With stunning first and second place finishes in the Rally of New Zealand behind them, Toyota Castrol Team drivers Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol head the World Rally Championship regulars in the next round, Rally Finland. Venue for round 10 of the 1998 series, Finland is one of the most demanding events on the calendar. Characterised by roads which allow the cars to reach high speeds, and encompass demanding jumps, Rally Finland is an event all drivers want to win. Both Sainz and Auriol have recorded stunning victories on the gravel roads around Jyväskylä; Sainz in 1990, Auriol in '92. Indeed, they remain the only non-Scandinavians to have scored success in the rally. "Victory in Finland remains one of the biggest successes of my career," admits Sainz. "Finland has such a heritage of good drivers that winning there means so much. Local knowledge of the roads is vital "you are always travelling at high speed, setting the car up from one jump to another, or to a blind corner. One mistake or problem, and you can forget victory" Sainz, the most successful driver in the history of the World Rally Championship following victory number 22 in New Zealand, knows that Finland is a crucial rally in his pursuit of a third World title. "Winning in New Zealand was critical and the fact that we finished first and second gave us a good lead in the Manufacturers' series as well. But, to be honest, every rally to the end of the year will now be critical. There are only four events left, including Finland, and any one of five drivers can score victory. It seems like the championship is going to go right down to the last round "but I'll do my best to try and win it earlier!" Auriol shares his team-mate's wariness over the level of competition for the Finnish event. However, his fine drives in Argentina, Greece and New Zealand have made him a title contender as well and he is keen to score his second win of the year. "We made a test in Finland during July and it was quite good. Carlos, myself and Marcus Grönholm all drove and we know that the Corolla is strong. Look at the second day in New Zealand, the roads there are a little similar to the ones in Finland, fast and flowing - and Carlos and myself won all the stages that day in New Zealand" Rally Finland marks the first anniversary of competition for the Corolla WRC. Launched into the championship with Auriol and Gronholm driving, it led the rally until retiring on the last day. Since then the Corolla has won three WRC events, and currently lies first and fourth in the Drivers' series (with Sainz and Auriol respectively), while Toyota heads the Manufacturers' series. Local man Grönholm will also contest his home event, driving his car in the colours of Toyota Castrol Team Finland, and run alongside Sainz and Auriol. Much is expected of the Finn and co-driver Timo Rautiainen, whose form this year has given HF Grifone the lead in the FIA Teams' Cup. Facing them for Toyota Team Sweden in a Corolla WRC will be Swede Thomas Radström, seventh in the recent Rally of New Zealand. In addition to regular opposition from four time Finnish victor Tommi Makinen and team-mate Richard Burns (Mitsubishi), Colin McRae (Subaru) and Juha Kankkunen (Ford), there are wild card entries in the form of locals Jarmo Kytölehto (Subaru) and Ari Vatanen (Ford). In addition, Seat debuts its new World Rally Car, making five topline manufacturer entrants in the WRC category. Rally Finland is based around the central Finnish town of Jyväskylä, and encompasses 24 special stages in its three-day format (August 21 - 23). A revised, compact route concentrates on traditional stages such as Ruuhimaki where the cars jump for metre after metre. The rally is one of the highlights in the Finnish sporting calendar with thousands of spectators following the action. More than any other event, Rally Finland is like a Grand Prix, where speed and tactics are everything.
Added: 19/08/1998 12:19
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