NESTE RALLY FINLAND – Aug 6th – 8th, Round 9
Known as the grand prix of the WRC due to the phenomenal high speeds – averaging around 75mph. Stages are a treacherous, marble like gravel surface, through rolling woods and around the many lakes of mid Finland. Based in the “rally capital” of the world, Jyvaskyla, 250km north of Helsinki, the events trademark is the notorious yumps (high speed crests/jumps) which launch the cars through the air. Frequently cars fly beyond 25 metres!
This event is not for the faint hearted, for crews and spectators alike, as you witness unbelievable levels of commitment and skill over the blind crests and lakeside tracks, barely inches from unforgiving ditches and immovable sturdy pines. Finland is an enthusiasts dream event. Infamous stages such as Ruuhimaki and Mokkipera contain series of yumps unlike any others in the world. You can gasp as the cars land beyond you, travelling at over 100mph – “words cannot convey the experience!” Rallying is almost the national sport in Finland. With 90% of the roads being gravel. The crowds are very knowledgeable, enthusiastic, well disciplined and very large. The fanatical level of support for all drivers showing total commitment generates an atmosphere incomparable to any other in the WRC.
Back at Jyvaskyla, on each evening of the event, the atmosphere is equally electrifying. In the suburbs of the town is the super special stage Killiri, which is well worth a shuttle bus ride to experience the intense cauldron of head to head competition. Every driver is cheered around the track by fans waving flags from around the globe – another rare spectacle.
Jyvaskyla is the “rally capital”, party town of Finland.
The Scandanavians are well versed at launching themselves into a full celebration to their heroes every night and still recover for a trip into the clean and fresh forest air the next morning. Warm and friendly, the locals are more likely to ask you to join them and share your evening than allow you to retire early. Especially on Saturday night when the town is wide awake – all night if you wish.
As you may imagine, the Jyvaskylan nightlife is equal to the challenge with a concentration of trendy bars, pubs, restaurants and piazza style cafes in a pedestrian area that is buzzing throughout the rally.
Accommodation is scarce in the town and controlled by the organisers. However we use the Hotel Rentukka in Jyvaskyla which offers simple accommodation and a hearty breakfast.
“Scandanavians want revenge !”
Only three non-Scandinavians have won this rally since 1970 and last year Martin triumphed, much to the dismay of the Fins. Undoubtedly 2004 will see Gronholm, Rovanperra (the local hero) and Hirvonen trying to bring the trophy back to Finland. Will anyone beat Marko Martins record jump of 57 metres set in 2003?