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Finland (S A) - 2-4 Aug 12

Posted: August 3, 2012 6:27 PM - 6521 Hits

Round 8 - 2012 World Rally Championship
S - S2000 Championship
A - WRC Academy

Live Results (Finland 2012)
Radio: WRC All Live Audio Stream
News: irallylive.com

First stage each day (Times are Irish/UK, Finland is 2 hours ahead)
SS1 Thu - 15:23
SS4 Fri - 05:42
SS13 Sat - 05:56

M-SPORT DUO LOOK TO EXPERIENCE AND 'SISU' FOR FINNISH SUCCESS

Posted: July 31, 2012 1:50 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'I attended the Moscow Rally Show, just as a spectator, this month. It was a lot of fun with lots of great cars. I also test drove a couple of super cars for a local magazine in Russia [TV channel, 'Russia 2'], giving them my feeling of the cars, which was also a lot of fun.

'As I say, we will have to judge our pace when we get there [to Finland], but as always we will try our best and hope for another good result.'

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

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

Molly Taylor at Neste Rally Finland

Posted: July 31, 2012 1:46 PM

After the tarmac of Belgium and Italy, the gravel of Finland for the strong Australian driver of United Business. Next weekend Molly Taylor and Seb Marshall, with the DS3 R3T in the United Business livery followed by BP Racing, will tackle the fast special stages of the great race of Jyvaskyla, where in 2011 at their debut they finished in ninth place among the crews taking part in the WRC Academy.

Molly Taylor said:
"I am delighted to have the opportunity to return to the stages of Rally Finland, and I am working with the team to increase my feeling with the car. We will do a test before the race and I hope to get a good result to thank everybody at United Business and BP Racing for their efforts".

After this race, United Business together with BP Racing and Molly Taylor will decide whether to contest Rally Deutschland or another World Rally Championship event.

Neste Rally Finland will start from Jyvaskyla on Thursday, August 2nd at 13:30 and will end on Saturday 4th at 21:00 in Jyvaskyla after 1,625 km, of which 303 timed divided into 18 special stages.

Proton: Neste Oils Rally Finland preview

Posted: July 29, 2012 9:52 PM

And the roads just keep getting faster...

After a pace-setting second place on some of the smoothest and fastest roads in the southern hemisphere, the PROTON Motorsports team return top-side of the equator for round five of the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship, next week’s Neste Oils Rally Finland.

And Finland, if you didn’t know, is the fastest of the fast. Not for nothing is this event known locally as the Jyvaskyla Suurajot, Jyvaskyla Grand Prix.

Across the spread of the SWRC season, the crews will not drive their cars faster or fly them further than they will in Finland next week. And the PROTON Motorsports team arrives with one result in mind: a win.

Having set the pace through the early part of the season, the Malaysian manufacturer has been unlucky not to register more than a single success on Rally Sweden. P-G Andersson (Sweden) and Juha Salo (Finland) aim to put that right through the woods of central Finland next week.

PROTON has tested extensively for this event, having worked on a new specification for the Satria-Neo S2000 – which won out of the box on the Malaysian Rally round of the APRC earlier this month. Most recently, Andersson and Salo drove the test car for two days in Estonia and will shake their rally cars down at an official test close to rally HQ in Jyvaskyla tomorrow (Sunday July 29).

Next week will be the first time Finnish fans will have the chance to see the PROTON Satria-Neo S2000 in action. And, for an event which has been dominated by locals (only four times in the WRC history of Rally Finland has this event been won by anybody other than a Nordic driver), PROTON is very happy to have Nordics in its two factory Satria-Neo S2000s.

As has become the norm on this event in recent years, the mainstay of the action will take place through Friday and Saturday. The event starts on Thursday (August 2) afternoon with three stages (one of which, Mynnila is completely new) in the Lahti area providing the perfect loosener for two days of flat-out sport.

And the great names which have become associated with Rally Finland, nee the 1,000 Lakes, are all in place. From shakedown over the rollercoaster road of Ruuhimaki all the way through to the classic Ouninpohja finale, next week’s Rally Finland is going to be one of the highlights of the season.

Prepare for takeoff…

Quotes:
P-G Andersson said:
“After driving on such slow and twisty roads [on the last APRC round] in Malaysia, coming here to Finland is completely the opposite – the roads here are so fast. It definitely takes you some time to remember just how hard you can push and how hard you can drive cars through these corners. Like all drivers, I love to fly and this is one of my favourite rallies of the year; it’s a fantastic feeling to take off in the car when you are absolutely flat out in sixth gear. In Malaysia, we saw that the new homologation was working well and it’s clear after the test that it’s already really helping in the high-speed roads as well. I need to win this SWRC round and I feel we have the speed to do that – we saw that on the last SWRC event in New Zealand. And now we are coming back to my home rally a little bit more. Hayden Paddon won at his home, now I am ready to take him on closer to my home. It’s going to be a great event.”

