The Event Round nine of the FIA World Rally Championship gets underway next Thursday 8 August, when 84 cars are expected to cross the start ramp in the Finnish town of Jyvaskyla for the start of Rally Finland. Formerly known as the 1000 Lakes,...
Round nine of the FIA World Rally Championship gets underway next Thursday 8 August, when 84 cars are expected to cross the start ramp in the Finnish town of Jyvaskyla for the start of Rally Finland.
Formerly known as the 1000 Lakes, Rally Finland is the fastest event of the season. Wide, smooth gravel stages allow drivers to reach speeds of up to 200kph through breathtaking scenery, while the famous Finnish 'yumps', the stomach-churning jumps that occur throughout the course, will test their driving skill to the full.
Precision driving and local knowledge are critical to success on this famous event, which has been traditionally dominated by the Finns. In its 51-year history, only five non-Finns have claimed victory, and in the last eleven years Frenchman Didier Auriol has been the only man to snatch the win from the local drivers.
Based in the country regarded as the spiritual home of rallying, this year's rally will see drivers competing over more than 400 kilometres on 22 special stages. As in previous years, the event will be contested near the university town of Jyvaskyla, yet a notable change for 2003 is the decision to have a single service point and rally HQ based at the town's 'Paviljonki' conference centre. Rally Finland also hosts the sixth round of the FIA Production Cup Championship.
Tommi Makinen and Petter Solberg will both drive a Subaru Impreza WRC2002 and both will be eligible to score manufacturer points for Subaru.
Tommi, who has competed in the Finland Rally a staggering fifteen times, notched up five consecutive wins at this event between 1994 and 1998. Petter will be embarking on his fourth outing to the rally. He scored his best Rally Finland result last year when he finished 7th in his Subaru.
Tommi Makinen: "This is my home event and I am very much looking forward to competing here in the Subaru for the first time. In the past I have done well here and hopefully I can make it six wins. The car is feeling very good and we will be testing before the event starts to finalise the set-up. I have a lot of experience in Finland - the car is performing very well and I am hoping that I can get a little bit of luck and a good result."
Petter Solberg: "I am looking forward to the Finland Rally. I don't have any particular game plan for this event - I just want everything to go well. For this rally the main thing that I'm working on is my confidence and I want to make sure that I'm comfortable with everything. The handling of the car is just getting easier and easier with each event so I'm feeling positive. I'm testing with the team on Saturday and Sunday and will be working to make sure that the car is very stable and neutral so that we can keep flat out on the jumps."
The Challenge / The Car
Team Principal, David Lapworth said:
"Finland is one of the fastest events of the year and the event's jumps and long sweeping corners require a car that gives drivers confidence at high speeds. To achieve the maximum grip on the slippery gravel roads you need quite a soft set up while, conversely, for the high-speed sections the set up should be quite stiff. Therefore, it's our aim to create a car set up that is a compromise of the two - the Impreza needs to handle like a sports car but ride like a limousine.
Rally Finland also sees a mid-year upgrade in certain areas of the car, which was planned at the start of the season. We have worked to upgrade various small things on the car and when these are put together, they should make a marked improvement to the car's performance. The revisions have included some changes to the engine and the transmission and there have also been some small suspension component changes, all specific to this event. Pirelli has also assisted by developing on new tyre set up for the rally."
Risto Mannisenmaki update
Although Tommi's co-driver, Risto Mannisenmaki, continues to make a good recovery following his accident in Corsica last year, the 555 Subaru team, in conjunction with Tommi's management, have decided that he will not resume his driving partnership with Tommi at least until the beginning of the 2003 season.
"Our decision not to put Risto back in the car is based entirely on our real concern for his well being." The team's Sporting Director, George Donaldson commented. "At every stage of his recovery we sought advice from the best doctors and neurosurgeons and their latest recommendation is that, in his current condition, he should not get back in a rally car. I know it's a blow for Risto, who's eager to get back in the co-driver's seat, but it really is the only responsible decision to take. Kaj Lindstrom will carry on driving with Tommi for the rest of this year, and together with the various medical experts we'll continue to assess Risto's condition before any longer-term decisions are made."
Between the Rallies
On 25 July 2002, the 555 Subaru World Rally Team revealed that Austrian driver Achim Mörtl will drive a Subaru Impreza WRC2002 for the team on the German and Italian rounds of the 2002 World Rally Championship. 31-year-old Achim and his experienced German co-driver Klaus Wicha will compete alongside regular team members Tommi Makinen and Petter Solberg and will be nominated to score points for the Japanese manufacturer on both events.
Looking to the regular drivers, Petter Solberg took a well-earned week's holiday with his family driving in the south of Norway and Sweden. He's also been living up his 'Hollywood' image and - as one of Norway's most respected sports stars - has made a number of personal appearances on TV shows in Norway.
Tommi Makinen has been relaxing since the last event. He's bought a new summer home where he has been spending some time with his family.
Tommi is driving today in 555 Subaru World Rally Team's Finland pre-event test. Petter will take over tomorrow and on Sunday before both drivers start the reconnaissance on Monday.
Asphalt Testing 23-26 July
Last week the 555 Subaru World Rally Team undertook a tarmac development test in Germany to preparation for the Deutschland Rally, which begins on 23 August.
Tommi and Petter took the wheel of a Subaru Impreza WRC2002 test car for two days each and between them notched up 589 kilometres. The weather on the test was similar to that expected on the Deutschland Rally itself - warm with temperatures averaging between 16-24°C, and the occasional light shower.
Petter drove for days one and three. The first day saw the team use a narrow vineyard road that featured two hairpins. The team moved to the Baumholder military area for the third day, which had a bumpy, broken asphalt surface. Petter's testing concentrated on determining suspension set-ups but also included checking new tyre compounds.
Tommi took over from Petter for days two and four. On the second day the team used another vineyard road, again featuring hairpins and used the Baumholder area for day four. Tommi did work on differentials, transmission, dampers, ride height and tyres.