I’m not talking about the way the teams are set up, the weather or what colour kit the fans are wearing. I’m talking about the actual, physical service park.
Such is the pace of development in the city of Jyväskylä, the parameters and the outlook from the service park move on at a rapid rate. Apartments, parking houses and shops sit where the cars were tended to less than 10 years ago.
The one thing that doesn’t change - and hasn’t changed in more than half a century - is the sense of occasion.
Secto Rally Finland always has the ability to make a fan feel special. There’s always plenty of chatter about the land of 1000 lakes being the spiritual home of our sport and a trip to round eight always confirms that.
There are lots of rallies which are well-supported by their host town or city, but nowhere truly gets behind its WRC counter like Jyväskylä does.
Walking through the centre, you’re left in no doubt that the world’s best rally drivers are in town for the week. New for this season? A city centre merchandise shop and a huge Kalle Rovanperä pop-up were popular additions and, as expected, the KR kit was flying off the shelves.
But it’s out in the woods where the real fever is found. It’s in the Rovanperä Arena or at the famous Kakaristo hairpin that you’re really reminded what rallying means to folk in this part of the world.
The atmosphere across the three days was fantastic, but standing in the middle of a packed, blue and white-flagged crowd in the middle of Rapsula was something very special. With previously unseen choreography at rallying’s highest level, one side of the road chanted: “Kalle” while the other side completed the job, responding with: “Rovanperä.”
It wasn’t the most imaginative offering, but it worked and delivered a brilliant ambiance and left the man himself with a big smile on his face as he turned right on one of the world’s most famous pieces of road.
Secto Rally Finland had it all last week, with a fabulous few days capped by an exceptional ceremonial finish.
Predictably, Finns wants Finns to be topping the podium. This time it was Ott Tänak and an Estonian flag flying highest over the Paviljonki, but the way the 2019 world champion won was good enough for the locals. He drove his heart out and the fans responded with a noise usually reserved for one of their own.
Counting the days until Finland week again.