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GP Week : Issue 164
RALLY >>> PREVIEW The good news is that the 2012 Neste Oil Rally Finland has attracted as big an entry as any other WRC rally this year, the same number of starters as at 2012 Monte Carlo. The bad news is that the 82 crews on the list of entries for round eight of the 2012 WRC shows a drop of over 30% compared with the number of starters here 12 months ago. In the list of registered championship teams with Citroen, Ford and Mini cars, the main news is that the former Subaru WRC driver and current leader of the FIA APRC series Chris Atkinson will make only his third WRC appearance in 30 months. He replaces Nasser Al Attiyah in the Qatar entry Citroen as Al Attiyah will be absent, competing in the Olympic Games. The event comes after a five-week mid summer break in the season. It is centred at the mid-country university town of Jyvaskyla and again presents a rally of a different format to others in the current series. Not only is the event the only round in the current world championship calendar which finishes on a Saturday (in time for the Finnish spectators to have a hard-earned all night party after the finish) but the total competitive length of the event gets shorter and shorter. Ignoring the current pressure from the FIA to extend the competitive lengths of rallies, this year the stage length (302km) is shorter even than last year, and is the shortest Rally of Finland for well over 30 years. Action starts with the Qualifying Stage on the Wednesday evening at the traditional Ruuhimaki stage, east of Jyvaskyla, noted for its spectacular series of jumps. After the early afternoon start in Jyvaskyla on Thursday, the city of Lahti welcomes the rally for a rally show before drivers tackle 30km of stages that evening. The stages on Thursday provide just under 10% of the total stage distance. This means that the drivers' running order selection process will apply to 160km of stages as the event heads south to Lahti on the Friday for various promotional activities and the chance to contest some stages towards Helsinki. The FIA's endurance factor is maintained on account of the very long Friday route (a total of 621km). Friday and Saturday are full days of competition. Back again for the fans after an absence last year is the superspecial stage at the Killeri trotting track, on the outskirts of Jyvaskyla. At the end of the event the Power Stage will be held over the full length of the celebrated 33km Ouninpohja stage, the longest ever Power Stage. All the stages should be held in daylight for the top drivers. The last time this famous Ouninpohja stage, with an amazing top-gear flat-out mid stage jump, was run in full length was in 2004. The only stage completely different since 2011 is the final one on the Thursday, on the way back from Lahti to Jyvaskyla, though virtually every stage has some stretches new to crews since last year. The traditional nature of the stages means that this is normally the fastest rally in the world championship series (record speed was 122kph in 2009), with considerable attention paid to spectator safety issues. The tyre situation on this rally is simple. Both Michelin and DMack have nominated soft tyres, and for this event there is no optional emergency tyre, which obviates the need for tyre tactics during the event. The one area where tactics are bound to apply concerns the pre-event running order selection process. This Jari-Matti on home ground in 2011 41 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: