Sunday | 26 Jul 2015

Those magnificent men flying their machines

It’s not often that a driver starts a stage in full knowledge that, before the finish, he will have spent half a minute in the air.

Welcome to Neste Oil Rally Finland (30 July – 2 August). And welcome to the Ouninpohja stage. This legendary stretch of road is among the fastest of the season. It’s also one where the cars spend more time than most with their wheels off the ground.

Last time the test was run to its full length in 2013, Sebastien Ogier’s Volkswagen took off 77 times in 33.01 kilometres. Data from the fastest Polo R WRC down the road showed it spent 30.4 seconds in the air on a stage which only took 15m08.9s.
Air time’s a common feature of Ouninpohja; Markko Martin recorded Rally Finland’s longest jump ever when he sent his Ford Focus RS WRC ballistic for 57 metres at the famous crest alongside the yellow house, mid-way through. The Estonian’s take-off speed of 171 kph was the reason for his long leap and his victory on the 2003 event.

After his epic effort two years ago, Ogier can’t wait to get back into the longest stage on this week’s route. The reigning world champion said: “If I were asked to compile a list of the best stages in the entire championship, Ouninpohja would definitely be on it. Two years ago we drove the full length of it and I set a record time. I want to be right at the front again this year.”

The Frenchman is, however, quick to point out that the flying Finns are worth watching on the roads around Jyvaskyla. Ogier added: “The Finns are usually very strong at their home event. I’m expecting my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala in particular to prove a challenge again this year. He is the man to beat.”

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Video: Get set for Finland!