31 Jul 08
One of the favourites for success on this year’s Rally Finland is Jari-Matti Latvala of the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team. This year his co-driver Miikka Anttila will tackle the Finnish round of the WRC for the ninth time, so is well qualified to give wrc.com an expert insight into the stages.
“The route had changed quite a lot this year,” explained Anttila. “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.”
Anttila says the amount of fresh ground should prove beneficial for Latvala, who missed much of last year’s rally 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.”
Here’s what Anttila said about Thursday and Friday’s stages this year.
SS1/SS11 Killeri Super Special 2.06km
Killeri is based on a horse trotting track and it’s been used for many years. I like it because it’s fast - much faster than most of the other Mickey Mouse Super Specials. It’s quite simple to drive and not too demanding and for a co-driver it’s a lot of fun. There’s one special challenge here - the driver and co-driver who are fastest over the two stages get given a watch as a special prize. That gives a boost for the WRC drivers because anyone can win. We haven’t won that so far, but we’ll be trying hard.
SS2/SS5 Vellipohja 17.16km
In general Friday’s stages are slightly narrower than those on Saturday or Sunday. They’re not quite so fast either. We start with Vellipohja which hasn’t changed since last year. It’s mostly an open piece of road, with fields to the left and the right. The stage is a mixture of wide, main roads but also narrow gravel tracks. Near the start there are a couple of crests and jumps which can destroy your car - or at least lose you some time - if you jump too far. This is a stage where experience counts; tt helps to know which crests you can take flat out and which ones you can’t. In 2007 we jumped too far on one of them, and I hope this year we’re not going to do that again.
SS3/SS6 Mokkipera 11.38km
Mokkipera used to have a very bumpy section at the start but last year it was taken out and it’s missing this year as well. But I’d still say this is the bumpiest stage of the whole rally. It’s very narrow too. Only 1.5km are on the wide main road - which is so smooth it’s almost like tarmac - the rest is on two narrower sections. We went off on this stage last year, but I’m sure we won’t do that again this time...
SS4/SS7 Palsankyla 13.90km
This one is very similar to Vellipohja because it’s a combination of narrow twisty roads and interconnecting sections on wider main roads. Most of this stage is on the big road, so it’s very fast and flows nicely. The remarkable thing about this stage is the number of junctions. As a co-driver this makes it fairly simple to split the stage up into sections, so it’s easy to remember.
SS8 Urria 12.65km
Urria is special because it contains a very famous crest. Even in a WRC car if you take it any faster than about 90kph you’re going to destroy your car. The stage starts with a new part which has not been driven before. At the 4.5km mark the road joins last year’s stage and then you get the crest. It’s funny because when you go there in the recce you mark it very carefully with lots of cautions in the pace notes. But still when you go there in a rally car you feel the speed is okay - why did I put so many cautions? But when you’re at the top, and you see how the road drops away, then you realise. This is a very easy place for inexperienced drivers to make a mistake.
SS9 Lautapera 7.86km
The shortest stage of the day, and one which was driven for the first time last year. It’s a narrow piece of road. I’ve been there twice on the recce, but not on the rally because we didn’t make it this far last year. It’s mostly narrow but it is fast too. We expect to be going flat out for a long time here.
SS10 Jukojarvi 22.18km
Straight after the shortest stage we tackle the longest one. Very much like Palsankyla Jukojarvi is a mixture of smaller roads, main roads and lost of junctions linking them. The two are quite hard to tell apart. As it’s the last stage of day you need to work hard to keep the concentration levels up. It’s not easy to have such a big challenge to round off a long day. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see big differences with the times on this stage.