Jari-Matti Latvala has been one of the few people who, despite not being Finnish, have mastered the art of driving in Finland. The BP-Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver will tackle the Finnish round for the ninth time and that makes him quite experienced as far as the setting for the first rally after the summer break is concerned.
“The route had changed quite a lot this year,” explained Latvala’s co-driver, Miikka Antilla. “Some stages are making a return after about 20 years, so they’re basically brand new for the current drivers, while some of the others are being run in the reverse direction to help link the new layout. Also, quite a few stages have new sections added.”
The fresh ground due to the route revision should help Latvala who was out of the rally last year after crashing out on the first day. “When foreign drivers come to Finland it’s not so easy for them to make correct notes the first time. But we have a lot experience of the Finnish roads, from previous attempts at this rally and a Finnish Championship campaign in 2006. I think this should give us a bit of a home advantage here.”
Antilla gives a brief description of each stage and what it will hold for the drivers this year.
SS1/SS11 Killeri Super Special (2.06km)
Based on a horse trotting track, this piece of the circuit has been in use for many years. It’s fast, even faster than most of the Mickey Mouse Super Specials. The driving is not complex and does not really push the driver too much and for the co-driver, its more fun than work. The fastest pair across this stage gets a watch and that is something that is eluding the pair still.
SS2/SS5 Vellipohja (17.16km)
Friday’s stages will be slightly narrower than those of Saturday and Sunday, making them a bit slower on the whole. The start at Vellipohja doesn’t change much from the open road that it is. There is a nice blend of wide roads and narrow gravel tracks. In the beginning of the stage, there are some big jumps and holes that can damage the car if the team is not careful. There is a huge role for experience to play in this part. Last year, Latvala and Antilla jumped too far on one of the crests and were forced to retire from the race.
SS3/SS6 Mokkipera (11.38km)
This section normally involves an extremely bumpy ride at the start but this section was not included last year and will also be out this year. But that still does not take anything away from the fact that it is the bumpiest stage of the rally. With just a bit of the track being a main road, most of the track consists of narrow off-road sections that make it really difficult to negotiate.
SS4/SS7 Palsankyla (13.90km)
Most of this stage is part of a rather wide main road. It has narrow twists as well in the middle along with interconnecting sections of wider main roads. The section is rather fast and similar to the Vellipohja stage. The stage is simple for a co-driver due to the number of junctions.
SS8 Urria (12.65km)
Urria can destroy your car. It contains this famous crest where, even in a WRC car, you dare not go above 90kph if you want to come out of it in one piece. The start section has been changed and has never been driven before. The crest is rather funny cause in the pace notes, everyone tends to mark it with lots of cautions and danger signs but when you are actually on the track, it makes you think why you did that cause the pace always seems fine. And then the road just drops off. For inexperienced drivers, it can easily lull them into its trap.
SS9 Lautapera (7.86km)
This stage was driven for the first time last year and is basically a narrow piece of road. Its narrow and fast and the car tends to go flat out in this section for long periods.
SS10 Jukojarvi (22.18km)
The final stage is also a combination of small roads, main roads and a number of junctions. The last stage of the last day makes it hard to concentrate but the work rate needs to be as high as ever. To end a rally, this stage is a huge challenge especially at the end of a long day.