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Finland - 29-31 Jul 16

Posted: September 23, 2016 6:59 AM - 5418 Hits

Round 8 - 2016 World Rally Championship

Paul Nagle / Kris Meeke

Craig Breen / Scott Martin


Posted: September 23, 2016 6:59 AM

M-Sport’s Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC had the speed to secure a strong result at this weekend’s Neste Rally Finland – claiming seven stage victories and challenging for the lead through the early stages.

Six of those stage victories belonged to the man who had the pace to win. Piloting his M-Sport prepared Fiesta, Ott Tänak was just 0.7 seconds adrift of the lead when he lost 50 seconds with broken suspension on the first pass of Surkee (SS5).

His bad luck continued with a front-right puncture on the second pass of Surkee (SS10) and a rear-left puncture through the first pass of Pihlajakoski (SS15). Yet despite losing more than a minute and a half to the leaders, he and co-driver Raigo Mõlder fought back to challenge for a podium position on the final day of competition.

Fate however had other ideas and denied the Estonians once again. With just 4.8 seconds to find in 27.13 kilometres, Tänak went off the road – hitting a rock after a crest and bringing his impressive performance to an end.

In the M-Sport World Rally Team, Mads Østberg and co-driver Ola Fløene were also setting stage-winning pace – posting the fastest time through the first pass of Saalahti (SS16). Thoroughly enjoying the flat-out blasts through the Finnish forests, the pairing put their experience to good use and also found themselves in the six-way battle for the podium.

Despite having to settle for sixth place overall, Østberg delivered a solid performance this weekend – progressing since the last outing in Poland. Following more than 330 competitive kilometres though some of the most demanding roads in the FIA World Rally Championship, the Norwegian finished just 20 seconds adrift of the podium.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Eric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas demonstrated their potential with a series of competitive performances that challenged their more experienced rivals. Unfortunately, the Frenchman’s inexperience was to prove his undoing through the first pass of Päijälä (SS14).

An overly optimistic pacenote was the culprit – forcing the pair into a high-speed roll. Thanks to the strength of the Fiesta, both walked away unscathed and are now fully focused on the asphalt outings that follow.

In the WRC 2 category, Elfyn Evans and Craig Parry were also securing stage victories – proving the Fiesta’s performance at all levels of competition and challenging the Scandinavians who are historically hard to beat in Finland.

Once again however, the Fiesta’s speed was to go cruelly unrewarded. Holding a strong second place behind local hero Esapekka Lappi, Evans suffered a power failure which left him without power steering on the second pass of Surkee (SS10).

Having dropped to sixth place overall, the Welshman posted a string of highly competitive times to climb back up to third place and claim valuable championship points.


Mads Østberg (6th) said:
“It’s been a really good weekend and we’ve been pushing hard on all of the stages. There’s been a fantastic fight for the podium throughout the entire rally. It’s quite incredible to see so many cars fighting for the top positions – and it’s just a shame that we’ve finished towards the end of that fight.

“I felt something wasn’t quite right on the back of the car and that prevented us pushing to our maximum today. It’s a shame that’s the way it ended – and that we had to settle for sixth – but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”

Éric Camilli (DNF) said:
“We knew before the rally that it would be challenging. Like Sweden, it is hard for a Frenchman to come here for the first time in a world rally car and show immediate speed, but I was actually quite pleasantly surprised by our times.

“It was a pleasure to be battling with the guys who have a lot more experience than us and we were gaining a lot of confidence with every stage. Maybe we gained a little too much confidence!

“Through the first pass of Ouninpohja (SS13) we could see that our pacenotes were too slow. All of our minuses were in fact pluses, so I decided to change them for the next stage (SS14). But one left-hand corner was a minus, not a plus. We went wide into the ditch and rolled the car at high-speed.

“Thankfully both myself and Ben were okay which is the most important thing and we have to put this one down to experience. We’ve learnt a lot this weekend and I think we have shown that we have the potential to do well in the future.

“Now, we are really looking forward to the Tarmac rallies. I have a lot more experience on that surface and a lot more knowledge. Germany is an event that I know quite well, and I hope it will be possible to do something there.”

Elfyn Evans (3rd WRC 2) said:
“It’s been a challenging weekend. Some problems on Friday put us on the back foot and dropped us down to sixth. Third place was probably the best we could have hoped for after that. We’ve had a clean rally with no mistakes and the speed has been really good in places too. It’s a shame as the result could have been a lot more.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been a rally of highs and lows, but we have to focus on the positives. The biggest positive has to be the performance of the Fiesta. Once again, we have proven that we have the pace to challenge for rally wins.

“We’ve secured seven stage victories this weekend, six of which come from Ott and Raigo. It’s just unfortunate that they weren’t able to translate an impressive comeback into a podium finish today.