Juha Salo said:
“Every time I get out of this car, I’ve got a bit smile on my face! It’s incredible to be here with the PROTON Motorsports team and in the Satria-Neo S2000 – this is definitely the biggest opportunity of my life. I did already a test in Wales, but then another day in Estonia yesterday (Thursday) which was really useful for me; I am lucky that Chris has given me so much time in the car, this has helped me to adapt my driving style. I have driven Group N cars for so long, but this is a completely different style with S2000 car – it’s like a switch. I have turned off Group N in my head and turned on S2000. Of course, I am wanting to win SWRC in Finland, that is the dream result, but I have to remember this is the first really big competition for me in this car and I have to make sure I am at the finish of the rally for PROTON.”

Chris Mellors (MEM team principal) said:
“We’re all feeling very happy with the car after the test, we found some great roads which are really representative of Finland. We did a couple of hundred kilometres yesterday and the same again today and we’ve had no issues at all. The car and the crews are all looking in great shape. We’ve got a very strong team here: P-G’s pedigree is obviously very well known – and he’s shown tremendous speed in Finland before and having a Finn in the other car is great, because this is such a specialised event. The changes we made to the car before Malaysia improved the Satria further and we’re confident of taking that another step in Finland next week. The car’s got better traction and balance and it understeers less. All-in-all, we’ve got a very well-behaved car in time for the next round of the SWRC.”

CITROEN DRIVERS IN OLYMPIC FORM

Posted: July 29, 2012 9:47 PM

Constantly improving since the start of the season, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul will be competing at Rally Finland in the Citroe?n Junior World Rally Team’s DS3 WRC. After taking part in Rally Estonia as part of their preparations, the Belgian crew hopes their experience will help them to master the Finnish jumps. Due to his commitments at the London Olympic Games, Nasser Al-Attiyah will be replaced by Chris Atkinson in the Qatar World Rally Team car. With Ste?phane Pre?vot still his co-driver, the Australian has high hopes of doing well on stages that he really loves.

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

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

Rally Finland will not feature Nasser Al-Attiyah this year. The Qatari had already missed out on the New Zealand trip to concentrate on preparations for the London Olympics Games. As he will be competing in the skeet shooting competition (clay pigeon shooting), Nasser will not be able to take part in the Finnish round of the WRC. Whilst his fellow WRC drivers will be busy with reconnaissance on Monday 30 July, he’ll be heading for the Royal Artillery Barracks to take part in the qualifying round. The final is scheduled to take place the following afternoon. Consequently, the no.7 Citroe?n DS3 WRC will be driven by Chris Atkinson, accompanied by co-driver Ste?phane Pre?vot. The Australian and the Belgian are pleased to be rejoining Citroe?n after taking part in the 2009 Rally Ireland in a C4 WRC.
“I am very pleased to get this opportunity and really enthusiastic about competing again at Rally Finland,” commented Chris. “I’ve already taken part in this rally five times and I finished on the podium last time I was here in 2008. Although I have moved away from the WRC, I’m still actively involved in rally and have been competing in the Asia-Pacific Championship. I hope I can get on the pace with the DS3 quickly, which seems currently to be the best WRC. The four works drivers seem very determined to fight it out for the win, but I hope I can mix it with the leaders!”

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

Citroen: TAKING ON THE FINNISH ROLLER-COASTER!

Posted: July 29, 2012 9:43 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

THREE QUESTIONS FOR... MIKKO HIRVONEN

Do you feel any extra pressure for Rally Finland? How important is this event in your country?
“Obviously, I felt a bit more pressure in 2010 and 2011. But each time, the rally didn‘t go very well for me. This year, my mindset is different. I feel confident because I know that the Citroe?n DS3 WRC will be formidable on this surface. I can’t wait to get racing on the first few stages. The city of Jyva?skyla? certainly goes through a bit of a transformation as the start of the event approaches. Everyone starts talking about the rally and people make extensive preparations for the event, organising their trips to watch stages with their friends and families. The closer we get to the start, the more the excitement becomes palpable. In the local newspapers, more or less bizarre predications begin to appear: who will win the first stage, who will go off first, etc. It really is a major event in Finland, because the Finns are truly passionate about rallying.”

