differential. The team tried to sort it at remote service but a loss of engine power hindered the driver’s progress during the repeat afternoon pass. Despite these problems, Sousa moved up to sixth at the end of the second day.

Sousa consolidated his sixth-place finish during the final day of action in Finland to secure the 24-year-old eight championship points.

Bernardo Sousa said:
“To be honest it’s not be an enjoyable rally for us, we’ve had a lot of small problems which can be frustrating but I’ve got to focus on the positives. I’m pleased to have made it to the end and with some points for the championship. I was getting quite frustrated yesterday and was also finding it difficult because I had no experience of the stages – this is definitely a rally where experience counts. We’ve had some bad luck this weekend but now I’ve got to concentrate on Germany where I’m hoping for a clear run and to get back in a podium position.”

Citroën’s and Loeb’s second victory in Finland

Posted: August 3, 2011 12:30 PM

After their first exploit in 2008, Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and Citroën have won Rally Finland for the second time. This new historic success is rounded off by Sébastien Ogier’s and Julien Ingrassia’s third place. With its two DS3 WRCs on the podium, the Citroën Total World Rally Team has consolidated its first place in the Manufacturers’ World Championship.

Sébastien Loeb has increased his lead in the Drivers’ World Championship to 27 points. Three crews broke away from the pack in the first two days. Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier had to fight off Finn Jari-Matti Latvala when all three tackled the very long final leg consisting of 140 timed kilometers.

Loeb in the lead had to cope with a situation he feared. The seven-time world champion was first out on the road and he was afraid he would meet conditions less favourable than those faced by his direct rivals. The no.1 decided that attack was the best form of defence and tried to open up a gap on roads that were still damp from the morning dew. In Leustu 1 (SS12), Loeb stunned his rivals by beating Ogier by 6.4s and Latvala by 10.7s in 21,35 kilometers.
“I was on the limit everywhere. I drove my heart out,” he gasped.
In the next stage he underlined his determination by setting another fastest time. Despite this, Ogier wasn’t giving up:
“It’s not over yet. I’m going to keep pushing. The gap’s only ten seconds, and Latvala’s not far behind.”

But the unflappable Loeb continued on his merry way. Despite increasingly difficult conditions, he managed to hold on to his first place and won the rally in the country of a 1000 Lakes, the first-non Finn to achieve such a performance and allowed Citroën at the same time to set another record with seven consecutive wins in the season.

This new victory is to be added to the sixty-five previous ones scored by the seven-time world champion with Citroën since the 2002 season. It has helped him to consolidate his lead in the Drivers’ World Championship with 27 points in hand over Mikko Hirvonen and 31 over Sébastien Ogier.
“It’s one of the greatest wins of my career. But I had to work for it and it took a long time before it took shape. Sometimes you have to go beyond the limits to open up the gap. I felt really good on the roads with the Citroën DS3 WRC, even more so than in the past with the Xsara or the C4. My aim was to be in the lead in the world championship before the events on tarmac. I’ve achieved it, but there are still a lot of points up for grabs.”

Ogier’s hopes of victory were punctured in SS17 when he suffered a flat tyre. The former Junior World Champion finished on the podium behind Jari-Matti Latvala, 12.8s behind the winner.
“It was all going pretty well until the last loop. We were in a good position to push for victory until we punctured. I feel frustrated because it was a racing incident that ruined our chances.”

“Citroën has continued to privilege the sporting aspect,” underlined Olivier Quesnel, the Citroën Racing Team Principal. “We fully assume our decision to give our two drivers free rein to race as they wanted. Each crew had its own strategy and could apply it depending on the circumstances. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena mastered the situation perfectly. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were in a position to fight for victory until their puncture. Our crews have achieved a remarkable new exploit, and I want to congratulate the technical team for the work done on the DS3 which has shown again an incredible level of perfomance and reliability.

ØSTBERG FLIES TO SIXTH AFTER FINAL FINNISH THRILLER

Posted: August 3, 2011 12:28 PM

Mads Østberg narrowly missed out on fifth place at Neste Oil Rally Finland after a three-way battle between the M-Sport Stobart Ford driver, Petter Solberg and Ford Abu Dhabi’s Mikko Hirvonen went down to the wire. Team-mates Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson finished seventh and eighth respectively.

Four Ford Fiesta RS WRC crews competed under the M-Sport Stobart banner this weekend as a total of 118 crews travelled to Jyväskylä in central Finland to tackle some of the fastest and most challenging stages on the WRC calendar.

Fresh from their victory at Rally Estonia, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson led the way for the Cumbria-based squad from start to finish. The duo – who were sporting black armbands as a mark of respect for the recent tragedies in Norway – were lying eighth at the end of the first day.

Britain’s Matthew Wilson had a strong start to the “Finnish Grand Prix” by posting a third-fastest stage time during Thursday’s penultimate 11.79 km speed test. The result marked Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin’s best stage time of the season so far.

Team-mate Henning Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor had no problems in the team’s other Fiesta RS WRC and the duo were lying only 5.7 seconds adrift of tenth place by the end of Stage 3.

Evgeny Novikov stated him aim for this year’s Rally Finland was to improve his pacenotes and to gain as much experience of the fast Finnish roads as possible. The 20-year-old was happy with his first day’s performance and the Russian held 15th going into Day 2.

Friday saw the WRC crews journey south to the Päijänne Tavastia region where eight speed tests covering 134.60 km awaited. Three top five stage times including a third-fastest time on the day’s closing 12 km stage elevated Østberg into fifth, 28.6 seconds ahead of Ford Abu Dhabi’s Mikko Hirvonen.