“Mads has had a good weekend. He’s come away with sixth place, but when you look at the gaps he’s not far from the podium which is a big improvement on Poland.

“Eric will be kicking himself about yesterday’s mistake, but it’s all part of the learning curve and he’s already focused on the next event. He has a passion and determination to improve every aspect of his performance. That’s the sort of attitude that gives a driver the edge when nearing their full potential.

“Elfyn has driven extremely well this weekend. It’s incredibly difficult to beat the Finns in Finland and Lappi knows this place like the back of his hand. It was a shame to suffer some problems as Elfyn had the better of the rest of the field. Nevertheless, he comes away with a podium and secured some stage victories that prove the performance of the Fiesta R5 Evo.”

Meeke/Nagle wins record-breaking Finland

Posted: September 23, 2016 6:58 AM

Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke won Neste Rally Finland on Sunday afternoon with a record-breaking drive that set a new mark for the fastest FIA World Rally Championship round in history.

His 29.1sec victory over Jari-Matti Latvala shattered the Finn’s hopes of a third consecutive success on home ground and established a new speed record. Meeke’s 126.60kph average smashed Latvala’s performance on the same rally 12 months ago by 1.2kph.

Thirty-seven-year-old Meeke became the first British driver to win the Finnish classic and only the sixth non-Nordic victor in its 65-year history. He led for almost every kilometre of the four-day gravel encounter in a Citroën DS 3.

To seal a remarkable day for the Abu Dhabi Total team, which is tackling a part-time WRC programme this season, Ireland’s Craig Breen scored a maiden podium in third. He finished 1min 41.3sec behind Meeke, having claimed his first stage win this morning.

After establishing a solid lead on Friday, Meeke stamped his authority on this eighth round of the season with a stunning display in the legendary Ouninpohja stage on Saturday morning. He distanced Latvala by more than 13sec in the rollercoaster 33km test and could afford to measure his pace to the Jyväskylä finish.

“It’s a little bit crazy!” said Meeke. “Finland is the home of rallying and Ouninpohja is the Holy Grail of stages and to win both the rally and that stage in the way we did is incredible. I enjoyed it like a little kid, just playing and having fun. It has been exceptional.”

Latvala was demoralised by Meeke’s Ouninpohja performance and settled for second to climb to third in the championship. His only error came on the first day when he punctured a tyre after swiping a bank with his Volkswagen Polo R.

Breen, a former WRC junior champion, netted a podium in only his fourth event in a headline World Rally Car. The 26-year-old could not hold back the tears as he crossed the finish of the final stage. “It’s the best day of my life,” he said.

Thierry Neuville held off Hyundai i20 team-mate Hayden Paddon to take fourth by 2.3sec, both drivers unhappy with their car’s handling throughout the rally. Mads Østberg completed the top six in a Ford Fiesta RS.

Andreas Mikkelsen finished seventh in a Polo R, the Norwegian haemorraghing time yesterday as he opened the roads in slippery conditions and conceding more seconds after going off the road. WRC 2 winner Esapekka Lappi was eighth with Kevin Abbring and Teemu Suninen completing the top 10.

Ott Tänak’s hopes of grabbing third from Breen ended when he crashed into a ditch on Sunday morning. Sébastien Ogier retained the championship lead despite failing to score after sliding into a ditch.

The championship switches to asphalt next month when ADAC Rallye Deutschland is based in Trier on 18 - 21 August.

Overall win for Meeke/Nagle and a podium spot for Breen/Martin: a dream weekend for Abu Dhabi Total WRT!

Posted: August 1, 2016 5:01 AM

Competing at Rally Finland as part of its partial World Rally Championship programme, the Abu Dhabi Total WRT enjoyed a dream weekend. Just as in Portugal, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle took victory at what was the fastest ever WRC rally, covered at a whopping average speed of 126.6kph! Having constantly improved since joining the team at the start of the year, Craig Breen and Scott Martin racked up their first WRC stage win before going on to finish third overall!

After two long legs, the final day of Rally Finland was more like a sprint finish. The Lempää (6.83km) and Oittila (10.15km) stages were each run twice, with no service break.

Having amassed a healthy 41s lead over Jari-Matti Latvala, Kris Meeke could afford to control his pace, not looking to add to his impressive collection of stage wins. Whilst remaining focused on his own race, the Northern Irishman followed the progress of Craig Breen with great interest.

In the third car entered by the Abu Dhabi Total WRT this weekend, Khalid Al Qassimi did much the same. The Emirati driver admitted he found himself unable to fully concentrate on his driving as he was too excited by the prospect of seeing his team-mates finish on the podium at one of the season’s most iconic rallies.

