Preview - Neste Oil Rally Finland

The Finish University town of Jyväskylä is the hub of Neste Oil Rally Finland and Paviljonki service park in the centre draws huge crowds before competitors leave for the classic smooth gravel stages among forests and lakes with the massive jumps that characterise this Scandinavian rally.
Thursday evening's short, sharp leg has been replaced by the Harju street stage in Jyvaskyla. Friday is the longest and heads south-west towards Jämsa and nearly half the rally's competitive distance without service, leaving no room for error. Saturday's classic tests include such as Mökkiperä and Jukojärvi, while Sunday's final leg features just two passes over the fast and demanding roads of Myhinpää.
The rally is a mixture of hard, wide roads with narrower more technical sections and competitors have to go flat out from start to finish, with the event affectionately known as the Finnish Grand Prix with nine of the 10 fastest WRC rallies having been recorded here. Pace notes must be perfect as blind crests often hide corners, making it vital to position the car correctly before take-off to ensure maximum speed through the bend.
Speeds are so high that time differences are inevitably small, leaving little opportunity to regain time after a mistake. The event is also one of the hardest rallies for co-drivers as high speeds demand a constant, pinpoint accurate delivery of pace notes.
The iconic rally dates back to 1951 when it was launched as a means of deciding the Finnish entries for the prestigious Rallye Monte-Carlo. The rally then took on the name - The 1000 Lakes Rally and was included in the calendar for the WRC in its first year in 1973. The results have been dominated by Finnish drivers who have won 52 of the 64 editions. Top of the roll of honour are Hannu Mikkola and Marcus Grönholm with seven wins each.
This year the infamous Ouninpohja stage is back and popularly regarded as the sport's biggest test of bravery and commitment. The stage returns with the full-length 34km version driven twice on Friday. Jyväskylä's Harju street stage kicks off the rally on Thursday night with all the party atmosphere provided by the ultimate rally town.
After seven WRC rounds, Sébastien Ogier currently holds a commanding hold on the 2015 championship with 161 points from Andreas Mikkelsen on 83 and Mads Østberg in third place on 69 points. There are six rallies, including Neste Oil Rally Finland, remaining and the 2015 championship finishes with Wales Rally GB in November.

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31st July, 2015