Team-mate Wilson reported a near collision with a tree on Stage 6 but the 24-year-old battled back to lie 10.8 seconds adrift of tenth place at the end of Day 2. Henning Solberg had a drama-free day in the team’s other Ford Fiesta RS WRC, gradually improving his stage times to sit tenth overnight, 1.2 seconds adrift of ninth place.

Novikov continued his cautious driving approach throughout Friday’s stages but a mechanical problem with his Ford Fiesta RS WRC 5 km towards the end of Stage 8 hindered his progress. The 20-year-old returned for the final day’s action but was forced to retire when he encountered another mechanical related problem whilst on the road section to Stage 16.

Saturday’s action saw a close battle with the remaining three M-Sport Stobart Ford crews. Solberg and Wilson were both fighting for seventh and eighth place with Kimi Raikkonen and Kris Meeke whilst further up the field Østberg was fighting for fifth with fellow Norwegian Petter Solberg.

Østberg was hot on the tail of Solberg throughout the final day and the 23-year-old successfully slashed Solberg’s lead from 30.9 seconds at the end of day 2 down to a mere 9.6 seconds before the day’s closing power stage. However, with the rally’s final stage covering only 4.19 km the gap proved too much and Østberg finished a sixth overall after a tremendous effort.

A top three stage time and a drama-free day for Solberg on Saturday saw the Norwegian elevate from tenth to seventh in the WRC leaderboard. Wilson also rocketed up the standings from 11th to a credible eighth overall.

Mads Østberg said:
“I’ve been very happy with my speed this weekend. It’s been a hard fight with both Mikko [Hirvonen] and Petter [Solberg] and I really needed to do more than my best to try and finish ahead of them today but unfortunately it wasn’t enough. We have been going absolutely flat out this afternoon and I have given it my all so I’m not at all disappointed to miss out on fifth place. It’s great to be able to match the times of some of the “top five” - everything has been working very well for us today so this has been a great confident boost. I’m just hoping that this weekend will have helped us find the extra help that we need for us to secure us more events.”

Henning Solberg said:
“Last night I said that I was aiming for seventh place and I have achieved this so I am very happy. I knew that seventh was going to be difficult to get but everything has been working well today and I have really enjoyed the close battle on the stages. It feels even better when you win the battle you are playing! For sure, the conditions on the roads have been very hard this afternoon - I don’t think I could have pushed more as I could have risked making a mistake. I wanted to go as fast as I could on the Power Stage but tyre wear really became a problem at the end. I have really tried my best and enjoyed myself too so there is no more to say.”

Matthew Wilson said:
“I’ve had an absolutely brilliant day today - I’ve loved the battle with Henning, Kimi and Kris this afternoon. It’s definitely been the hardest battle I’ve ever had to get to eighth place but it’s been worth it. We wanted to try and keep up with Henning too so we’ve been keeping an eye on the splits to try and push when we needed to but the gap was just too much in the end. It’s been a good weekend overall – we had a big moment with our spin yesterday and we’ve found it difficult to keep neat and tidy due to loose gravel but I’ve really enjoyed myself.”

Evgeny Novikov said:
“We’ve had some small problems with the car this weekend, both today and yesterday. My one and only objective this weekend was to learn the stages and, for sure, we did that but it just would have been nice to get through all of them and to have made it to the end of all of the stages. I’d like to come back to Finland next time faster and without any problems, then I think I will be a lot quicker.”

M-Sport Stobart Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“It’s been a strong weekend for the M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team. Mads has shown an incredible amount of pace both today and yesterday, he’s improving on every rally and I firmly believe Mads has got a very exciting future ahead. Both Henning and Matthew posted top three times this weekend which is something to be proud of considering this is one of the hardest rallies on the calendar. The times have been very close during today’s stages and there’s been a good battle between Matthew, Henning and some of the other drivers which has made it very exciting to watch. Evgeny wanted to gain experience this weekend and unfortunately he had some bad luck with the car yesterday and today. However, he managed to improve his pacenotes and gain more experience so hopefully he will come back even stronger next year.”

Results

Posted: August 3, 2011 12:26 PM

1 S Loeb/D Elena (Citroen DS3 WRC) 2 hours 39 mins 37 sec
2 M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) + 8.1 sec
3 S Ogier/J Ingrassia (Citroen DS3 WRC) + 12.8 sec
4 M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) + 1 min 09.1 sec
5 P Solberg/C Patterson (Citroen DS3 WRC) + 1 min 16.2 sec
6 M Østberg/J Andersson (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) + 1 min 27.8 sec
7 H Solberg/I Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) + 3 mins 25.5 sec
8 M Wilson/S Martin (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) + 3 mins 53.2 sec
9 K Raikkonen/K Lindstrom (Citroen DS3 WRC) + 3 mins 59.8 sec
10 J Hanninen/M Markkula (Skoda Fabia S2000) + 5 mins 13.7 sec

Video: Colin Clark's 2011 WRC Rally Finland Preview (With Paul Nagle)

Posted: July 26, 2011 10:34 AM

Video: Mikko Hirvonen testing

Posted: July 26, 2011 10:32 AM

LOW FLY ZONE FOR DENNIS KUIPERS

Posted: July 25, 2011 11:44 PM

The FERM World Rally Team is on the eve of yet another unique event: Neste Oil Rally Finland. Dennis Kuipers and Frederic Miclotte are ready for a high-speed two-day adventure in their Ford Fiesta RS WRC after successful preparation in Estonia.

The eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship runs through the gentle and smooth gravel roads of the impressive forests of Finland. The paths are wide, mostly straight with the occasional gentle curve or hill.

“This is the fastest rally of the season,” says Kuipers. “You drive almost exclusively in the fifth and sixth gear, between 150 km and 200 km per hour. That makes it a very difficult rally. You need to work as a team to get used to the speed and jumps over the hills. The speed also makes the notes more important because there is very little margin for error.”