Third overall this morning, Craig Breen was tracked by a group of heavyweight challengers: Ott Tänak, Thierry Neuville, Hayden Paddon and Mads Østberg were all within about twenty seconds of the Irishman!

After his stage win on SS21, Tänak had closed to within 4.8s of the Abu Dhabi Total WRT driver. The Estonian’s charge was brought to a halt, however, when he went off the road on the next stage. Slightly unnerved to see his rival stopped by the roadside, Craig eased off, losing a few seconds and allowing Neuville to close to within 6.6s!

Buoyed by advice from the team, which encouraged him to defend his position, the Irishman set off on SS23 determined to go for it. At the end of Lempää 2, he claimed his first ever World Rally Championship stage win, a tenth of a second ahead of Paddon!

Rally Finland concluded with the Power Stage. Obviously, Kris Meeke made no attempt to fight for the bonus points, preferring to make sure of his third WRC win, adding to the victories he secured in Argentina last year and in Portugal a few months ago. This result, the first time a British driver has won in Finland, was underlined by another record: that of the fastest rally ever. In covering the 333.6km of timed stages in 2:38:05.8, Kris and Paul set a new record average speed of 126.6kph!

Sixth in the Power Stage, Craig Breen and Scott Martin retained enough of a lead to complete their dream weekend and claim their first ever WRC podium in only their fifth appearance in a World Rally Car! Meanwhile, Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson finished in 16th position in the overall standings.

Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team will make its next appearance in the WRC at Rally China (9-11 September) with one car entered for Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle.


Kris Meeke (#7):
“For a WRC driver, winning Rally Finland is the ultimate goal before becoming World Champion. It’s an incredible feeling to win on the greatest roads in the world. This result was largely determined yesterday with the two runs on Ouninpohja. At the end of the first run, I didn’t know my time but I knew that I had driven really well. But I could hardly believe it when I found out that I gone thirteen seconds faster than Jari-Matti Latvala! Last year, in the other direction, he beat me by six seconds when I thought I had driven the perfect stage. That just goes to show the progress we have made, through a combination of work with the team and my growing experience. I also have to say that the car worked perfectly all weekend. We only did one day of testing, last Sunday, but that was enough for us to see that we already had the best set-up. I felt really confident right from the word go and that was a key factor in the win. This morning, I was totally relaxed. I just had to drive the last few stages to finish off the work that we had done in the first two days.”

Craig Breen (#8):
“It’s the best day of my career again. But it seems that with this car, every day is a bit better! When I grabbed third place yesterday afternoon, I already felt that I had moved up another level. There weren’t many kilometres left to complete today but it was still pretty tough because I was put under pressure by my rivals. I couldn’t be happier, claiming my first WRC stage win and finishing on the podium. The finish was very emotional. I couldn’t believe it, but it was fantastic to celebrate this moment with the people who have supported me. It’s also a richly-deserved result for the guys in the team, who had to work hard to repair the car after I went off during testing on Monday. I’ve taken a step closer to where I want to be this weekend.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (#24):
“The pressure was on all our shoulders today! Between the stages, I kept up to date with Kris’ progress and Craig’s fight for third. Finishing with both Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team cars on the podium at Rally Finland is an extraordinary performance. We couldn’t really have hoped for a better result. I’m also very pleased with my performance. I managed to up my pace and improved significantly on my times from last year.”

Craig Breen/Scott Martin clinches third overall in Finland - maiden WRC Podium finish.

Posted: August 1, 2016 4:54 AM

There are few events in the world of rallying that have reached the iconic status of WRC Rally Finland (July 28-31st) throughout its history. There are equally as few non Scandinavian drivers that have what it takes to master the terrain on offer every year. This was the seventh time that Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team driver Craig Breen would take on the challenge what is affectionately known as the Finnish Grand Prix. This year Craig and his co-driver Scott Martin didn’t exactly get off to a great start when a crash in pre event testing on Monday meant a lot of work for the team ahead of the ceremonial start on Thursday evening. Not only did they make it but a good showing through the shakedown stage earlier that day proved the PH Motorsport run Citroen DS3 WRC was more than up for the tough weekend that was in store.

Picking up where he left off in seventh on the previous evening’s street special, Craig started day one by posting seventh fastest time on the morning’s slippy opener. Immediately showing his intentions Craig went not one but two places better on SS3 which turned out to be much cleaner “and a joy to drive” as Craig put it. Although feeling he was over driving at times and making small mistakes he was enjoying the confident feeling of the DS3 WRC and with ease he moved up into 4th place in the overall standings by the end of SS5. A scary moment on SS6 saw an overshoot by design rather than risk potential damage but he lost around ten seconds. Soon after all Craig’s dreams came good when his time was was only bettered by the stage winner Ott Tanak just 1.3secs ahead. A couple of surprises in rough in places saw Craig being extra careful but as the experience grew so did the consistency. Admitting to it probably being one of the best days of his career he arrived at parc ferme overjoyed by his performance and with fifth place under his belt.

