Don't panic. Yes, 43 per cent of this year’s Neste Rally Finland itinerary is new compared to last year, but from what we saw on the recce, it's very much business as usual out on the stages.
Tuesday and Wednesday are recce days in Finland, when WRC crews drive the stages and make their pace notes. We took to the stages too, joining the WRC TV location team on their hunt for the best camera positions. Here's what we found:
Corner cutting is common practice in Finland, where drivers use every centimetre of the road to keep their speed up. Clipping the inside allows them to straighten the corner a little, but scrabbling tyres made a right mess of the softer roads. Last year, organisers lined some corners with aluminium marker boards to warn drivers to keep clear of the edges. This year the boards have been replaced by poles mounted in concrete blocks. Clipping these at 200kph is not recommended.
Fans of Finland's signature stage should note that this year's format was last used in 1994. That's the reverse direction to 2015, when Volkswagen calculated its cars took off 70 times and were airborne for more than 30 seconds. Last year, the stage's biggest challenge, a rapid sequence of massive jumps and crests, was at the beginning, this time it's near the finish. Drivers will need to save a big chunk of concentration and bravery for that.
Here's Ouninpohja's best known roadside landmark, the yellow house, at the 21.7km point. Last year it marked the start of a climb to a huge jump. This time, run in the opposite direction, drivers will be braking on a sharp descent before a tricky left-hander.
The roadside verges are littered with rocks and tree stumps, some of which are part of Rally Finland history. One of our favourites is Latvala's Stone. Back in 2008, Jari-Matti's rally ended after he slammed his Ford into this rock in the Mökkipera stage. The impact damaged a steering arm which failed shortly after, sending the car off the road. Now moved to a slightly safer place, Latvala's monument to broken steering arms has its own sign.
Short 'jab' stages are a new feature this year and enable the rally route to stretch far away from its Jyväskylä base. Here's a view from Friday's 7km Halinen test. Run just the once, it features a 1.2km straight that will be driven absolutely flat out.
The family connection
Saturday's 23.50km Päijälä is new for 2016, and with a start line just 9km from the end of Ouninpohja it might as well be called Ouninpohja Pt.2. Mikko Hirvonen agrees - he refers to it as Ouninpohja's little brother. Fast all the way, Päijälä is littered with jumps and crests but also has some tight and technical sections. The road is soft in places, so we could see ruts and holes on the repeat - especially near the end where huge stones litter the roadside.
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