Defending Production Car World Rally Champion Armindo Araujo has elected to miss this week’s Rally Finland - which means his chief rival for the series, Sweden’s Patrik Flodin has been presented a gilt-edged opportunity to collect a third maximum score in his Subaru.
Flodin won the opening round at home in Sweden, then collected another prefect score in the heat in Jordan and is now ready to fly in Finland.
Who can stop him? Well, he’s not exactly facing an open goal in his efforts to ease his way past Araujo’s table-topping Lancer; for a start there’s the two wildcard Finns: Juha Salo and Jukka Ketomaki, both in latest-specification Mitsubishis and both well capable of standing on the top step of the Production podium come Saturday night.
Aside from the locals, the other driver Flodin is likely to fear is near-local, Ott Tanak. Tanak hails from just across the water, the Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea, in Estonia. And he knows a thing or two about driving quickly on the Finnish roads.
Tanak was comfortably the fastest conventional Group N car in last year’s Rally Finland, but mechanical failure on his Subaru prevented him from making the finish. This time around he’s in a Pirelli Star Driver Mitsubishi Lancer. He’s been the fastest of this year’s PSD pilots, but while he has been in a tremendous position going into the final day the Rally of Turkey and the Rally of Portugal, he failed to land either result, falling at the last. This time around, Tanak himself knows he’s going to have to temper his enthusiasm to get to the end.
“I will drive more slowly,” he said. “I know how important the finish is. The two accidents earlier this season were not the same kind of accidents, but I have to focus on getting through the rally and, if I can build a gap, on how I control the gap.” He’s not short on experience, either, with 2003 Rally Finland winner Markko Martin mentoring him. Tanak finished second to Martin on the recent Rally Estonia, a traditional warm-up event for this week.
Another Pirelli driver on form is Hayden Paddon. The Kiwi arrives in Finland for the first time on the back of two victories at home: he won Group N on Rally New Zealand and then took the overall honours on the International Rally of Whangarei. Paddon’s bagged some valuable test mileage in Finland recently and, even though this is his first time out on the event, he should be in the hunt.
Follow this link to see the full Neste Oil Rally Finland entry list.