A “steady” run through Ouninpohja isn’t exactly what you’d call a lazy Saturday morning wakeup call as the crews tackled day two. Even though Craig went fourth fastest on that opening stage he felt he had gone too cautious on the second part and was relieved to find out he’d had actually moved up a place to fourth in the overall standings. When Eric Camilli had an accident on SS14 it forced the stewards into giving Craig a notional time, the outcome of which kept Breen fans guessing for two more stages. Staying focused the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team driver was finding it hard to believe he felt so comfortable at the speeds he was doing. With the timing issue sorted Craig and Scott arrived at SS17 in the final podium position. With confidence oozing from head to toe Craig was determined to try harder and secure his position. Determined to cling onto the first WRC podium step of his career Craig pushed hard, maybe a little too hard at times but he was able to cope with the pressure. A second fastest time on the final stage of the day threw down the marker for those coming behind on Sunday.

His challengers were all within twenty seconds of him but he was clearly focused enough to keep his mind on the job. Four stages of nail biting drama followed and Craig Breen brought third place and his first ever World Rally Championship podium finish home. An emotional stage end interview brought Craig and many watching to tears,
“I can't believe it. It's the best day of my life. It's been such a road to get here. I'm missing my main man and I know he's looking down on me." Craig as always remembering his late co-driver and friend Gareth (JAFFA) Roberts.

Irish Impress On World Stage In Finland

Posted: August 1, 2016 4:53 AM

A stunning performance by Irish competitors this weekend saw them take a brace of podium places on Rally Finland, round 8 of the 2016 World Rally Championship.

Killarney navigator Paul Nagle guided Kris Meeke to a dominant win in their Citroen DS3 World Rally Car. The pair took the lead on the second stage of the event and controlled their advantage for the remainder of the event. A series of fastest times on the fearsome Ouninpohja stage demoralised the opposition and they eventually finished just under half a minute ahead of pre event favourites, Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Antilla.

Craig Breen capped off the weekend by taking the final podium place. The Waterford driver, on only his fifth start in a World Rally Car, impressed throughout the weekend and even scored a fastest time on stage 23. Breen is also a member of the Abu Dhabi Racing Citroen Team who are only contesting selected rallies this season as they develop their new car for 2017. Breen's result is the best ever achieved by a Republic of Ireland driver in the World Rally Championship. The previous best was when Billy Coleman finished fourth on the 1985 Tour de Corse.


Posted: August 1, 2016 4:28 AM

1. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (DS 3 WRC) 2:38:05.8
2. Latvala / Anttila (VW Polo R WRC) +29.1
3. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (DS 3 WRC) +1:41.3
4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:45.9
5. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:48.2
6. Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:04.6
7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (VW Polo R WRC) +2:22.4
8. Lappi / Ferm (Skoda Fabia R5) +4:53.8
9. Abbring / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +5:22.4
10. Suninen / Markkula (Skoda Fabia R5) +5:35.5

High-speed Finland roads pose tough challenge for co-drivers

Posted: July 27, 2016 9:23 AM

Co-driving great Timo Rautiainen believes the challenge of matching the pace notes to the blistering speeds of Neste Rally Finland (28 - 31 July) is greater than at any other round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Rautiainen won his home rally seven times in eight years between 2000 and 2007 alongside double world champion Marcus Grönholm to become the most successful co-driver in the event’s 65-year history.

Now retired and a steward with motorsport’s governing body, 51-year-old Rautainen said co-drivers at this week’s eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship faced both logistical and physical difficulties on the roller-coaster gravel roads near Jyväskylä.

“For the co-driver, I would say that reading the pace notes quickly enough in an understandable form is more challenging in Finland than at other events,” he said.

“In Finland, corners are usually hidden behind crests, so it’s very important to note on which side of the road to position the car before the jump. At most other rallies, it’s quite obvious when you approach a crest where the road goes afterwards.

“The famous Ouninpohja special stage is a perfect example of a Finland test where the roads are flowing and corners follow on quickly from each other. It can be like a machine gun sometimes for the co-driver reading the notes back to the driver there.”

Jari-Matti Latvala won the 2015 event at an average speed of 125.44kph, the fastest ever in the WRC, and nine of the 10 quickest rounds in WRC history have been in Finland.

