Finland preview: one for the locals?

Only two non-Scandinavian drivers (Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol) have ever won Rally Finland or, as it is better known, the 1000 Lakes Rally. This week, however, both Richard Burns and Colin McRae will aim to join that exclusive club in their quest for this season's World Rally Championship title

Finland preview: one for the locals?

Of the two it is series leader Burns who starts with the better record, having finished second here last year. But he believes that the inclusion of some new stages might tip the balance back in favour of the Finns, even though the new stages haven't been used for so many years that even the locals consider them to be new.

McRae's record in Finland is not too impressive and includes more battered machinery than hand-crafted silverware. Nevertheless the Ford ace is on a high, having dragged himself back into the title hunt and clutching a new two-year £8 million contract to stay with the Martini-backed squad.

But the man on a mission is Marcus Gronholm. The Finn has burst onto the scene this year with a run of top results for Peugeot, including wins in Sweden and last time out in New Zealand. His performance on this event last year brought five major offers of a drive for 2000 within hours of the finish and now he undoubtedly starts the event as favourite.

Should he live up to that status, then the balance of power in the world series will swing towards Peugeot, even if the next few events are new to Gronholm and may allow his rivals to strike back. Peugeot has abandoned its usual crews for this event, although Francois Delecour will compete for drivers' points only.

Gronholm's cousin, Sebastian Lindholm, has been drafted into the squad for his home event and it is to be hoped that his form on the rally is better than in recent years.

SEAT's season has been a pretty heart-searching affair, but the Spanish team comes to Finland to launch the third evolution of the Cordoba WRC. It might not be a quantum leap forward, but it will have to deliver far greater performance than the old version if questions about the team's future involvement in the sport are to be avoided.

Tommi Makinen's performance will be closely monitored on this event. Winner for a record five years in a row before Juha Kankkunen stopped him last year, Makinen has had a lacklustre season to date. The Mitsubishi Lancer is getting long in the tooth and the team desperately needs a new version to get back in touch with its rivals. New parts have been incorporated for this event and will be crucial if Makinen is to have any chance of getting back into contention for a fifth successive title.

With Skoda again absent, testing for next month's newly-added Cyprus Rally, Hyundai is the sixth manufacturer in the pack. The Accent WRC is improving with every event and a fastest stage time in New Zealand for the Autosport-supported car of Alister McRae showed just how good it has become. Reliability is now the key element that needs to be addressed, although this event might be considered a test rally more than a bid for outright glory.

The championship is perfectly poised going into this 50th anniversary Finnish event. Ford is just one point behind Subaru in the makes series and the Banbury team has let a fairly convincing gravel advantage slip away in recent rallies. Of the two, however, Subaru would appear to have the edge this week.

The battle between Burns, Gronholm and McRae (with just a four point gap between each of the trio) will be equally as tense, thereby ensuring that the event is as cut and thrust as ever.


shares
comments
McRae signs new two-year deal with Ford
Previous article

McRae signs new two-year deal with Ford

Next article

Rally Finland: countdown to the Finnish GP

Rally Finland: countdown to the Finnish GP
How Rally New Zealand encapsulated record-breaking Rovanpera’s WRC title charge Plus

How Rally New Zealand encapsulated record-breaking Rovanpera’s WRC title charge

Kalle Rovanpera’s coronation as the new World Rally Championship king had been a long time coming, only to be postponed by hiccups in Belgium and Greece. But at Rally New Zealand the “Full Send” Finn demonstrated exactly how he's been able to rewrite the rallying record book as he stormed to victory to become the youngest ever world champion

WRC
Oct 3, 2022
How a Toyota lifeline reignited Lappi's WRC career Plus

How a Toyota lifeline reignited Lappi's WRC career

Motorsport can be brutal at times. One moment a driver can be the next big thing, but it can spiral in the other direction so quickly. Thankfully, sometimes drivers receive second chances. And Esapekka Lappi has taken his World Rally Championship lifeline in both hands

WRC
Sep 28, 2022
How team orders could make Hyundai's historic Acropolis Rally a Greek tragedy Plus

How team orders could make Hyundai's historic Acropolis Rally a Greek tragedy

Thierry Neuville led a maiden Hyundai 1-2-3 in the World Rally Championship, as the previously soft i20 N became a battle-hardened Greek warrior at the Acropolis Rally. But with team orders in play between the winner and Hyundai’s title protagonist Ott Tanak, could the result come back to haunt the team?

WRC
Sep 12, 2022
How Tanak triumphed amid a series of Belgium WRC blunders Plus

How Tanak triumphed amid a series of Belgium WRC blunders

After runaway World Rally Championship leader Kalle Rovanpera made his first major mistake of the season, the chance to take advantage was wide open for the chasing pack. Several of his rivals faltered to grasp the opportunity, but Ott Tanak made no such mistake and demonstrated his class with a third win of the campaign

WRC
Aug 22, 2022
Inside Toyota’s new WRC dream factory where rally conquerers come to life Plus

Inside Toyota’s new WRC dream factory where rally conquerers come to life

Toyota locked out the top four places in the World Rally Championship's recent Safari Rally Kenya in a clear indication of its GR Yaris Rally1 hybrid's pace and durability. Autosport was recently given a tour of the new factory where its cars are designed, tested and built, and it reveals much about the commitment of the Japanese marque to continued WRC success

WRC
Aug 19, 2022
How Rovanpera has reignited Finland's rallying obsession Plus

How Rovanpera has reignited Finland's rallying obsession

Finland may have a small population, but it has long enjoyed rallying success. Now that the nation has a new star to cheer in the form of Kalle Rovanpera, interest in the discipline is surging once again

WRC
Aug 10, 2022
How Tanak spoiled Rovanpera’s Finnish homecoming Plus

How Tanak spoiled Rovanpera’s Finnish homecoming

Kalle Rovanpera and Toyota went into Rally Finland as overwhelming favourites but came away as runners-up to a resurgent Ott Tanak and Hyundai. While it may have dampened the homecoming party, it still moved the Finn closer to the ultimate World Rally Championship prize

WRC
Aug 8, 2022
Inside Hyundai’s F1-spec mobile WRC home Plus

Inside Hyundai’s F1-spec mobile WRC home

Hyundai is one of the World Rally Championship's big three, and has a brand-new travelling facility befitting of that status. The team invited Autosport for a behind-the-scenes look at its state-of-the-art HQ, which comes complete with all the bells and whistles you'd expect of a top Formula 1 outfit

WRC
Jul 27, 2022