In 2010 Dennis and Frederic were introduced to the recalcitrant nature of this competition when they rolled on the 13th special stage. “Especially on the slower parts of the rally lies the danger, you must be quick to change the pace. For the Scandinavians, driving on these roads is second nature. For me, as a Dutchman, it is not.”

To prepare for this rally the FERM-team participated with a FERM Ford Fiesta S2000 in the Rally of Estonia earlier this month. This rally is similar in nature to Finland and Dennis finished eighth overall and third in the S2000 class.

“The rally went very well. I am very happy with the speed we found. It will also help us to make good notes in Finland,” said the Belgian navigator.

Miclotte is looking forward to the adventure in Finland. “It's one of the most difficult, if not the hardest rally of the season. Finland is not without danger, but the high speeds give me a kick. We will try to push on every special stage.”

Fisher aiming to get Academy challenge back on track

Posted: July 25, 2011 11:28 PM

Alastair Fisher will be aiming to get his FIA WRC Academy challenge back on track with a strong result when the third round takes place on Neste Oil Rally Finland later this week (July 28-30).

Fisher, a highly rated rally driver from Northern Ireland, is competing against 17 other rising stars this season for a 500,000 Euros career progression scholarship, which is handed out to the winner of the WRC Academy Cup, a six-round series supporting the World Rally Championship in countries across Europe.

Despite scoring points on the opening event in Portugal in late March, a mechanical failure on round two in Italy in early May forced his retirement on the very first stage. The 22-year-old from Trillick in County Tyrone now plans to bounce back in Finland, regarded as the world’s fastest rally due to its long straights and flat-out jumps.

“The aim has to be to get on the podium,” said Fisher. “We’ve not had the best of starts to the year so it’s important we leave Finland with some solid points. Hopefully we can achieve that.”

Fisher has prepared for the high-speed gravel rally with a test in Finland earlier this month followed by an outing on Rally Estonia, a non-championship event using similar stages to those found in Finland, where he finished third in class A6.

“I’ve never done the rally before but I feel we can hit the ground running following our preparations,” said Fisher. “I learned from the test that you have to be positive over the jumps, although you still need to adopt a certain amount of caution because heavy landings aren’t very good for the car.”

Fisher and co-driver Daniel Barritt, from Burnley in Lancashire, will tackle 18 special stages over a competitive distance of 173 miles during the course of the rally. Action gets underway on the afternoon of Thursday, July 28 and concludes on the evening of Saturday, July 30.

The event is based in the university city of Jyvaskyla in the centre of the country, although Friday’s stages will be based further south around the town of Lahti, famous for its winter sports, to take advantage of larger areas of population.

All drivers will use identical Ford Fiesta R2s, prepared by the British M-Sport operation, which run on Pirelli control tyres.

Q&A: Alastair Fisher

What’s your strategy for the rally?
“Well it’s Finland and I’m sure everyone will be attacking from the word go, so I guess we will have to do the same. But it’s important not to take any big risks. We only have a remote service on Friday so it’s important we keep our noses clean – we’ll only be able to carry limited parts.”

What are your earliest memories of Rally Finland?
“Watching on television when Markko Martin won for Ford in 2003. I was a big fan of his and I especially remember the massive jump he did.”

Did you ever think one day you’d be competing on the event?
“The television footage certainly inspired me to want to give it a go. There’s no doubt it’s the rally every driver wants to do because of the nature of the stages”

What’s your schedule for the week?
“We flew out to Finland on Saturday and have recce on Monday and Tuesday followed by a four-hour shakedown on Wednesday afternoon. That will give me a good chance to finalise the set-up.”

Apart from Rally Estonia what else have you been up to since your last Academy event?
“I did the Jim Clark Rally, a round of the British championship and we won the R2 class in my own Fiesta R2. I then made my debut in a Ford Fiesta Super 2000 on the Donegal International Rally in Ireland and finished second overall. I also graduated from the University of Ulster in Belfast where I was doing an Honours Degree in Construction, Engineering and Management.”

SOLBERG AND RÄIKKÖNEN READY FOR RALLY FINLAND

Posted: July 25, 2011 11:24 PM

Citroën Racing Technologies will provide both Petter Solberg and Kimi Räikkönen with a Citroën DS3 WRC for the Neste Oil Rally Finland, the eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The two Scandinavians will be among the crowd’s favourites in what has become one of the most famous events in the WRC.

Petter Solberg, currently fifth in the Drivers’ World Championship, will start the event as one of the most experienced drivers in the field with 169 WRC starts to his name, 13 at Rally Finland. It is also the home rally for Kimi Räikkönen and an event he has competed in the last two seasons in 2009-10.

The two drivers each spent two days at the wheel of the Citroën DS3 WRC on terrain similar to that of Rally Finland to prepare for this round.
“We worked in similar conditions to those of a works team,” said Benoit Nogier, the Citroën Racing Technologies team principal. “There was a combination of humps and wide, quick sections. The roads were comparable to the ones we’ll race on.”

“Our drivers were a bit worried about how the car would handle at very high speed. This test session has reassured them about the balance of the DS3 WRC. Petter Solberg was very happy with our setup. We did a good job to help him start Rally Finland as a potential victory contender. The fact that he’s got to grips with the car means that he can tackle this rally in a confident frame of mind.”

Kimi Räikkönen started his long Finnish week on Sunday 24 July with the Red Bull Road Show in Helsinki with Sébastien Loeb.

“Kimi loves his country and his rally,” insisted Benoît Nogier. “He really enjoyed his two-day test and he got the car to handle to his liking. He has a logical approach. He was his usual self, did not get excited and kept his unflappable calm. The road-show will help him to immerse himself in the atmosphere of the rally. We hope he’ll drive a consistent race and close the gap to the front-runners.”

Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson are currently lying fifth in the world championship with 73 points. Kimi Räikkönen and Kaj Lindström are eighth with 24 points from four events. In the manufacturers’ classification the Petter Solberg World Rally Team is fourth in front of ICE1 Racing in fifth place.

Breen will require ‘Sisu’ next Weekend

Posted: July 24, 2011 9:09 PM

Sisu is a Finnish word that loosely translates to English as ‘having guts’ and next weekend Irish rally driver Craig Breen will require plenty of sisu as he takes on World Rally Finland. The Waterford driver has prioritised the World Rally Academy this season and as the championship reaches the halfway point, Breen finds himself 45 points adrift of leader, Estonian, Egon Kaur. Attaining 13 points from the opening two rounds is scant reward for Breen’s endeavors. He held the upper hand on the opening round in Portugal but crashed out when leading with only four stages remaining. Then on round two in Sardinia, Breen was again the pacemaker, but a damaged sump meant he had to finish under ‘Super Rally’ rules. Nine fastest stage times over two events has shown Breen’s potential, however the former Billy Coleman Award Winner needs to win in Finland if he stands any chance of realizing his ambitions.

With a point for every fastest stage time in the class, the 45-point deficit is not insurmountable, but Breen knows he faces an uphill battle. "There’s no doubt about it, it’s a big task, but with points on offer, it is possible, I have little option only to go as hard as possible in Finland.”

Reflecting on his first round in Portugal, he remarked,
"I’m a little annoyed now, I should have been a bit cleverer. The accident happened on the second day, I was comfortable; I had a good lead, but then ran out of road and got stuck. Realistically I, and indeed a number of the others, will be looking for Egon to have a non-finish that would open it up."

This season’s event in Finland marks the third year in a row that Craig will compete in what is affectionately known as the Finnish Grand Prix. In 2007 Craig took top honours in the International Fiesta Sport Trophy and twelve months ago he debuted his Kick Energy Fiesta S2000 to 19th overall. He will be hoping to put the experience gained on the flat-out stages, tree-lined straights, endless yumps and blind crests.

Citroën Racing takes on the Flying Finns on home turf!

Posted: July 23, 2011 7:16 PM

1000 lakes, as many forests and a 55-point lead in the Manufacturers’ World Championship - the Citroën Total World Rally Team is tackling the second part of the season in the land of the Flying Finns with a lot of figures to be taken into account. Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena and Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia, respectively first and third in the Drivers’ World Championship, are competing in Rally Finalnd with the aim of continuing to reap a harvest of points. On the Flying Finns’ favourite playground, the Winning French are determined to continue their run of victories.

The second half of the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship is beginning with an away match for the Citroën Total World Rally Team. Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier are heading for Finland for the Jyväskylä Grand Prix where they will take on a horde of Finnish drivers.

Seven have entered for this round of the WRC, including Kimi Räikkönen in the ICE1 Racing Citroën DS3 WRC. Citroën has already conquered the 1000 Lakes, and its first victory goes back to 1962 when Pauli Toivonen and Jaakko Kallio won in a Citroën DS19. Twenty-six years later, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena scored their first victory on the ultra-quick Finnish roads.

In 2011, two Sébastiens will line up for the start determined to win, but also to count their points.
“We’re going to be up against highly-motivated rivals who are ready to defend their territory,” emphasizes Sébastien Loeb who has scored 146 points so far. “The titles at the end of the season are still our main priority. Victory in Finland isn’t an out-and-out objective. Depending on how I feel I’ll see how hard I want to push. So far I’ve felt very much at ease on gravel in the DS3 WRC. If that’s how I feel in Finland, it’ll give my confidence an extra boost!”

But the winner of the 2008 rally tones down his words:
“It’s not my favourite terrain. Maybe these roads don’t suit my natural style of driving. On the other hand the Finns are very much at home on them. They probably feel they’re taking fewer risks in an environment they know like the back of their hand. I remember that I had to give 200% to win this rally.”

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia made a big impression on their first outing in the event in a WRC in 2009. Last year, they drove a perfect rally and finished second only ten seconds behind the winner.
“I’m going to do everything I can to be on the pace right from the first stage,” says Sébastien Ogier, who has scored 124 points in seven rallies. “It’s important to bag a big haul of points in Finland. We know it’s going to be a difficult rally against local drivers who are always redoubtable on their home turf. But a victory here isn’t beyond our grasp. My aim is to put myself in a confident frame of mind right from the green light and to really push in the opening kilometers. That’s what was missing last year.”

Rally Finland has a slightly out-of-sync schedule and will begin on Thursday 28th July with three stages of around forty timed kilometers. On Friday and Saturday two legs of 134 and 140 kilometers will sort out the drivers. The Power Stage, broadcasted live on television, will be held on Saturday 30th July at 19h11 (GMT +2).
Please also note that Sébastien Loeb and Kimi Raikkonen will alternate behind the wheel of the DS3 WRC for the Red Bull Road show taking place Sunday 24 July on the Esplanad in Helsinki (from 14:00)

Three questions to Sébastien Ogier

Seven rallies, three victories and third place in the World Championship. How would you assess the first half of the season?
“I’ve scored three victories, but in one event I came away emptyhanded, which cost us dearly. Overall, though, the championship’s got off to a good start. With the exception of Sardinia, we’ve always been in the running for victory. We’re still in with a fair chance of winning the title at the end of the season. It’s very important to make a good start to the second half of the year. Next up are three tarmac rallies. It’ll be a tough task as I’m up against my team-mate, but it’s a great challenge for me.”