Rautiainen broke a vertebra in his back in 2004 after a heavy landing and he said co-drivers must protect themselves for the constant jumps which see a car airborne on more than 70 separate occasions in the 33km Ouninpohja – regarded as the sport’s ultimate test of bravery.

“If I knew a jump was coming, I braced myself and tensed my legs to try to move my weight upwards a little. That’s OK, but the problem comes when the car jumps unexpectedly at a point you didn’t include in the pace notes during the recce.

“It’s hard because a co-driver is staring down at the notes all the time and that’s when you can jolt your back. A driver can hold onto the steering wheel to brace himself but the co-driver only has his notebook to cling onto!” said Rautiainen.

Time for lift-off! Volkswagen drivers in top form ahead of the Rally Finland

Posted: July 26, 2016 10:52 AM

Thousand jumps in the land of a thousand lakes – Volkswagen is all set for the next big push, as its three winning duos take on the Rally Finland. The next event on the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar, from 28 to 31 July, is the fastest rally of the season. Following the rally in Poland, the race in Finland forms the second of two back-to-back high-speed rallies. Each of the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer’s three works duos – Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N) – has one at least one of these full-throttle rallies at some point in the past three years. The result is that the Polo R WRC is undefeated in both Poland and Finland. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila have contributed to this impressive record with victories at their home race in Finland in both 2014 and 2015. The goal is to complete the hat-trick in 2016. To do so, they must first complete a total of 333.60 kilometres flat-out against the clock, spread over 24 special stages on firm, almost asphalt-like gravel.

“Over 70 jumps and more than 30 seconds in the air – these are the figures from just one single stage at the Rally Finland, the infamous ‘Ouninpohja’,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “The drivers and co-drivers must be both accurate and intelligent to master this unique challenge. The role of the driver is more important in Finland than at pretty much every other rally. We go into the second half of the season with the assurance that all three of our Volkswagen duos has won at least one rally already this year – and are thus in top form. As well as that, however, we will also take extra motivation from the fact that the Polo R WRC is still undefeated at high-speed rallies, such as the recent race in Poland and now here in Finland.”

Drift, jump, full-throttle, … repeat – the feature of the Rally Finland

In 2015, the Rally Finland went down as the fastest WRC rally of all time. An average speed of 125.44 km/h – no other driver/co-driver pairing had ever been as quick as Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila before. Nor had the closing Power Stage ever experienced such speed: a remarkable average of 135.25 km/h was also a new record – courtesy of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. The high tempo, which has earned the Rally Finland the nickname “Formula 1 in the Forest”, requires the drivers to be as accurate as possible. However, this nickname is misleading in one sense: while the angle of drift in Formula racing never usually reaches more than four degrees, angles of between ten and 15 degrees are part and parcel of an average day’s rallying. As such, it is important to position a world rally car as precisely as possible before any jump. Once all four wheels are in the air, the driver and co-driver are reduced to mere passengers for split seconds. In 2013, the world rally cars took off over 70 times on the infamous ‘Ouninpohja’ stage. The air time amounted to more than half a minute. For this reason, absolute accuracy is a must at about 200 km/h.

The Latvala effect – two home wins in a row, three in total

Currently on a par with Juha Kankkunen, victory at his home race would see Jari-Matti Latvala match another two Finnish rally legends. Should he add a fourth win in Finland to his collection, Latvala would pull level with Hannu Mikkola and Tommi Mäkinen in the all-time winners list at the Rally Finland. Markku Alén has six wins to his name, while Volkswagen test and development driver Marcus Grönholm has won a remarkable seven times in Finland. The combination of Latvala, Anttila and Volkswagen has been the one to beat since 2014: the Finnish duo has triumphed with the Polo R WRC for the past two years.

Mr. Momentum – Mikkelsen arrives in Finland with the wind in his sails

Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger achieved something unique at the recent Rally Poland – they are the only duo to have won a gravel rally from one of the first three starting positions in 2016. Fortune favoured the brave when Andreas Mikkelsen claimed his second WRC victory alongside co-driver Anders Jæger. This win has given the two childhood friends an extra boost of confidence and motivation ahead of their outing in Finland. Their goal: to make it onto the podium in Finland for the first time in their careers. Up to now, Mikkelsen’s best result in Finland is fourth place in 2014.

Championship leader, for the 30th time in a row: Ogier goes into second half of season with comfortable lead

Top dog since March 2014 and 30 WRC rallies in a row as championship leader – Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia lead the world championship going into the second half of the season, 51 points clear of their closest rivals Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger. 25 points are up for grabs for a win, with a further three points available for the fastest car on the Power Stage. With the championship lead comes the dubious honour of opening the route. The more stringent rules introduced in 2016 have made it virtually impossible to win a gravel rally as the first car onto the route. Should they win on Sunday, this would be the world champions’ second victory in Finland, having previously triumphed in 2013.

