Juha Salo, Esapekka Lappi and Mikko Pajunen will all be eligible for SWRC points on their home round of the series, which features 18 special stages over a competitive distance of 303.52 kilometres.
Salo, a seven-time Finnish champion, will make his debut for the factory PROTON Motorsports team in one of the Malaysian make’s two Satria-Neo Super 2000s. A persistent threat for Group N honours on Rally Finland for several seasons, the 36-year-old, who will also contest Wales Rally GB with PROTON, will be looking to transfer that pace to Super 2000 machinery.
“I did already a test in Wales, but then another day in Estonia [last Thursday] was really useful for me,” said Salo. “I have driven Group N cars for so long but I have turned off Group N in my head and turned on S2000. Of course, I am wanting to win SWRC in Finland, that is the dream result, but I have to remember this is the first really big competition for me in this car and I have to make sure I am at the finish.”
Lappi, meanwhile, is a hugely exciting talent from Finland. The 21-year-old won his class on his country’s WRC counter last season and has dominated his national championship this year in a Ford Fiesta S2000.
Pajunen’s use of an R4-specification Subaru Impreza, which is heavier and less advanced than a Super 2000 car, will probably rule out a challenge for class victory although the Finn is highly capable and can call on his experienced co-driver Kaj Lindstrom (pictured left with Pajunen) - four-time world champion Tommi Makinen’s former navigator no less - for expert advice.
In terms of the title fight, championship leader Hayden Paddon has joined Raimund Baumschlager’s BRR operation for the remainder of the campaign. The Austrian squad guided Juho Hanninen to the SWRC crown last year and Paddon will be aiming to capitalise on the team’s knowledge in his Skoda Fabia.
Craig Breen starts his first SWRC event with new co-driver Paul Nagle following the death of his former navigator and close friend Gareth Roberts last month. Breen is second in the standings, 19 behind Paddon and level with Swede P-G Andersson, who will also be a threat in the second factory PROTON.
Poland’s Maciej Oleksowicz and Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rahji complete the list of SWRC runners. Oleksowicz will pilot a normally-aspirated Fiesta with Al-Rahji, who practiced for Finland by contesting auto24 Rally Estonia earlier this month, at the wheel of a turbocharged Fiesta Regional Rally Car.