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GP Week : Issue 21
>>WRCINSIGHT Finland’s Famous Features: Rally Finland is famous for two things – hometown heroes like Marcus Gronholm (2007 winner), left, and the ‘yumps,’ above. It has been a wet summer and that creates problems for spectators, because they have to park in fields which at the moment are wet”. The organisers take great care to ensure spectators have a smooth and enjoyable time, even to the extent of making downloadable instructions to follow. It is easily Finland’s biggest spectator attraction – up to 10 percent of the population has attended the rally in some years! Finland is one of the countries where pre-rally testing is allowed, not only in the area of the rally itself, but also by way of competing on smaller rallies in the country. Team engineers thus know the technical requirements well – precise steering, ability to absorb the heavy landings, and, above all, maximum grip both laterally and longitudinally. And power is important, to absorb the draining effect of the soft top surfaces of the roads. All six registered World Championship teams are taking part and this rally must be one of the most wide-open events in history. None of the 109 drivers entered in the event has ever won the event before! No fewer than 47 of these drivers are registered FIA championship competitors, a handsomely greater number than the record which turned up in Greece this year. This record is largely due to the fact that this is the first time a world championship rally counts for both the Junior as well as the Production Car championship since Argentina 2006. It is also the first time since 2002 that the event has counted for the PCWRC. For the first time a rally organiser has nominated THREE guest championship drivers! In the JWRC category, Kalle Pinomaki has a Swift, in the PCWRC Juha Salo and Jussi Valimaki drive Mitsubishis. What is Finland like for drivers? This is an event where there seem to be few limits in just how fast you can drive! The restraints are as much about personal self-confidence as mechanical grip round corners. The roads wind one way and the other, and drivers have to handle not only the unique high speeds but also their co-drivers must constantly give instructions for a series of consecutive bends. The undulating nature creates extra challenges, because there are endless blind crests. These mean that it is not possible to gauge the maximum achievable rally speed round curves, or the angle at which a crest should be approached, when making the recce. Only experience of high-speed driving over the stages gives the confidence to go quickly, and nowadays that is only possible during an actual event. Many places on the stages defy straightforward pace-noting and so, before the FIA imposed limits in recceing, drivers used to cover each stage up to 10 times, sometimes covering 15,000 to 18,000 kms a year, checking the roads for just this event. Many local drivers used to drive the stages from memory! In order to reduce the emphasis on local knowledge and make the event fairer the Finland Rally organisers vary the route more than on other events, but of course there are always some really classic sections which the event could never be allowed to miss out … It took 40 years before the first non- Scandinavian driver was good enough to win this event. Of all the rallies in the world championship, this is the rally where it is the driver rather than the car that really matters. 39