Full-throttle, within reason – engine speed restricted to 8,500 rpm

The regulations of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) stipulate that the 1.6-litre turbo engines in the world rally cars must not exceed a speed of 8,500 rpm. This is a crucial factor at the Rally Finland. Only those who get as close as possible to this limit on the long, flat-out sections – without exceeding it – will get the best out of their car. Should they exceed this limit, the fuel injection must be electronically deactivated. Here is the crunch: when the world rally cars go airborne over the countless jumps, the lack of resistance means that the engine speed does rise above the magic number, and the fuel injection cuts out. However, the optimum speed should be restored before the car lands, in order not to lose any drive or time.

Quotes ahead of the Rally Finland

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“The Rally Finland is unquestionably one of the highlights of the year. I love driving there, because rallying is everything in Finland. I am also looking forward to Finland, because the Finns manage to produce perfect route conditions. The roads are not only beautiful, but are tailor-made for rallying. The starting order has denied me any realistic chance of winning any of the gravel events this year. As such, the weather situation will also play a major role again in Finland. Let’s wait and see, and keep our fingers crossed that it is nice and damp. Admittedly, what matters most in the end is that we defend our title. We are looking good in that regard at the moment, but it would be nice to have another fair shot at winning a rally in similar conditions. Particularly as the series is blessed with some very strong drivers at the moment.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“The Rally Finland is obviously the highlight of the season for me. I am really looking forward to it, even though the pressure is naturally greater than at any other rally. That can also serve as a motivation, as you obviously want to do well in front of your home crowds. The expectations of the Finnish fans are huge, particularly as I have only won once so far this year. The characteristics of the rally suit me. Fast gravel roads and big jumps – that is my kind of rally. The keys to this rally are ensuring the pace notes are correct and choosing the right line for jumps and fast sections. I will relax ahead of my home race in a very Finnish manner – in the sauna.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“The way I see it, it will not be easy to repeat our victory in Poland at the Rally Finland. The rally has a completely different character. The surface is much harder and there are many more crests and jumps. On the whole, the rally is far more demanding than the one in Poland. It is particularly important to get the pace notes spot on. As such, we will focus hard during the ‘Recce’ to get the pace notes as accurate as possible. Because there are a lot of blind crests, you need to know exactly what to expect on the other side. That then gives you the confidence you need to be fast. One of the new features this year will be the ‘Ouninpohja’ stage, which we will drive in the opposite direction to recent years. That will add a bit of extra spice to the occasion.”

Number for the weekend in Finland: 430,000,000

Over 430 million people reached – this is Volkswagen’s current status on the brand’s official motorsport presence on Facebook since the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer made its debut in the World Rally Championship in January 2013. Since then, it has enjoyed three and a half years of success in the top flight of rallying. Ahead of the Rally Finland, 5.2 million people have ‘Liked’ the online presence. In the 2016 season alone, an accumulated total of almost five million fans have been active on this channel, either by ‘Liking’ the page, sharing content or adding their own comments.

Craig Breen planning another jump forward in Finland

Posted: July 26, 2016 10:46 AM

Next weekend’s WRC Rally Finland will be the seventh time that Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team driver Craig Breen will take on the challenge of this iconic event affectionately known as the Finnish Grand Prix. For Craig and his co-driver Scott Martin it will be their third outing of the year aboard a Citroen DS3 WRC as they continue to prove that they are a competitive package worthy of a top place within the World Rally Championship. Since their impressive debut in the car on WRC Rally Sweden in February, and throughout WRC Rally Poland earlier this month the pair showed real pace as well as reliability on every stage in all conditions.

Craig joins Kris Meeke and Khalid Al Qassimi as the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team will host a full three car team line up on this occasion. University town Jyväskylä and the Paviljonki service park in the centre will be sure to draw large crowds when the rally gets underway on Thursday morning for the pre rally shakedown. Flat out from start to finish the real clocks start on the 2.27km Harju street stage that evening to get all the drivers adrenaline pumping before they take to the twenty three more forest stages that make up the event. On Friday the cars head west where classics like Mökkiperä and Jukojärvi will be the main attraction before returning to Jyväskylä. Saturday will take the crews south bound and the legendary Ouninpohja where driver, co-driver and car will be tested to their limits on a rollercoaster road that many drivers regard as the best stage in the world. Sunday's route will be far from a leisurely stroll to the finish as it will see areas unused as rally stages for twenty years or more, adding an extra sting in the tail for many of today’s WRC stars.