What do you think about the 2012 route? Can we assume you’re pleased to see the Ouninpohja stage back in the rally?!
“It is really good to see the old stages back on the itinerary. There will also be some brand new stages, such as the Mynnila? test, which will be a new experience for everyone. Of course, I am pleased that Ouninpohja is back. It’s an incredible stage, one of the two or three best stages in the world. It is also one of the most difficult, because you are flirting with going off on every corner and on every jump! It’s flat out all the way and the feeling you get when driving is indescribable. You still feel the excitement even after passing the stop control, when you think about what you have just done.”

Se?bastien Loeb has won this rally twice, whereas you've only one victory here. Do you intend to put the record straight?
“What I can say for sure is that I will be tackling the rally differently to the last two years. I am going to be a little bit more cautious at the start. I don’t want to my chances to be ruined by Thursday afternoon. However, you can't afford to lose too much time because gaps that open up can be very difficult to close. When it comes down to it, yes, I want to get back on even terms with Seb. I really want to win this rally!”

Flat Out Finland For Ketomaa And DMACK

Posted: July 29, 2012 9:41 PM

DMACK will partner Finn Jari Ketomaa next weekend as he bids for a top finish on his home round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Rally Finland sees the series return after its short summer break for round eight and it’s an event which should suit Ketomaa.

Few non-Finns taste success on this rally due to the specialist nature of the high-speed gravel stages which ribbon their way through the smooth forest roads around Jyvaskyla.

The stages are flat-out, tree-lined roads with massive jumps, which catapult cars high into the air, to add to the challenge. However, Ketomaa will be aiming for a finish, as well as demonstrating his speed, when the event kicks off on Thursday. He led the rally overall last year after the first stage and has good experience of the specialist roads.

He will again campaign the Autotek-run Ford Fiesta RS WRC on what promises to be one of the fastest events of the whole year.

DMACK will supply Ketomaa and other competitors with its DMG+2 gravel tyre in S1 compound. The new closed pattern tyre was introduced as its joker on the Acropolis Rally but the compound is similar to that used successfully by DMACK in Finland last year.

It’s tread pattern should cope well on the smooth, hard wide roads but also deliver the grip and traction needed to master the soft, loose sandy stages.

The team is currently completing a two-day pre-event test to ensure Ketomaa is fully prepared for the challenge ahead. Finland is an event where testing pays off. As well as confirming final car settings, it’s also an important opportunity for Ketomaa to ensure he’s fully confident ahead of the start.

Event Details
One of the shortest events in the series with just 18 stages, Rally Finland will be a real sprint from the start on Thursday afternoon in Lahti. Competitors race three stages before they head back to rally base in Jyvaskyla for the overnight halt. Friday’s action takes place to the west of the city covering the traditional tests and finishing with a super-special around the trotting tract at Killeri. But Saturday’s final day jewel in the crown is the Ouninpohja stage, run at its full 33km length twice, with the second pass also qualifying as the Power Stage.

Dick Cormack, DMACK motorsport director, said:
“Rally Finland is one of the fastest events and that demands excellent high speed stability from our tyres. We believe our new DMG+2 should be well suited and we already know the compound works well after last year’s event. We’ve had a really positive two-day test with Jari and hopefully we can help him deliver a strong performance on his home event.”

Jari Ketomaa said:
“The first day of the test has been really good and we’ve worked hard to try different suspension, ride height and differential settings. Yesterday we tested on some softer roads with jumps and we have a very good feeling with the car and tyres. Today we move to a fast, wide road to finish off the preparations for the rally.”

Craig Breen Rallying: SWRC Finland Preview - A new Chapter Begins

Posted: July 29, 2012 9:16 PM

On his fourth visit to the World Rally Finland, Craig Breen is set for an emotional return to rallying after the death of his co-driver and best friend Gareth Roberts in June at IRC Targa Florio Rally.

Speaking about his return Craig said, "Next stop Jyvaskyla, this day had to come. It will be very emotional, stepping back into the car and not having Gareth with me will be extremely hard but we started this book three years ago, two careers coming together, moulded by friendship into one goal. Now I must see that goal through to fruition. The book stays the same; the goal stays the same it's just time for a new chapter.”

SWRC Finland heralds the second half of the Super 2000 campaign. The opening half of the year yielded a handsome quota of points for the WRC Academy Champion and Craig currently shares second place in the standings with Swede, PG Andersson on 43 points.

