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Tue 08 Aug 2023

Finland: The spiritual home of rallying

Colourful umbrellas set themselves in stark contrast to dark and darkening grey skies. The rain continued to fall. Nobody cared. Even fewer noticed. Thursday night and the year-long wait was done.

Welcome to Harju, Jyväskylä, Finland. The city’s moment had arrived.

Whether or not the weather would deliver, nobody knew. The men and their machines? They always deliver.

And then it was time. Having enjoyed the full range of support categories, the build up was done. The main event: Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen were on the line. And in.

The crowd went wild. The Finnish-flagged Toyota was barely audible off the start and down to the first hairpin left. Riding a soundwave of klaxons, whistles and whoops, Finland greeted its own defending world champion for the first time in two decades. And it did it properly.

“That was a lot of fun,” said Rovanperä. “The atmosphere was incredible.”

Halttunen grinned, “I think I could actually hear the people in the car - it was amazing. For us, coming from this place, this city, this is really something special.”

And Jyväskylä really is a special city - and a guaranteed WRC fixture for the next three years. The enthusiasm the place demonstrates year on year is just insane. Once again the Paviljonki service park sat right at the heart of that fervour as fans stood five, six, seven deep at Toyota and Hyundai. Granted, Kalle was playing the lead last week - but former winner Esapekka Lappi was feeling just as much love.

When both departed on Friday, the decibels dipped only slightly - and only very briefly. Saturday evening in service was absolutely packed.

Formula 1 star turned full-time rally man Heikki Kovalainen stood on the Secto Automotive hospitality stage at the far end of the Paviljonki and took the full view in. “So many people,” he smiled, hurling another Secto cap into the huge crowd.

It’s truly an annual highlight to enjoy the atmosphere and the ambiance of city and service, but it’s on the surrounding roads where the magic happens. And there was no shortage on on-stage sorcery last week.

The action was beyond phenomenal as cars took to the skies once more. How can it be a year until we’re back here?

Secto Rally Finland - Top 5 Moments