Although forty three percent of the 2016 route will be new Craig will be very much hoping to draw on his six prior appearances on the rally. The pre-event reconnaissance and test setup will be almost as important as the rally itself. Pace notes must be perfect because with blind crests and hidden corners positioning the car correctly before take-off is the key to maximum speed through the bends. A feature that he is all too familiar with having cracked vertebrae in his back whilst landing after a jump which brought his 2014 event to a premature end. Before departing for Finland Craig said “I’m really looking forward to the rally this year, being so soon after Poland everything should come together a little quicker for us. A little bit more confident, a little sharper, a little more committed but it won’t be easy. The plan is as before to improve with every kilometre in this car.”

You can keep up to date by visiting www.craigbreen.com or www.citroenracing.com


Posted: July 26, 2016 10:36 AM

M-Sport’s Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC came tantalising close to victory in Poland, and the team will be looking to prove that pace again next week; when the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) returns to the legendary roads of Neste Rally Finland.

Famed for its high speed and spectacular jumps, the event has become known as the Gravel Grand Prix. The stages combine a mix of wide roads with narrower, more technical sections, but speed is a constant and the famous jumps – or ‘yumps’ – have become synonymous with the event.

Precise pacenotes and perfect delivery is required from the co-drivers, while the drivers must tap into their inner ‘sisu’ – a Finnish word which loosely translates to ‘having guts.’

A well set-up car that fills the crew with confidence can also make all the difference, and M-Sport’s WRC crews conducted a comprehensive, week-long test in the lead-up to the event so as to secure just that. Discovering the optimum set-up on a mix of roads, all are now well-placed to challenge for a strong result.

In the M-Sport World Rally Team camp, Poland might not have gone to plan for Mads Østberg but the Norwegian is capable of a comeback and will be keen to do just that.

When he last took to the wheel of a Fiesta RS WRC in Finland, Østberg was on the podium, and he’ll be looking for a repeat performance of that next week.

He and co-driver Ola Fløene certainly know their way around the Finnish forests. With 19 previous appearances between them, they’ll be looking to use that to their advantage.

In the adjoining service bay, Éric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas can boast just one previous start apiece.

The French pairing contested the event for the first time last year, and were quick out of the blocks – setting a time just 3.7 seconds adrift of works driver and local hero Esapekka Lappi – before their pace was cut short by a mistake on the third speed test.

Having re-joined under Rally 2 regulations, they gained vital experience and will be looking to put that knowledge to good use when returning to Finland’s famous forests with the power and performance of a world rally car.

Also returning to action are WRC 2 Championship leaders Elfyn Evans and Craig Parry. Piloting their Ford Fiesta R5 Evo, the pairing are hungry for victory but will have a tough fight on their hands as they go head-to-head with some of Finland’s most promising, home-grown talents.

Testing on the Monday before the rally, the pairing will need to get up to speed quickly but tend to excel when the odds are stacked against them.

The Welshmen beat the Swedes in Sweden and will be looking to replicate that next week by beating the Finns in Finland.


Mads Østberg said:
“It’s time for a comeback and we’re fully focussed on Rally Finland. We’ve all been working really hard in the lead-up to this event, and myself and Ola have spent a lot of time preparing. We’re determined to return to the stage-winning pace we showed in Sardinia.

“Eighth place in Poland was not what we came for, but I was ninth there last year and ended up on the podium in Finland. We need to keep that in mind and focus on being as competitive as we can from the very first stage.

“This is one of the events that everyone looks forward to. It’s such an adrenaline rush and when you hook up that perfect stage there really is no better feeling. We’re looking forward to that, and I can promise you that we’ll be aiming for a strong result. If everything goes to plan, there is no reason why we can’t be challenging for the podium again.”

Éric Camilli said:
“Rally Finland is a very special event, and I can’t wait to discover these stages for the first time in a world rally car. We have some knowledge of the rally from last year, but this year will be a completely new challenge. The speed of the world rally cars on these roads is incredible. We really enjoyed our test and did a lot of work with our engineer which should see us well-placed for the rally.

“Even though the event didn’t go to plan for us last year, we were pleased with our speed. With only a few gravel events under our belt, we were still discovering what it takes to perform on that surface but were able to set some really competitive times.

“We’re keen to keep up the same level of progress that we have shown recently. We’ll take everything in our stride and focus on our own rally, but I hope to build on the speed we had in Poland.”

Elfyn Evans said:
“The WRC 2 field is extremely strong at the moment and it will be a challenge to beat the Scandinavians on their home turf. This is probably one of the most competitive events of the year, but we’re ready to give it our all. We’re feeling well prepared and ready to challenge for the win, but we know it won’t be easy.