It’s your fourth outing in Finland. The roads seem to suit you…
“In 2008, we came to test the waters in a Citroën C2-R2. In 2009, it was a different story with the Citroën C4 WRC. We fought right till the end with the best local privateers and we set a fastest time in the second day. Last year was our first rally in the Citroën Total World Rally Team, and we finished second, ten seconds behind the winner. You need a certain amount of experience in this rally to really get to grips with the roads and avoid the traps. I like the layout of the stages and the high speeds.”

Do you feel ready to beat the Finns on home turf?
« Julien and I are motivated like never before. We know it’s going to be one of the most difficult rallies of the year as we’re up against the Finns. But beating them isn’t impossible. Last year, I was a bit surprised to finish so close to the winner. And we lost the ten seconds at the start of the rally when we were finding our marks.”

MINI WRC Team - Rally Finland - Preview.

Posted: July 23, 2011 7:12 PM

The MINI WRC Team is aiming to get both its cars to the end of the Neste Oil Rally Finland to give its drivers valuable competitive mileage in their MINI John Cooper Works WRCs. The team has been very busy with an intensive test programme since its World Rally Championship debut two months ago, and it now heads north for the next event on its 2011 agenda on the 28th/29th/30th July. Dani Sordo (ES) and Carlos del Barrio (ES) will again be driving the number 37 MINI, while Kris Meeke (GB) and Paul Nagle (IR) will be in the number 52 car.

“Finland is a specialist event, which always suits the style of the local Scandinavian drivers,” explained David Richards, Team Principal. “This early in our programme our primary aim is to put more competitive miles on the cars and to get both drivers through to the finish in strong positions.”

This will be the second WRC event on the team’s six-rally schedule, and since its first one in Sardinia has covered approximately 3,000 kilometres in testing on both tarmac and gravel. In the intervening months the MINIs have been in the UK at Cornbury Park and the Goodwood Festival of Speed, testing in Northern Italy, Germany and Finland, as well as taking part in the recce for the Greek WRC round.

The Finnish round of the WRC is one of the most famous events on the calendar. While this will be the first time there for the new MINI, in the 1960s the Mini enjoyed numerous successes in Finland. One of the drivers to appear on the podium in those days was Rauno Aaltonen (FI), so it is very fitting he will be at this year’s event supporting the team. One of his duties on the Saturday will be to present a MINI Countryman to two of his fellow Finns, Arttu Pihlainen, the world’s fastest downhill skater, and Peetu Piiroinen, a successful snowboarder. They won these cars, which are being given by BMW Suomi Oy, in races last winter and both have been customised according to the winners’ designs.

Dani Sordo:
“Finland is a really nice rally and what I would call typical of the sort you would expect in a World Rally Championship. I think I have done it about five times and always enjoy it. I also like the fact there are always lots of spectators, and I think maybe the most on any rally in the championship. It is an exciting rally to do as the roads are fast, we have lots of crests and there are big jumps. You really have to concentrate on all the stages as you are driving flat out, and in many ways it is like being on a race circuit. I was really happy after our test last week in Finland, as the car felt good, so I am going there with a lot of confidence for our performance in this rally.”

Kris Meeke:
“I have been to Finland twice before, but never in a WRC car. You have to treat this rally with respect, as it is most specific with regards to knowledge and I don’t have that knowledge, so I am going to treat it with caution. On some events you can make the pace notes and then drive a hundred per cent, but not here as there is a third dimension with the jumps. However, I am rally-hungry and can’t wait to get back after the long gap since Sardinia. The three day test we did last week went well, and I had a good feeling coming away from it. At the end of the day, that is what this year is all about, getting to know the car and the events.”

Centurion Latvala leads Ford's gladiators into battle in Finland

Posted: July 23, 2011 7:09 PM

Ford's Flying Finns will bid to extend their winning run in Rally Finland when the fastest and most spectacular round of the FIA World Rally Championship lifts off next week. Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen claimed a maiden victory on their home event in 2009 for Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila followed their tyre tracks to win last year.

Victory for a Finn in Rally Finland (28 - 30 July) elevates the winning duo to superstar status in a country where rallying is second only to ice hockey in popularity. For Latvala, winning the iconic event in his Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car would spark a double celebration as this will be the 26-year-old's 100th WRC start, the youngest driver in the sport's history to reach the milestone.

Hirvonen, too, has his eyes set on a second reason to celebrate after next weekend's rally. The man who lives close to the rally base of Jyväskylä will carry the home town support, and victory would provide the icing on his birthday cake, as he turns 31 the day after the finish.

Rally Finland is the eighth round of the 13-event series, and marks the end of a six-week break. Most of the action is packed into just two long and arduous days on Friday and Saturday, with a short opening leg on Thursday to whet the appetite. The distance is shorter than most rounds, but a greater intensity means both outright speed and endurance will be factors in deciding the outcome.

The rally is one of the jewels in the WRC's crown. Huge crowds will pack the forests to view the action and Ford's all-Finnish line-up will generate passionate support for the team's Fiesta RS WRCs. A revised route means the second leg will be new to the current generation of WRC gladiators, but the rally retains its mix of hard, wide and fast roads combined with narrower, more technical sections.

What hasn't changed are the characteristics of the smooth gravel speed tests which make this one of the most difficult events in the calendar. The blisteringly fast roller-coaster roads are littered with awesome stomach-churning jumps, which frequently hide bends over the crests.

They demand extreme bravery from the driving seat, and pinpoint accuracy in the delivery of pace notes from the co-driver's side, and it is essential to select the correct line before 'take-off' to ensure maximum pace through the following curves. Finns who nurtured their careers on roads of this nature have an advantage over 'outsiders', and only seven non-Finns have won in the rally's 60-year history.

