Hyundai set for fast & furious Finland
Arguably one of the most classic rallies of the calendar is next on the agenda as Hyundai World Rally Team crews Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer head further north in Europe for Rally Finland, the ninth round of FIA World Rally Championship, running from 7-10 August. Privateer Jussi Valimaki is also nominated to score manufacturer points on his home event in a Hyundai Accent WRC".
Rally Finland, perceived by many as the home of rallying, provides the most spectacular action seen during the year. It is a technically challenging event requiring a driving style matched nowhere else in the world, and local experience in the past has proved the key to success. Wide and flowing roads on a super-smooth gravel surface are combined with awesome jumps. With speeds regularly reaching over 200 kph, the challenge is enormous and the spectacle breathtaking. Absolute precision is required to ensure the correct line through fast corners and over blind crests and with drivers spending more time on the throttle than most other WRC event, Finland is dubbed the Grand Prix of rallying. Immense bravery is a significant factor as the crews race through stunning forest scenery and around the many lakes that gave the event its original name, the 1000 Lakes Rally. Testament to the challenge is the fact that only five non-Finns have claimed victory in the events' 52 year history.
Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets have finished inside the top ten on their last three visits to Finland and after a difficult tarmac event in Germany, the Belgian crew are looking forward to getting back onto gravel. "We had a good feeling in Finland last year and we just missed out on points so this year I would really like to be able to take some points away," commented Freddy. "I really enjoy driving on these kinds of roads that are fast and flowing and you can get a really good rhythm. The most difficult thing there is the number of good Finnish drivers as they have grown up knowing the kind of roads, the lines you need to take, especially over the crests and often you see a number of privateers going faster than the works drivers just because of this experience."
Armin Schwarz and Bavarian co-driver Manfred Hiemer are also looking forward to going back to one of their favourite events. "I have always liked Finland as it's a very difficult event, it's very technical and it has the reputation of being almost impossible for a non-Scandinavian to do well but that appeals to me," said Schwarz. "If you can do well you can learn a great deal about yourself and your ability on gravel. A good performance there is good for your reputation."
"In Finland you always have to follow the right line and be very precise. Even a small mistake results in huge consequences," he continued to explain. "Firstly we have to make sure we find a good set-up on our-pre-event test and secondly I'm hoping the work we've done on our new suspension will give better progress where good handling is so important to the balance and to your performance. It will be nice to be in the top ten -- getting points it always our target but in Finland it can depend on so many things."
Armin continued to discuss the importance of the recce on an event where there really is no margin for error. "You have to work really hard at getting the best notes as you have to be so precise. If you think about the fact that on the recce you can go no faster than 80 kph but on a rally you may arrive at the same place at 180 kph, when doing the recce you have to imagine just which gear you will be in at any specific point, your speed, the position of the car etc. You also have to decide whether you are going to brake before a crest and where you are going to land after it. If you don't set up your notes for every jump and if you don't land exactly where you need to land, it can completely spoil the next crest or corner and given the speed you are going, you can do nothing about correcting it. This event is so fast that you have to make ultra quick decisions."
Finnish driver Jussi Valimaki will be competing in his home event for manufacturer points for the first time. This will be the sixth time the 28-year-old has contested the rally but he will be accompanied by Jakke Honkanen on this occasion, who finished 14th in last week's Rallye Deutschland alongside Kristian Sohlberg.
"I had a very good three-day test which we then followed with Exide Rally a few weeks ago. We had a good run on that rally so it gave me the chance get a good feeling with the car," said Jussi. "If we can have a clear run with no problems, no punctures and I drive without mistakes then that is what we need to finish with a good result. Last year we went very well and reached 14th -- we actually retired in the end but this year I would like to do better. I have driven with Jakke before in 2001 -- he has good experience and I'm sure we will be able to get a good result."
The rally kicks off with the first run of 2.06km superspecial stage at the Killeri trotting track on the evening of Thursday 7 August. The first day takes crews over 140.36 kilometres of familiar special stages although SS3/9, Kruununpera features 10.2km of new road at its start, and a second run at Killeri concludes the day. Leg two heads south of the Jyvaskyla Rally HQ base for 167.92 competitive kilometres over seven speed tests around Jamsa. The final day covers the remaining 100.90km before crews reach the finish ramp at 15:28hrs. Finland is GMT+3hrs.