A round-up of stories that are making the news before the start of Neste Oil Rally Finland.
Positive news for Thierry Neuville and Craig Breen
Both drivers crashed on Thursday morning's Shakedown but both are hoping to start the rally tonight as planned. Neuville's battered Hyundai i20 was checked over by FIA scrutineers and given the all-clear but the team has a lot of work ahead to get the bent bodywork replaced in time for tonight's opening stage. It's a similar story at camp Breen after the Irishman rolled his Peugeot 208 T16 at shakedown as a result of a tyre deflation.
New faces in the Hall of Fame
Colin McRae, Sandro Munari and Juha Kankkunen are the latest heroes to be inducted to Finland’s Rally Hall of Fame at the national transport museum in Kangasala, near Tampere. They join 14 other previously nominated drivers including Paddy Hopkirk, Hannu Mikkola, Carlos Sainz and Michèle Mouton.
Each of the three factory Polo R World Rally Cars in Finland is sporting a personal message on its boot lid. Sebastien Ogier's [above] carries the Twitter tag #RIPJules, in memory of his friend, Marussia F1 driver Jules Bianchi. Jari-Matti Latvala's carries #Sisu - a Finnish word for bravery and determination, while Andreas Mikkelsen's 'Dust married' [right] celebrates the marriage of his race engineer Richard Browne to his fiancée Maggy a fortnight ago.
Kennard reaches his half century
John Kennard, Hayden Paddon’s co-driver since 2005, will mark two significant achievements this weekend – it’s 30 years since his first World Rally Championship event as a co-driver and it’s his 50th WRC start. "He’s getting old!" joked Paddon. "It’s a great event for him, it’s amazing for him. He’s been a big part of my career over the last ten years. There are two of us in the car, there is me behind the wheel and this guy is just as important." And after a second and a fifth place on his last two WRC outings Kennard, 56, has no plans to retire. "I still love it; I love being competitive at this level. As long as Hayden’s happy with what we’re doing, I’ll carry on,” he said.
Champions get digging
A group of Finnish rally legends picked up their spades this afternoon to mark the opening of a new Champions Park in Jyväskylä. Each driver planted a tree to commemorate their achievements in an area close to rally headquarters. The planters, pictured below, are (from left to right): Simo Lampinen (three time Finland winner), Ari Vatanen (the first Finnish World Champion), Marcus Grönholm (seven-time Finland winner and double World Champion), Harri Toivonen (brother of Henri and son of Pauli Toivonen), Markku Alén (six-time Finland winner), Rauno Aaltonen (winner of the 1000 Lakes Rally in 1961), Hannu Mikkola (seven-time Finland winner and World Champion in 1983), and Tommi Mäkinen (four-time World Champion, five-time Finland winner and head of Toyota's 2017 WRC programme.)