Hirvonen, second in the drivers' standings, acknowledges he feels an extra buzz ahead of his home rally.
"Rally Finland is special," he said. "I'm competing in front of family and friends and it provides an extra boost for me to try to win. It also brings more expectation, as the Finnish fans support Jari-Matti and myself and they want to see one of us win. It's more pressure, but good pressure.

"The new stages will be interesting. I drove some of those roads in 2001 and 2002 when I competed in the national championship, but it was a long time ago and I can't remember them. Perhaps during the recce before the rally I will start to recall some sections. A win here is important, not just because it's my home rally, but also because I need maximum points for the championship," added Hirvonen.

Latvala completed two days of testing in Finland on Wednesday, before Hirvonen took the wheel for two further days, and was impressed with the Fiesta RS WRC. "The car has become increasingly more stable as the season has progressed and it feels great on the fast roads and jumps," he said. "It's such a quick rally that a driver must know his limits and be sensible. You don't want to be frightened at the wheel, but you must be able to feel the fear and recognise where those limits are.

"The pace is such that every error in Finland is magnified, and to win you need to have a perfect drive from the first corner to the last. These are the most difficult gravel roads in the world on which to compete and so much thought has to go into the lines and braking points for jumps. The perfect jump is not too high, with the car landing on all four wheels, like a cat. It requires a higher level of concentration than any other rally.

"To reach 100 starts feels strange. For me, a driver who makes his 100th start has been in the sport a long time, but I'm only 26 and don't feel I've been around a long time. Perhaps I have!" he added.

Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr return to the championship for the first time since Rally Italia Sardegna in the team's third Fiesta RS WRC. Al Qassimi is nominated for Team Abu Dhabi and will aim to improve on ninth place in 2009, his best Finland result from four starts. "The last four years with Ford Abu Dhabi have been my best in motorsport, and I hope to celebrate Abu Dhabi's fourth anniversary with the team and WRC with a strong result," said Al Qassimi.

Team News

* Michelin's Latitude Cross gravel tyre will be used by the Ford Abu Dhabi drivers and will be available in soft compound only. Teams are not allowed to hand-carve additional cuts into the tyres and each car can carry two spare wheels.

* Seven privately-entered Fiesta RS WRCs supplement the three official entries. Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin and Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson are nominated by the M-Sport Stobart Ford team, which has also entered Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor and Evgeny Novikov / Denis Giraudet. Dennis Kuipers / Frederic Miclotte and Rene Kuipers / Annemieke Hulzebos are entered by the FERM Power Tools World Rally Team. Finns Jari Ketomaa / Mika Stenberg complete the entries.

* The rally is the fifth round of the S-WRC support category. Four registered Ford Fiesta S2000 cars are entered, headed by Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek, who lie second in the championship. It is also the third round of the FIA WRC Academy, the sport's new training programme for young drivers, which is supported by Ford. Sixteen crews will compete over the first two days of the rally in identical Fiesta R2 rally cars, which have been supplied by Ford and prepared by M-Sport. Forty of the 124 competitors are entered in Ford cars.

* The team will unveil a new two-floor team headquarters. The ground floor contains a large open area for guests, a kitchen and toilets. The first floor has four meeting rooms, a physiotherapists' room, two offices for engineering staff and a centre area for team personnel. The HQ has 14 TV screens across all areas, showing stage times, maps and promotional information. It will take a team of 24 staff four days to erect the facility and two days to take it down again.

Rally Route

Although Jyväskylä's Paviljonki exhibition area is again the rally hub, route changes take the event south to Lahti, covering roads not used in the WRC since the 1980s. Thursday's opening action covers three stages close to Jyväskylä, including the popular Laajavuori test around the ski jumping arena. The second day journeys down the west side of Lake Päijänne, the stages around Lahti taking the event just 80km from Helsinki. After remote service in the city and a super special stage at the city's Jokimaa trotting track, the route heads back to Jyväskylä along the eastern shores of the lake. The final day heads west of the town to more familiar territory, tackling stages near Keuruu, Korpilahti and Petäjävesi used last year. Drivers tackle 21 stages covering 314.39km in a route of 1355.21km.

World Rally Radio LIVE from Rally Finland

Posted: July 23, 2011 7:03 PM

Neste Rally Finland, Round 8 of the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship, gets under way on Thursday, and World Rally Radio will be broadcasting from Finland throughout the event, bringing live reports and interviews from the Stage Ends and Service Park.

Many experts call Finland the best of all rallies, with thousands of fans lining the stages, and some of the greatest jumps and leaps in the world.

Becs Williams anchors the programming, and Colin Clark leads the Stage End reporting team.

You can listen to World Rally Radio on the free iRally App for the iPhone and iPad, available from the App Store. The station can also be heard through wrc.com.

On Air times:

    Thursday 28 1645 local, 1445 Ireland/UK
    Friday 29 0830 local, 0630 Ireland/UK
    Saturday 30 0730 local, 0530 UK

FIESTA S2000 CREWS SET FOR BATTLE OVER S-WRC LEAD

Posted: July 23, 2011 7:00 PM

Next week’s Neste Oil Rally Finland will mark the return of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship where the Ford Fiesta S2000 crews aim to reclaim the lead in the overall S-WRC standings.

M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta S2000 has already claimed seven podium finishes this season including three outright victories and with only ten points separating the top three Ford Fiesta S2000 crews, the competition is set to be fierce at the fifth round of the S-WRC.

Martin Prokop currently leads the way for the Fiesta S2000 crews and is second overall, 11 points adrift of the current S-WRC championship leader Juho Hänninen. Bernardo Sousa rounds off the championship’s top three and lies seven points adrift of Prokop. Ott Tänak is currently fifth – a mere three points behind Sousa. Frigyes Turán is seventh overall with a total of 21 points.

