Thursday | 14 Jan 2021

Frozen Finland offers Monte-Carlo warm-up

FIA World Rally Championship stars head north to Finland’s Arctic Lapland Rally (15 - 17 January) this weekend in search of pre-season preparation.

As its name suggests, the event runs in the Arctic Circle. It will provide perfect winter conditions and an early introduction to the snow and ice which could well form part of next week’s season-opening WRC round at Rallye Monte-Carlo (21 - 24 January).

It is, however, a pair of locals who are likely to steal the limelight in northern Finland this week, as Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Juho Hänninen (Yaris World Rally Car) joins an entry list headed by Mercedes Formula 1 star Valtteri Bottas.

This will be the third year in succession Bottas has started the Arctic and he’ll hope to improve on the fifth place he achieved in 2019. He drives a 2016-specification Citroën DS WRC.

Hänninen (pictured above) will provide vital feedback to the Finnish-based Toyota squad ahead of next month’s Arctic Rally Finland (26 - 28 February), which was today (Thursday) confirmed as the second round of the WRC campaign following Monte-Carlo.

Arctic Rally Finland joins 2021 FIA World Rally Championship

Arctic Rally Finland joins 2021 ...

The FIA World Rally Championship will venture into the Arctic Circle for the first time next month after WRC Promoter today added ...

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Oliver Solberg is the leading WRC regular. The teenage Swede will drive a Hyundai i20 R5 run by his own team. Recently announced as a Hyundai Motorsport driver in WRC2, Solberg tested the car for the first time recently.

“It felt really nice in the test,” said Solberg. “It’s good to experience a new car for the first time – especially when the conditions on the road are so nice. The roads were full snow with big snow banks, some of the best conditions I ever had to drive with.

“When you have good, consistent conditions, it helps to make an interesting first impression with a new car.

“Of course, I have to spend more time with the car. I have to get to know the i20 more and more and find my way with it. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing on the Arctic Lapland Rally, but already I am very happy and comfortable with it.”

Video: Rallye Monte-Carlo

WRC team-mate Ole Christian Veiby is driving another private i20 R5, while further down the entry list is one of Finland’s most famous names: Grönholm. It’s Niclas rather than his two-time world champion father Marcus who takes the wheel of a Volkswagen Polo R5.

The 10-stage rally starts in Rovaniemi on Friday morning and finishes on Saturday afternoon.

• The WRC will venture into the Arctic Circle for the first time next month after WRC Promoter today added Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox to the 2021 calendar. The all-new snow and ice event will be based in Rovaniemi on 26 - 28 February and replaces the cancelled Rally Sweden as the WRC’s only pure winter encounter. It forms round two of the 12-event fixture list.

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