The adventure began with a baptism of fire or a better description rain, snow and ice on the famous Rallye Monte Carlo, where Breen took a maiden victory, the lead in the championship and a maximum 25 points.

The championship moved to Scandinavia next for SWRC Sweden and round two of the series. The Swede, PG Andersson driving on home ground took top honours with Breen backing up his Monte result with a fine second place (18 points) to lead the championship on 43 points.

For round three the championship was staged in the picturesque setting of the Algarve for SWRC Portugal. The expected sunshine event did not materialise as heavy rain on day one turned the gravel stages into a mud bath. Breen suffered his first non-finish after being caught out by a water splash, damaging the engine in his Kel-Tech Engineering Ford Fiesta S2000 sending him into retirement. The up side of the rally being the Irish drive still held the championship lead leaving the Faro Resort.

The 2012 SWRC consists of eight rounds with seven counting towards the title. Competitors contesting the championship were required at the beginning of the season to nominate one round to drop, Breen choose round four in New Zealand. On the event the Kiwi, Haydon Padden took the victory and a maximum 25 points score moving him into pole position in the overall standings on 62 points. PG Andersson also had a rewarding rally scooping second place and 18 points. This moving the Swede level with Breen on 43 points in the championship standings.

“We had an incredible start taking victory on the Monte. It was a marathon five day rally contending with all types of weather. Our win was a little muted as I was the only finisher in the category but I was delighted with my composure. We then backed up that performance with a great result in Sweden. Round three in Portugal was turned on its head by the weather, I was hoping to continue my good form but the rain turned the stages into a mud bath and the engine in my Fiesta cried enough after hitting a water splash. After deciding to drop round four in New Zealand, I knew my rivals would close the gap. Including myself all the main challengers have all dropped the one mandatory event so we’re all going to be contesting the final four events and it’s a straight fight for the title.” Said Craig as he looks ahead to the remainder of the season.

Now after a very entertaining first half of the season the second half looks even more mouth-watering as the top contenders for the title engage in a straight fight for SWRC glory. Wales Rally GB, Rally France and Rally Spain sees the second half of the year all being based in Europe and it all begins with what is known as the Finnish Grand Prix next weekend.

Neste Oil Rally Finland is based in the city of Jyväskylä, about 270 km north of the capital Helsinki. The most popular WRC rally of the season runs a slightly different format than that of the other WRC events. In place of the usual three day Friday,Saturday,Sunday schedule Finland tackles the first stages on Thursday evening. Friday’s schedule comprises of nine stages with six special stages to wrap up the event on Saturday.

“This is my fourth time to take on the event and my second time to drive the Fiesta S2000 in Finland and I’ve achieved a good result on every visit. Last year I had a great battle in the WRC Academy with Egon (Kaur) and I expect an even greater fight this year. There are nine registered crews in the SWRC field and this is further enhanced with Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen also entered in S2000’s. The nature of the rally dictates that the pace will be hot from the first stage. The start for me will be emotional; taking on that first test on Thursday will be very sensitive. It will also be my first event with Paul (Nagle). He has been very modest about entering the team under the circumstances; he has a lot of experience at WRC level. We will have a big work load from the time of getting to Finland, we can say that we will be using the event to bed together but both of us are very determined and 100% committed to getting a good result.”

PIRELLI-BACKED WRC ACADEMY PREPARES FOR RALLY FINLAND

Posted: July 27, 2012 12:08 PM

The Pirelli-backed WRC Academy will move to the home of rallying next week as the competitive feeder series returns after a nine-week break for Neste Oil Rally Finland (2-4 August).

Renowned for blisteringly quick roads that are lined by numerous trees and characterised by countless jumps and corners, Rally Finland is an event that favours the brave. More commonly known as the Finnish Grand Prix, Rally Finland is based in the student city of Jyvaskyla where tens of thousands of fans gather to watch the most iconic event on the world rally calendar.

Pirelli will be on hand to supply the WRC Academy crews with the highly successful K4 tyre. The Italian tyre manufacturer has developed a version of the K4 tyre specifically to suit the Ford Fiesta R2 in 175/70-15 K4 size. Based on the vastly successful Scorpion cover that was used on the World Rally Championship from 2008-2010, the K4 WRC Academy tyre is lighter than the Scorpion with a focus on performance as well as outright durability.

After winning the opening round of the season and after finishing runner-up at the previous championship round in Greece, Britain’s Alastair Fisher is currently leading the WRC Academy by eight points. To help Fisher prepare for his assault on the world stage, the Northern Irish driver has also been competing in this year’s Pirelli-supported British Rally Championship at the wheel of a Fiesta R2.

