Eighteen top-of-the-range World Rally Cars appear on the Neste Oil Rally Finland entry with the fastest of them all - based on the results so far this season - Sebastien Loeb’s Citroen DS3 WRC - topping the list.
Loeb, from France, claimed his second victory in Finland last season and will be one of the favourites for top spot this year as he bids for his ninth world crown.
But Loeb will face strong opposition from several star drivers, not least his factory Citroen team-mate and Jyvaskyla resident Mikko Hirvonen, who scored his only win on home soil back in 2009.
The Ford challenge will be just as formidable with works pilots Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg both anxious to impress following frustrating campaigns in their rapid Fiesta RS WRCs.
Evgeny Novikov etched his place in Rally Finland folklore when he took a jump too quickly back in 2009 and landed on the tailgate of his Citroen. Now armed with an M-Sport Fiesta and considerably more established, the Russian will be a contender for a podium finish, as will Norwegian Mads Ostberg in an Adapta-run Fiesta.
Chris Atkinson makes a welcome return to the WRC for the first time since Rally Guanajuato Mexico in March. The Austrian, who finished on the podium on his last appearance in Finland back in 2008, will deputise for the Olympics-bound Nasser Al-Attiyah in a Qatar World Rally Team DS3 WRC.
Finnish privateers Jari Ketomaa and Matti Rantanen will both challenge for top stage times in their Fiestas, as will Citroen’s Belgian youngster Thierry Neuville and WRC Team MINI Portugal’s Armindo Araujo.
Finn Riku Tahko is an intriguing prospect in a MINI John Cooper Works WRC, while Gymkhana legend Ken Block will make his Finland debut. Meanwhile, 51-year-old Sebastian Lindholm is back in the WRC after a five-year absence.
Although they won’t be in the fight for overall honours in their Super 2000-specification Skoda Fabias, Volkswagen Motorsport pilots Andreas Mikkelsen and Sebastien Ogier are expected to impress.
Visit WRC.com next week to find out who will be chasing honours in the Super 2000 world championship and WRC Academy in Finland.
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