Young stars head Finland’s WRC 2 entry
Skoda Motorsport's junior drivers will be in the spotlight at this weekend’s Neste Rally Finland (26-29 July) as local hero Kalle Rovanperä and Ole Christian Veiby lead an 18-car entry in WRC 2.
It’s the first time this season that neither championship leader Pontus Tidemand, or second-placed Jan Kopecký, have featured in the support category entry – giving their fellow Fabia R5 drivers the perfect opportunity to make up ground.
Seventeen-year-old Rovanperä, who hails from the rally’s host town Jyväskylä, will make his home round debut for Skoda and hopes to make amends after crashing while in the lead of the support category at YPF Rally Argentina.
“I drove a car for the first time on private roads close to my hometown,” he recalled. “But I collected my first competition experience in Latvia, a country which has gravel roads similar to Finland. This year, driving a factory entered Fabia R5 for the first time at Rally Finland, is really very special for me.”
Veiby, from Norway, is third in the drivers’ standings. A win in Finland would move him to within five points of Kopecký, but he’ll face strong competition this week, with Brit Gus Greensmith likely to be one of his closest rivals.
The Ford Fiesta R5 driver is only five points behind Veiby in the standings and is aiming to improve on eighth place in Finland last year.
Citroën also brings a strong entry to Finland. Stéphane Lefebvre will make his first appearance at the event since 2015 as he continues the C3 R5's development on gravel. Joining him in a second C3 is Simone Tempestini.
Last year’s category winner Jari Huttunen makes his fourth start of 2018 in a Hyundai Motorsport-entered i20 R5, with Nicolas Ciamin and Pierre-Louis Loubet registered in privately-run i20s.
Japanese Toyota development drivers Takamoto Katsuta and Hiroki Arai have spent the last few years developing their skills in Finland and should be near the front in Fiestas entered by Tommi Mäkinen Racing, which also fields local hero Jarkko Nikara. Murat Bostanci and Jouni Virtanen are also competing in Fiestas.
Former Finnish ‘Future Rally Star’ Emil Lindholm is entered in a Fabia, alongside Fabio Andolfi and Benito Guerra – the latter making his first appearance in Finland since 2011.
Also entered is Finnish championship leader Eerik Pietarinen.
Radstrom tops Junior entry
Prize winner Hokkala joins Junior WRC line-up
Finland countdown: Rally route
High-speed gravel stages and big jumps will test WRC field
Asahi Kasei joins WRC
Japanese giant becomes premium partner to WRC