Former Pirelli Star Driver Elfyn Evans is second in the championship, proving that Pirelli’s programme helps young drivers sucessfully prepare for the next step in their rally career. The 23-year-old Welshman took a win on the Acropolis Rally back in May and will be gunning for another victory next week in an attempt to overhaul Fisher from the top spot.

Former Pirelli Star Driver Global Shootout winner, Brendan Reeves, is third in the championship, only three points behind second-placed Evans. One of six selected to compete in last year’s WRC Academy backed by Pirelli, the Australian finished fifth in 2011, and will be aiming for a podium finish next week in order to close in on the two Britons that lie out front.

In fourth place is Spanish driver Jose Suarez with 21 points and rounding off the top five is Dutch driver Timo van der Marel with 18 points. Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand finished third in the WRC Academy’s opening round but a retirement on the Acropolis Rally had dropped the driver back to sixth. Scotland’s John MacCrone is currently seventh, four points ahead of Sweden’s Fredrik Ahlin. America’s Christopher Duplessis is ninth with eight points, and lying in tenth place is Portugal’s Joao Silva with four points.

Pirelli’s motorsport director, Paul Hembery said: “Rally Finland is the one event that every driver wants to win, just because there is so much speed and commitment needed to succeed. It’s sure to be one of the toughest tests of the year for our young drivers in the WRC Academy, but in order to learn as much as possible about the event and our tyres here they above all need to be there at the finish. From a tyre point of view, Finland is very demanding due to the high speeds, frequent high temperatures and all the big jumps that characterise the rally. The tyre structure has to absorb the significant impacts generated by constant heavy landings, but despite this non-stop punishment our tyres have an impressive track record of both performance and strength on the rapid forest roads of Finland. As it’s one of the few weekends that doesn’t clash with Formula One, I’m looking forward to attending the event myself and catching up with our many friends.”

FISHER READY TO FLY IN FINLAND

Posted: July 27, 2012 10:56 AM

Alastair Fisher will be well prepared when he resumes his chase of the coveted FIA WRC Academy title on Neste Oil Rally Finland next week (August 1-4). The 23-year-old from Trillick in County Tyrone holds an eight-point advantage heading to the high-speed gravel event, dubbed the Finnish Grand Prix, in the Ford Fiesta R2 he shares with Burnley, Lancashire-based co-driver Daniel Barritt. Fisher tested in his native Northern Ireland last week, conducting several runs on a closed section of forest road, and will test again in Finland this Sunday (July 29), when he drives a locally-sourced Fiesta.

“It’s been more than two months since our last WRC Academy round in Greece so it’s good to get back,” said Fisher. “We were leading in Finland last season before we retired and I’ve improved a lot both as a driver and with my physical preparation since then. The test in Northern Ireland allowed Daniel and I to practice our pacenotes and because the road had a few jumps, which there are plenty of in Finland, we were able to develop a base set-up for the rally. Our test in Finland will allow us to get back into the ‘zone’ on a fast and wide road.”

Fisher is one of Britain’s most promising young rally drivers and is determined to build on his strong start to the 2012 season on Rally Finland, which is based in the university city of Jyväskylä and covers 17 special stages over a competitive distance of 168 miles. “Winning in Finland would be very special for my career and something I’d never forget because it’s such a prestigious rally but we can’t lose sight of the fact it’s all about the championship, that’s the priority,” he added.

Ford's sprinters aim to be quick out of the blocks in Finland

Posted: July 27, 2012 10:55 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team News
* Michelin's Latitude Cross gravel tyres will be used by the Ford drivers and 40 of these 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.

* Eight privately-run Fiesta RS WRCs are entered. Ott Tänak / Kuldar Sikk and Evgeny Novikov / Denis Giraudet are nominated by M-Sport Ford World Rally Team, while Adapta World Rally Team's Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson return after missing the previous round. Monster World Rally Team's Ken Block / Alex Gelsomino make their third WRC start of the year and Martin Prokop / Zden'k Hr'za crew the Czech Ford National Team car. Three Finnish crews complete the list, Jari Ketomaa / Mika Stenberg, Matti Rantanen / Mikko Lukka and Sebastian Lindholm / Timo Hantunen. Thirty-nine of the 86 entered crews will drive Ford cars, spanning 19 different nationalities.

* The rally marks the third round of the Ford Racing-supported FIA WRC Academy. Eleven young drivers will campaign identical Fiesta R2 cars over 17 of the rally's 18 stages. The series is led by Britain's Alastair Fisher / Daniel Barritt.

