Fourteen top-specification 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 Ogier’s Volkswagen Polo R - topping the list.
Having won four of the seven rallies in the first half of the season, Ogier, from France, is the hot favourite to win again this week.
Fresh from a pre-event test, Ogier arrives in Jyvaskyla with a 64 point lead in the drivers standings from his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, while Volkswagen remains on course for the manufacturers’ title in its debut season.
The closest Ogier has come to winning in Finland so far is the second place he scored with Citroen in 2010. Beating the Finns at their own game is something he is desperate to do this week, but he’ll face tough opposition from several Finnish star drivers, not least his own team-mate who pipped him to victory back in 2010.
Finland is likely to be closest battle we’ve seen between the Volkswagen pair, with Ogier out to annihilate the opposition on the fastest rally of the year, and Latvala promising to fight for victory in front of his home crowd in a car he’s finally super confident in.
It should be a straight fight too, after Volkswagen team boss Jost Capito sportingly confirmed that his drivers will both be free to fight for victory - each other if necessary.
Citroen DS3 driver Mikko Hirvonen, however, is capable of upsetting them both. The Jyvaskyla resident scored his only win on home soil back in 2009 and is under increasing pressure from Citroen to deliver a decent result after a lack-lustre season so far.
With 2014 season contracts under review in the next couple of months, Mikko is equipped with the same car Loeb used to win the rally in 2012 and should be extremely motivated to do well.
The M-Sport challenge is likely to be led by Thierry Neuville. The Belgian showed astonishing speed last year in Finland, and arrives nicely warmed-up thanks to four competitive outings in Fiestas over the summer break. With three podium finishes in the first half of the season, Neuville is more than capable of springing a surprise.
Mads Ostberg is also anxious to impress following a frustrating 2013 campaign so far in his Fiesta. After five weeks of rest and relaxation, the Norwegian says he has hit the reset button and will treat Finland as a brand new start.
Also out to prove his potential is Kris Meeke, the former factory MINI driver who has been brought in as replacement for an absent Khalid Al Qassimi at the Abu Dhabi Citroen squad.
This will be Meeke’s first taste of competition in the DS3 World Rally Car, so he has a big familiarization job to do, but his existing test role with the manufacturer means he’s not coming in completely cold. Meeke is definitely one to watch.
As are Finnish privateers Juho Hanninen and Jarkko Nikara, who will both challenge for top stage times, with Haninnen at the wheel of a Fiesta RS and Nikara in the latest Prodrive evolution of the MINI JCW.
Such is the event’s popularity that no fewer than 101 entries have been received, including the contenders fighting for the WRC, WRC 2, WRC 3 and Junior WRC Championships.
Our story about the WRC entry list contains a link so you can download the complete document.
Visit WRC.com this week to find out who will be chasing honours in the different support categories.
Next page: On this rally last year, tyre facts