“Speed and precision is what we’ll need. The stages are so fast that any time loss is hard to recover. You need to have precise notes and the confidence to drive to the maximum. We’ve shown some pretty good speed here in the past so, if we can couple that with a clean run, anything is possible.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“After such a strong performance for the Ford Fiesta RS WRC in Poland, we’re keen to show the same level of competition in Finland. We know that the car has the speed to challenge for victories, and we’ll give all of our drivers the tools to perform to the best of their ability.

“Mads is determined to make a comeback next week. He knows the Finnish forests well, and he’s had two podiums there over the last three years – the first of which being delivered behind the wheel of the Fiesta.

“Éric is looking forward to returning to another event he has experienced before, but he also knows that this will be a completely different challenge to last year. He’s working extremely hard at the moment and is determined to continue his fast-track progression.

“Elfyn will also be in action in Finland, and he has shown some good speed here in the past. He’ll be facing some of the strongest competition of the year and history has proven that it is not easy to beat the Finns on their home turf, but if he has a clean run, anything is possible.”


Posted: July 23, 2016 5:39 AM

Following their trip to Poland, the FIA Junior WRC drivers are heading north to take on the super-fast special stages of Rally Finland. With two wins under their belts in the first two outings of the season, Simone Tempestini and Giovanni Bernacchini will be looking to pull away from the rest of the field.

The FIA Junior WRC, which is contested at the six European rounds of the World Rally Championship, will reach the mid-season mark at Rally Finland. This third gravel rally of the season, after Portugal and Poland, will be followed by two on asphalt; in Germany and Corsica, before the championship concludes in Great Britain in late October.

Finland’s special stages have a reputation for being the fastest of the season, and are famous above all for their jumps, which can send the cars flying tens of metres through the air. The course is varied, however, with some sections more technically demanding than others as it winds its way through the fields and forests around Jyväskylä. And while the surface is not considered particularly brittle, the JWRC competitors will nevertheless have to cope with stones being spat out by their four-wheel drive vehicles.

Thus far, the leading light of the FIA Junior WRC has been Simone Tempestini. Having successfully negotiated the pitfalls of the first two meetings, the Italian leads the standings with a maximum 50 points. And as he said after Rally Poland, he intends to continue in the same vein so that he can go into the asphalt rallies with confidence. Nothing can be taken for granted, however, as Simone knows only too well, having crashed off in the corresponding rally in 2015.

His nearest rival is Terry Folb, another man who has produced two very intelligent races so far. Third in Portugal, then second in Poland, the Frenchman will have to raise his game if he wants to be in contention for a win. Conversely, Ole Christian Veiby, who currently lies third in the overall standings, was unable to secure a big points haul despite performing at a very high level. Having finished on the podium in Finland last year, the Norwegian will be aiming for victory.

Rewarded for his Citroën Racing Trophy France title with a racing programme in the FIA Junior WRC, Vincent Dubert is, for the time being, competing for the minor places. However, at a rally he has already raced in, back in 2012, the Marseille driver will be trying to keep pace with the leaders this time around. Romain Martel, who is working hard to get to grips with the unique challenges of the World Championship rallies, will be another man with similar goals.

Second in Portugal, Martin Koci was forced to abandon in Poland after crashing off in the shakedown. To revive his title ambitions, the Czech will have to produce a memorable performance and halt Tempestini’s winning run.

In the leading pack at the start of Rally Poland, Mohamed Al Mutawaa will want to confirm his improving form with a convincing result. Last year, the driver supported by Abu Dhabi Racing finished sixth in the land of a thousand lakes.

The luckless Lukas Pieniazek and Andrea Crugnola will be looking to put their seasons back on the rails in Finland. The Italian, in particular, will be worth watching closely, having led the race in Poland before being slowed down by a litany of problems.

The list of competitors is completed by a Finn, whom AKK Sports Ltd. chose as their “Future star” in a talent-spotting operation. At 19 years of age, Juuso Nordgren was selected for his performance in the Finnish Championship. As part of his prize, Nordgren has been provided with a DS 3 R3-MAX and is having all his expenses paid for him (assistance, Michelin tyres, fuel, competition costs, pre-rally testing sessions, coaching and media relations).

Rally Finland will get under way on Thursday 28 July with a super special stage in Jyväskylä. From Friday to Sunday, the FIA Junior WRC competitors will battle it out in three long stages spanning a total of 333 km.


Of the twenty teams competing in WRC2, four race in a DS 3 R5. Reigning FIA Junior WRC champions Quentin Gilbert and Renaud Jamoul will contest their fifth rally of the season in the car prepared by the DG Sport team. Yoann Bonato/Denis Giraudet, Emil Bergkvist/Joakim Sjoberg and Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais will also be continuing their season in Finland.

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Posted: July 20, 2016 10:41 AM

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Posted: March 31, 2016 7:13 AM

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