* The full 2012 Ford World Rally team merchandise range is now available following the launch of the new clothing series. Featuring T-shirts, polo shirts, fleeces and shell jackets, the range appears mainly in Ford motorsport blue, with white and black kinetic design panels. A limited edition range of merchandise will also be launched to celebrate the EcoBoost livery in which the team's Fiesta RS WRC will compete. Sneak previews will appear on Ford's WRC social media channels.

Rally Route
Route modifications have brought an itinerary that again journeys south to Lahti, but includes two full days around Jyväskylä, which hosts the single service park at its Paviljonki exhibition centre. Virtually all the locations are familiar, but some stages will be used in a reverse direction to keep crews on their toes. After an early afternoon start on Thursday, competitors convene at Lahti's picturesque harbour before tackling three stages as they return to Jyväskylä. A long day on Friday covers territory mainly west of the city before ending with a super special stage at the Killeri trotting track. The final leg includes classic tests south-west of the rally base near Jämsä. It closes with two passes over Ouninpohja, the second pass comprising the Power Stage with bonus points on offer to the fastest three drivers. An evening finish awaits in Jyväskylä after 18 stages in a route of 1625.69km.

FIA WRC ACADEMY CREWS GUN FOR GLORY ON THE 'GRAVEL GRAND PRIX'

Posted: July 27, 2012 10:39 AM

Returning to what is known to many as rallying's spiritual home, the FIA WRC Academy embarks on the third round of the season next week as the crews contest the legendary 'Gravel Grand Prix' at Neste Oil Rally Finland. Famed for its quick gravel roads, the Scandinavian event provides the ultimate test of speed, and with the series wide open, the crews will be out to impress.

The event will see the WRC Academy ' supported by Ford Racing in Europe and with control tyres from Pirelli ' contest almost the entire rally with 17 stages in total forfeiting only the final Power Stage. With the flat-out, tree-lined straights littered with endless 'yumps', Rally Finland demands a lot from the crews. Pacenotes need to be word perfect and the driver needs to have plenty of 'sisu' ' a Finnish phrase which loosely translates to 'having guts'. Concentration and commitment are key, and all will be looking for a strong result.

Currently leading the series after a win on the opening round in Portugal and a second place finish in Greece, Alastair Fisher will be a strong contender in Finland ' taking an early lead at last season's event until having to retire on the final day of competition. The Northern Irishman was joined by co-driver Dan Barritt this week as the pairing completed two days of testing to find the optimal set-up behind the wheel of their Ford Fiesta R2. Being as fully prepared as possible, the pairing will also complete a test in Finland on Sunday to get a feel for the characteristics of the Finnish gravel.

Following a dominant performance at the Acropolis Rally in May, Elfyn Evans and co-driver Phil Pugh will be looking for more of the same in Finland. Having contested a round of the Finnish Rally Championship - the SM O.K Auto-Ralli ' earlier this month, the pairing have already experienced the fast, flowing nature of the Finnish stages. Despite using the event to prepare his pacenotes and driving style for the third round of the WRC Academy, Evans secured second in class, just 24 seconds adrift of Andreas Amberg who is currently leading the 2WD class in the Finnish national Championship.

Already Finland bound for a private test ahead of the rally, the brother and sister pairing of Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Smyth have been hard at work over the summer break. Their pre-event test was funded by auctioning rally memorabilia on their facebook page and 20 spaces on the bonnet of their Fiesta R2. Reeves has also been working at a local rally school in his native Australia where members of the public can come and experience the thrill of driving a rally car with expert tuition from the 23-year-old.

After securing his first loose-surface stage win and narrowly missing out on fourth place in Greece, Spain's Jose Suárez will be looking to demonstrate his clear progression on gravel when he returns to the land of the thousand lakes with co-driver Candido Carrera. The pairing contested the Ourense Rallye as part of the Spanish Tarmac Championship last month, and the Spaniard is eager to get back behind the wheel to prove his potential.

With a podium finish at Rally Finland last year, Timo Van der Marel and Erwin Berkhof will be hoping for more of the same next week. Having contested the Exotic Green Rally behind the wheel of a Fiesta R2 in Holland last month, the Dutchman has been working on perfecting the optimum race set-up. On a rally where detailed pacenotes are key, Van der Marel and Berkof will be well placed ' Berkhof having navigated at the top end of the sport in the WRC and Van der Marel training as a co-driver himself before taking to the wheel.