Prokop – who recently completed an endurance motorcycle ride from Prague to Paris - returns to the S-WRC in second place. The former J-WRC champion has had an impressive run already this season – taking a win at Rally Mexico followed by another podium in Sardinia. Prokop contested last year’s Rally Finland where he finished fourth in S-WRC and 13th overall. The Czech driver is hoping to use his extensive knowledge of the blisteringly quick Finnish roads to his advantage in order to secure his third podium of the year.

Ott Tänak had an incredible start to this year’s S-WRC - the young Estonian finished third at his debut in Mexico and took the win in Sardinia finishing a remarkable seventh overall – the best ever finish in the S-WRC. A stoke of bad luck for Tänak - who was leading after the first day in Greece - saw the driver lose the championship lead but with four rounds remaining and only 21 points separating the top five drivers, the title remains for the taking. The 23-year-old – who was part of the Pirelli Star Driver training programme last year – made an impression after winning in the P-WRC at last year’s Rally Finland and the Estonian will be aiming for a similar feat this year in S-WRC.

Reigning Portuguese Rally Champion Bernardo Sousa took a well-deserved victory at Jordan Rally earlier this year and his point-scoring consistency has made him another likely candidate to win the hotly-contested eight-round championship. The Madeira-based driver will be competing in Finland for the first time next week but is hoping that a pre-event test on Sunday will help the 24-year-old adapt to the notoriously quick and technical Finnish roads.

Frigyes Turán had a difficult start to the season but showed his capabilities behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta S2000 when he secured his first ever podium at the previous S-WRC round in Greece. The Hungarian driver will make his debut in Finland where the driver will be aiming for a clear run in order to secure more valuable points for the overall leaderboard.

Martin Prokop said:
“The championship has got very tight at the top - there are five drivers who could easily take the title so I think the competition for the next couple of rallies is going to be tough. I really want to finish on the podium - next week will be my seventh time in Finland so I’ve got a lot of experience at this event but this is rallying and anything can happen. I think the most important factor is to get to the finish without any problems and to keep the pressure on Hänninen.”

Bernardo Sousa said:
“I’ve been having a lot of physiotherapy recently to try and heal an old leg injury that I’ve had since the start of the season. Now I’m feeling much better but I’ve been missing rallying as I’ve not been in a car since Greece. Next week will be my first time in Finland and, for sure, it’s going to be one heck of a ride! The goal is to try and finish the rally, not to lose points for the boys in front and of course to get more experience for the future.”

Ott Tänak said:
“We’ve been really busy over the summer – we’ve done a complete rebuild of the car after the accident in Greece and I was also in Estonia with Markko last week helping out as a mechanic. We will have a test in Estonia this weekend but I’ve been to Finland twice before so I know the roads quite well - hopefully this will give me an advantage over Sousa and Turán who will be going there for the first time. For sure, I’d like to finish on the podium but as I have said before, my aim for this year is to get as much experience in the car as I can and not to make any silly mistakes.”

Frigyes Turán said:
“Finland is one of the most spectacular but one of the most difficult rallies on the calendar. My co-driver and I have both been there as spectators and it’s a very exciting rally with amazing jumps. Many of our opponents know the stages well and that experience is a great advantage for them. We do have some videos of the stages so that's how we started our preparation but we need to concentrate on the recce and to make the best possible notes. Kruuda used our car at Rally Estonia last week and he took good care of it. We are now ready for the challenge in Finland and our primary goal is to get as many points as we can. For sure, the rhythm and the speed of the stages are new for us but we will do our best.”

M-SPORT STOBART SET SIGHTS ON ANOTHER WRC PODIUM

Posted: July 23, 2011 6:58 PM

The M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team are looking to continue their record-breaking stint of top five finishes in the FIA World Rally Championship by targeting another top result at next week’s Neste Oil Rally Finland.

The first half of the WRC season got off to a dream start for the Cumbria-based squad as Mads Østberg finished runner-up on his debut in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC – the team’s best ever result. The 23-year-old Norwegian has since reported his desire to challenge for a second podium for the M-Sport Stobart team during the season’s second half.

Several changes are planned for this year’s 61st anniversary of the “Finnish Grand Prix” including a remote service and a super special stage in Lahti on Friday. There will also be six new stages for this year’s rally which hosts the highest number of entries in a WRC event since 2000.

Fresh from their victory at the Auto24 Rally Estonia last weekend where they pipped five-time WRC event winner Markko Märtin to the finish, Mads Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson are feeling confident ahead of the eighth round of the WRC. The pair also signed with a new sponsor yesterday – NAS – who are a Norwegian automotive company.

Estonia proved itself as excellent preparation for Finland with the fast, flowing stages giving the crews a taste of what to expect when they take on one of the calendar’s classic rallies next week. The event also marked the Ford Fiesta RS WRC’s first victory outside the WRC – a fantastic achievement for the M-Sport Stobart duo who are looking to secure a second WRC podium this season.

Britain’s Matthew Wilson has proved his ability behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta RS WRC with two top five results already under his belt this season.

The 24-year-old has been spending the summer break working on his fitness whilst also testing M-Sport’s new Ford Fiesta Regional Rally Car (RRC) - both in Cumbria and in Poland. Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin will be looking to further benefit from a test they have planned in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC over the weekend.

Norway’s Henning Solberg spent the summer working with sponsors but also joined the voice cast of Disney Pixar’s Cars 2 movie alongside brother Petter Solberg. After a difficult start to the 2011 season, Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor finished fifth in Greece and Solberg is now only four points behind Kimi Räikkönen in the WRC drivers’ standings.

