Thursday | 24 Jul 2014

Finland Countdown: The Challenge

Up next in the FIA World Rally Championship calendar is Finland, a country where rallying is pretty much the national sport.

After the most recent outing in Poland, we stay on smooth gravel roads and welcome one of the toughest challenges of the season. Here’s what the drivers will need to master next week:

Lightning speeds

There’s a reason Rally Finland is known as the Finnish Grand Prix. To do well here, drivers need to be comfortable and confident driving at eye-watering speeds. Last year, Sebastien Ogier set an average of more than 130kph through the legendary Ouninpohja. Flat out in sixth gear, drivers will be hitting 180kph. Get it right, and the smooth, cambered roads encourage them to explore their limits of control - which makes for dizzying onboard footage and some huge grins at stop controls. On the other hand, mistakes at these speeds rarely go unpunished. This is not an event for the faint-hearted.

Precision pace notes

Finland is the sternest test of the season for pace notes. The event’s undulating stages feature dozens of jumps and blind crests, and to take these with confidence drivers must have 100 per cent faith in the accuracy and consistency of their notes. Both driver and the co-driver will need to concentrate fully from the moment the recce begins - and co-drivers won’t get much sleep afterwards as they tweak hundreds of pages of notes. Flight planning is essential too, with drivers needing to anticipate where their cars will become airborne and, crucially, where they want them to land.

Flying Finns!

Finns take their rallying extremely seriously, and the quality of the local talent makes it hard for non-Finns to make much of an impact here. Finnish drivers have won 52 of the 63 editions so far, with legendary figures Hannu Mikkola and Marcus Gronholm toping the roll of honour with seven wins apiece. Sebastiens Loeb and Ogier have put the French on top in the last three years, but with national pride at stake there are no shortage of motivated Finns intent on setting the record straight.

Rally Finland Gallery