After claiming a podium in Portugal and being on course for a second in Greece, Pontus Tidemand and Stig Rune Skjæmoren will be ones to watch in Finland. Currently lying sixth in the overall standings, the Swede travelled to Rally Bohemia in the Czech Republic to prepare for the WRC Academy's future closed-surface events this month. Closer to home, the 21-year-old joined forces with S-WRC navigator, Emil Axelsson - current co-driver to fellow Swede and two-time J-WRC champion P-G Andersson - as the pairing tackled Midnattssolsrally in Sweden behind the wheel of a Ford Escort RS BDG.

The summer break has been a busy one for Scotland's John MacCrone as he provided tuition to some of the Ecosse Junior 1000 drivers in his Fiesta R2. The Scotsman and co-driver Stuart Loudon also completed a recce of the Nicky Grist stages to perfect their pacenotes ahead of Rally Finland as well as sitting down with 1993 World Champion co-driver who gave the pairing advice on how to make the most effective pacenotes for the Scandinavian event. Being fully prepared, the pairing will complete a pre-event test on Friday to get a feel of the Finnish roads and put themselves in the best possible position for a strong result.

Having suffered cruel misfortune on the opening rounds of this year's WRC Academy, Fredrik Åhlin will be out to prove his pace when he contests Rally Finland alongside fellow Scandinavian Morten Erik Abrahamsen. The Swede has been working as a driving instructor for Audi and contested the SM O.K Auto-Ralli in Finland behind the wheel of a Fiesta R2 to prepare himself for the fast, flowing stages that lie in wait next week. Celebrating his birthday at the event, the soon-to-be 22-year-old's friends and family have also arranged a pre-event test for the youngster to be as fully prepared as possible in the lead-up to the 'Gravel Grand Prix'.

Chris Duplessis and new co-driver Alex Kihurani's addition to the Rally Finland start list makes them the first all-American pairing to contest the event in over 40 years. The pairing made their first appearance together at the New Forest Rally in America last month ' securing second in class and meaning that Duplessis need only start the final round of the Rally America series to be crowned 2WD Champion for the second successive year. In the build-up to Rally Finland, the charismatic American has also been running an impressive online auction for fans to help fund his rally dream with items ranging from a Chris Duplessis t-shirt, a passenger ride in his DirtFish Fiesta R2 and even a personal phone call from the man himself.

João Silva and co-driver Hugo Magalhães will also be in action in Finland on what will be only the Portuguese driver's sixth gravel event. Since Greece, Silva has forgone the driving seat for the managerial role ' coaching his girlfriend and preparing her Citroën C2 R2 in the Madeiran Rally Championship ' and honing his mechanical skills. Silva has also been reporting stage reviews for a local TV station in his native Portugal ' RTP Madeira ' for the Madeira Wine Rally which forms part of the European Rally Championship.

Also keen to impress in Finland, South African Ashley Haigh-Smith and British co-driver Craig Parry return for their second successive round of the WRC Academy. Haigh-Smith is fresh from class victory at the Volkswagen Rally in his homeland and will be hoping to carry the momentum through to Finland where he rejoins Parry who will prove a valuable asset on an event where clear and detailed pacenotes are essential.

Alastair Fisher said:
'I am really looking forward to getting back to Finland. It is shaping up to be a great event and I can't wait! For sure the competition will be tough. Pontus [Tidemand], Fredrik [Åhlin], Elfyn [Evans] and Brendan [Reeves] will all be quick here and John [MacCrone] will be one to watch too. It is an event where you need to be on the ball and the victory could be anyones!

'Dan [Barritt, co-driver] was here last week and we completed a two-day test session with the [Ford] Fiesta [R2]. Then on Sunday we have another test in Finland to get used to the roads so hopefully we will be pretty well prepared and have another good event.'

Pontus Tidemand said:
'I am really looking forward to Finland as this will be the first 'non-survival' rally of the season. It's all about flat-out driving and we all have the opportunity to really show what we can do.

'We completed a test in Finland with the [Ford] Fiesta R2 a couple of weeks ago to prepare. I had hoped to have done a few more competitive stages, but Bohemia Rally was cancelled after two stages and we retired early from Midnattssolsrally.

'This will be my first time competing on this event, and it is so fast that good pacenotes will be crucial.'

Aussie Atkinson eyes podium on World Championship return

Posted: July 27, 2012 10:15 AM

Queensland’s Chris Atkinson will be eyeing off a rostrum result for Australia on his FIA World Rally Championship return when the series heads to Scandinavia for the Neste Oil Rally Finland next week.