Next week will be the 12th time that Solberg has contested Rally Finland and the driver’s best result is from 2006’s event when he finished fourth overall. As one of the most experienced WRC drivers in the field, the M-Sport Stobart driver will be looking to take advantage of his past knowledge of the Finnish roads in order to move ahead of Räikkönen in the overall leaderboard.

Evgeny Novikov is the final driver who will be driving under the M-Sport Stobart banner in Finland. The Russian earned a reputation during the first half of the season as a blisteringly quick driver, consistently chasing the WRC front-runners and setting a string of top three stage times.

Novikov’s last outing at 2009’s Rally Finland made him a firm favourite with fans as he wowed crowds after he landed his car on its rear bumper and nearly flipped it during the well-known Leutsu stage. The 20-year-old later retired from the event but this year Novikov is aiming to finish the rally and to gain more experience in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Mads Østberg said:
"Estonia was fantastic last weekend – not just because we took the victory but also because we tried several different set-ups and we found one that I am now very happy with. I am very pleased with how the rally went - it was a hard fight with Märtin, he was faster than us on the first day but we had good pacenotes. The rally has also prepared us nicely for Finland - we have worked hard to try to get back on the podium after Rally Sweden at the start of the season and now we want to get on the podium again. I think Finland could be a good opportunity for us and we really want a good result at this event – both for the championship and for our sponsors.”

Matthew Wilson said:
“Finland is definitely one of my favourite rallies and it’s known as the “Finnish Grand Prix” for a good reason as the spectators and atmosphere is just incredible. I’m also relieved we’re doing a small test before this rally - it always helps to have some time in the car before the rally starts, especially in Finland as it is such a technical event and the speeds are so high. I’ve been there six times before so I’m in a better position than some of the other drivers – I definitely think Finland is a rally where experience really matters. The new stages this year will be an added difficulty but it’ll help shake things up a bit and I think it’s a good idea that the organisers add a few new stages as it helps to make it a fairer rally for everyone competing.”

Henning Solberg said:
“I’m feeling really positive after a good result in Greece and I’m looking forward to getting back to the WRC – Finland is one of the oldest events on the calendar and one of my favourite rallies. It’s got some of the fastest stages of the year and you need to be brave if you want to succeed but it’s not all about going flat-out, there’s some very technical sections too. I’ve spent the summer break working with sponsors and trying to ensure I will be here for the rest of the year, it’s looking likely now but I’ve still got a bit of work to do. I’m just really looking forward to getting back in the car and I just want to finish with a good result for my sponsors.”

Evgeny Novikov said:
“The WRC has no easy stages and Finland is no exception - when you drive the forest roads for the first time you need very accurate pace notes and it is worth having some information beforehand. It’s important to know where to turn on the high speed and how to approach the jumps. This year my task is just to finish and no more than that. There is no doubt that the Finnish drivers have the huge advantage as they have grown up in this country and are used to driving these roads frequently. I know it will not be easy to compete with those guys but I like this event a lot - there are also a lot of fans from all around the world, particularly from Russia and I always appreciate the support from my home country.”

PIRELLI-SUPPORTED WRC ACADEMY SET FOR HIGH-SPEED FINNISH STAGES

Posted: July 23, 2011 6:55 PM

A little more than two months since the FIA WRC Academy intake was last in action, the young driver training series resumes next week with the fastest event of them all, Neste Oil Rally Finland (28-30 July).

Based in the university city of Jyväskylä in the centre of the country, Rally Finland represents a huge test of commitment for the sport’s future stars as they drive flat-out over high-speed, tree-lined stages, where blind crests are commonplace.

The stage surface in Finland is formed of compacted, albeit smooth gravel. While this is not as arduous as the rocky roads found on the island of Sardinia, venue for round two of the six-event FIA WRC Academy Cup, the rapid nature of the tests in Finland puts the onus on tyre wear.

In order to counter this threat, Pirelli, the official tyre supplier to the WRC Academy, will provide crews with its medium-compound Scorpion K4 tyre to ensure a balance between endurance and high levels of grip in the event of rain, which can occur during Finnish summers. Each driver receives a total of 18 tyres for use during the pre-event test and the rally itself, which covers 18 special stages over a competitive distance of 278.28 kilometres.

“Finland is the ultimate test for any young driver, just because of the speeds and the commitment involved,” said Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s Motorsport Director. “It's a rally that every driver wants to win – particularly the Academy drivers who are all out to prove a point. We've seen great performances from the drivers, cars and tyres this year but Finland is one of the biggest tests yet, because of the constant jumps and compressions. The tyres that we supply to the Academy have a particularly hard life, as the young drivers who are the stars of tomorrow push them to their limits to try and get noticed.”

Seventeen of the sport’s brightest young talents will be on WRC Academy duty in Finland. They will all drive identical Ford Fiesta R2s prepared and run by the British M-Sport operation from a base in Poland and using Pirelli control tyres. After two rounds in Portugal and Italy, Estonian Egon Kaur heads Argentine Miguel Baldoni by 32 points in the WRC Academy Cup standings. Australian Brendan Reeves, one of six Pirelli Star Drivers competing in Finland, is third overall.

Italian tyre firm and the FIA, motorsport’s world governing body, established the Pirelli Star Driver scheme in 2008 to unearth future young talents from across the planet. The other members of the programme are Fredrik Ahlin, Craig Breen, Jan Cerny, Andrea Crugnola and Molly Taylor.

The first crew is set to cross the finishing ramp at 18:30hrs local time on Saturday 30 July.

Video Clip - Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle Pre Finland Test

Posted: July 13, 2011 3:16 PM

Seeded Entry List

Posted: July 11, 2011 10:41 AM

Entries Received to date: (23/6/11)

Posted: June 27, 2011 12:59 PM

Regulations / Rally Guide / Event Website / Details

Posted: January 2, 1990 3:03 PM

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