Kaur, the winner in Portugal and Italy, is 32 points in front of his nearest rival and determined to increase his advantage on the high-speed stages around Jyvaskyla and Lahti aboard his Playboy Estonia Rally Team-backed Ford Fiesta R2.
To prepare for the fast straights and blind crests that litter the competitive route in Finland, Kaur took part on the non-championship Rally Estonia recently and was in contention for victory until he dropped time with a broken driveshaft.
He had planned to compete alongside co-driver Mait Laidvee in Finland but will instead continue with Erik Lepiksson following a late change. Lepiksson was co-driving Kaur when they won in Sardinia in early May.
“Erik and I can’t wait for Neste Oil Rally Finland,” said Kaur. “We are completely focused and ready to defend our lead in the WRC Academy Cup. Mait will be supporting us all the way and together we want to seal a hat trick for Playboy Estonia Rally Team.”
Several other Academy regulars were competing in Estonia with Pirelli Star Driver Craig Breen and Northern Irish talent Alastair Fisher both impressing in second and third respectively in class A6. Both will be frontrunners in Finland as they look to make up lost ground in the title battle.
“The aim has to be to get on the podium,” said Fisher. “We’ve not had the best of starts to the year so it’s important we leave Finland with some solid points. Hopefully we can achieve that.”
Australian Brendan Reeves, currently third in the Academy Cup standings behind Argentine Miguel Baldoni, prepared for Rally Finland by contesting the Asia Pacific championship-counting International Rally of Whangarei in New Zealand recently where he finished sixth overall in a Mitsubishi Lancer.
“The competition in Finland is going to be the toughest so far as the cars are well sorted and a lot of the drivers have experienced them before,” said Reeves. “But I can’t wait for the challenge to begin.”
Victor Henriksson, fourth in the drivers’ standings, has previous Finland knowledge and is one of a number of drivers capable of ending Kaur’s dominance. Others include Swede Fredrik Ahlin, Italian Andrea Crugnola, German Christian Riedemann and Czech Jan Cerny.
Australian Molly Taylor will also be a contender. The Pirelli Star Driver has recruited Seb Marshall to replace former co-driver Rebecca Smart and the pair got their partnership off to a successful start on Rally Estonia.
“Estonia was the first real rally that [I have done with Seb] and it was a huge task for him to do such a fast event on notes that he hadn’t worked with before,” said Taylor. “Aside from our electrical problems it all gelled really well, so that definitely helps with the confidence coming into an event like this.”
Miko-Ove Niinimae, Timo van der Marel, Yeray Lemes, Jose Suarez and Sergey Karyakin will also be in action in the WRC Academy in Finland although two drivers, Matteo Brunello and Calle Ward, have left the series since the second round in Italy.
All Academy drives use identical Ford Fiesta R2s prepared by the British M-Sport operation and run on Pirelli control tyres.