The 31-year-old will be competing in the latest spec DS3 World Rally Car as driven by eight-times world champion Sebastien Loeb thanks to support from Australian backers Brakes Direct, Rallyschool.com.au and the Australian Motor Sport Foundation.

With Olympic spirit in the air, the livery Atkinson will sport in Finland has been designed in true Australian style as he continues to represent his country, mixing it with the world’s best.

“I’m stoked to be back in the World Rally Championship and behind the wheel of a car which has won the last eight world championships in succession,” commented Atkinson.

“Last time we competed in Finland we tasted champagne and I hope to replicate this next week and do Australia proud just as our athletes in London will be doing over the next month.

“Finland is the mecca of world rallying and I can’t wait to be back behind the wheel, hitting massive crests at over 200km/h in front the hundreds of thousands of fans who head out to the event.”

Atkinson will compete for the Qatar World Rally Team with regular driver Nassar Al-Attiyah absent due to commitments representing his country in the Men’s Skeet shooting competition at the London Olympics.

Leaving his Gold Coast base last weekend, Atko has been familiarising himself with the warm Finnish climate and his new DS3 WRCar thanks to a full-day of testing this week before the real action gets underway next Thursday.

Currently leading the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship with the Skoda MRF team and having contested WRC Rally Mexico in March as teammate to Ken Block in the Monster World Rally Team, ‘Atko’ sits in great shape to take it to the best in world rallying in Finland.

“To have a full day test this week has lifted my confidence sky high and I’m hanging out in eager anticipation to get out and drive what are truly some of the most incredible roads on the planet,” Atkinson added.

“I’ve taken heaps away from the test and feel a lot more comfortable with the car and my engineer. One lapse in concentration in Finland and you’re gone so I’m definitely heading into the event a lot more relaxed now.

“I have to thank so many fans, friends and family back home who have helped me get back to the to the top of the game, plus support from some great Australian companies and the Australian Motor Sport Foundation for getting us over to Finland.”

Rally Finland is one of the most intense and insane sporting events on the planet. It has been dubbed the "Grand Prix on gravel roads" due to its high speeds and blind crests which sees cars constantly flying through the air at incredible speeds.

The event is among the largest annually organised public events in the Nordic countries, attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators each year. It has been run every year since the World Rally Championship’s inception in 1973 except for 1995 due to the brief round rotation scheme from 1994 to 1996.

Draft Entry List (Updated) / Paul Nagle named as Co-Driver for Craig Breen

Posted: July 12, 2012 3:03 PM

Chris Atkinson to drive a Citroën DS3 WRC in Finland

Posted: July 5, 2012 11:03 AM

Following the short summer break, the Citroën Racing team returns to action for round eight of the World Rally Championship at one of the quickest events in world rallying. The team will joined by a new crew as Chris Atkinson and his co-driver Stéphane Prévot have chosen to tackle the untamed roads of Finland in a Citroën DS3 WRC. They will be able to enjoy the expertise and support of Citroën Racing Technologies as they compete for the Qatar World Rally Team.

A major absentee from Rally New Zealand, unfortunately Nasser Al Attiyah will also be unable to take part in Rally Finland. Due to his Olympic Games’ commitments, the Qatari will miss out on driving on the 303 kilometres of timed stages that make up the most prestigious event in world rallying.

“Ever since Chris Atkinson took part in the 2009 Rally Ireland in a C4 WRC, we have kept in touch and maintained good relations with him”, revealed Benoit Nogier, Head of Citroën Racing Technologies. “As Nasser’s Citroën DS3 WRC was available for this rally, we offered Chris the chance to lease the car and compete for the Qatar World Rally Team. We are therefore very pleased to have him back with us in one of our Customer Racing teams for one of the championship’s flagship events.”

After twice winning the Asia Pacific Championship (Super 1600 class), in 2003 and 2004, the Australian driver then went on to compete as a works driver in the WRC. He achieved some strong results throughout the four years he took part in the championship. An experienced and very quick driver on gravel, Chris will be a formidable rival for the rest of the WRC field in Finland.

“We are really looking forward to racing with the Qatar World Rally Team”, enthused Chris Atkinson. “Competing in the best rally in the Championship in the best WRC is a superb opportunity and I can’t wait to test the car to share my feeling for it with the team and give them my initial feedback. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but we have got everything it takes to go after a good result here.”

Draft Entry List

Posted: July 5, 2012 10:45 AM

Regulations / Rally Guide / Event Website / Details

Posted: June 21, 2012 10:40 PM

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