Wednesday | 23 Jul 2014

Finland countdown: the stages

Drivers will discover a new-look Neste Oil Rally Finland (31 July - 3 August) when they start recce on Monday for round eight of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Just three of last year’s special stages remain in the same format but what hasn’t changed is the DNA of one of rallying’s classics. Smooth gravel roads among forests and lakes, stomach-churning jumps and blisteringly high speeds will provide the ultimate test.

After several years in which the rally has run from Thursday to Saturday, this season’s encounter gains an extra day with a Sunday finale.

As ever, Jyväskylä is the host city and the Harju street stage in the centre returns for the first time since 1998. Once an essential part of the rally, the 2.27km mixed surface test will close Thursday and Friday’s action.

Fans will flock to the Kakaristo stage

“Through the years there have been more requests for Harju’s return than for all other special stages put together,” explained assistant clerk of the course Kari Nuutinen. “It’s a dream test in the heart of the city.”

The rally starts on Thursday afternoon with a short leg north-east of Jyväskylä, before the longest day on Friday in which more than half the stage distance south-west of the town is new.

It includes two passes through the 20.51km Kakaristo, a shortened version of the legendary roller-coaster Ouninpohja, widely regarded as the sport’s biggest test of skill and bravery.

Saturday is almost as long and includes more familiar stages including Jukojärvi, Surkee and Leustu before a short, sharp climax on Sunday with just three stages, including two passes over the big jumps of Ruuhimäki. The second pass here will form the live TV Power Stage.

The 26 stages add up to 360.94km of action.

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