Round eight of the FIA World Rally Championship kicks off the second half of the season this weekend with the Neste Rally Finland, a gem on the calendar and one that all drivers want to win.
Eighty-one crews are on the entry list, fielding a season-record 21 World Rally Cars. All are competing over the new 2016 Finland route, which has morphed by 43% on last year’s route. It provides a constant touch of unpredictability, keeping the drivers on the edge.
— WRC (@OfficialWRC) July 28, 2016
The rally kicks off with the Harju street stage in Jyväskylä on Thursday evening before heading to the forests on Friday for some of the event’s classic stages. Saturday heads south towards Jämsä for a mix of new and traditional roads, including the legendary Ouninpohja, while Sunday takes in two repeated stages, both of which are new.
Lempää was last driven in 1999, while Oittila – doubling as the Power Stage – last featured in 1994 when it was called Mutanen.
Sebastien Ogier leads the Drivers Standings going into the rally by quite the margin. His Volkswagen looks untouchable, but the chasing pack might cause an upset here.
— Sébastien Ogier (@SebOgier) July 28, 2016
Finnish driver Jari-Matti Latvala topped the shakedown today with an impressive run. He’s very optimistic ahead of his home-race and the goal for Volkswagen is to complete the hat-trick after accomplishing wins here in 2014 and 2015. Will they master the thousands of jumps over 24 stages this time?
Volkwagen’s Director of Motorsport Jost Capito seems to think so. He said,
“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’.
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.”
– Jose Capito
— WRC (@OfficialWRC) July 26, 2016
The first stage takes place on Thursday evening and will prove to be the highlight of the Rally Championship calendar.