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Due to its high average speed it is regarded as the “Finnish Grand Prix”. When the racers tackle the eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) at Rally Finland from 01 to 04 August across a total distance of 1,625.69 kilometres they are in for the quickest event on the whole calendar with jumps up to 60 metres long. This is one of the reasons why Rally Finland marks another important step in the Volkswagen factory team’s preparation for its WRC entry with the Polo R WRC next year.
“With average speeds of more than 120 km/h Rally Finland has a special role in the World Rally Championship,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “The rough and quick gravel tracks with numerous big jumps put both the drivers and the cars to a tough test. But the mood of the fans in Finland is always very special too. There’s hardly another country in which enthusiasm for rally racing is equally strong.”
Aim is to continue the Volkswagen team’s successful interim tally
Exactly a year ago, in Finland, the team of Volkswagen Motorsport contested a WRC round again for the first time since 1991. This year, Volkswagen is again competing with two 270-HP Fabia cars of the Group’s Škoda brand in the less powerful S2000 class. Alongside the Frenchmen Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia the Norwegians Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene will be running at the event. Although the commitments with the Fabia S2000 primarily serve to gather experience for the WRC entry in 2013 the Volkswagen squad has clinched seven class victories in succession and, in addition, with Sébastien Ogier in the cockpit, repeatedly beat more powerful WRC competitors.
However, due to the regulation-induced power disadvantage of the S2000 class vis-à-vis the WRC top cars in the World Rally Championship this will not be an easy feat in the Finnish forests. The 18 special stages (SS) across 303.52 kilometres with their long, often blind corners and crests on which the vehicles jump for lengths of up to 60 metres challenge the courage of the cockpit crews. “There’s no other venue where you drive with more risk than in Finland,” says Ogier’s co-driver Julien Ingrassia.

“The concentration of all the crews is even higher than usual. You need a lot of experience to be among the front runners here – particularly in the ‘third dimension’ – the huge jumps.” Ogier, too, knows what counts. “In Finland, you’ve got to have one hundred per cent trust in the car. If you do, then there’s no nicer rally on the calendar. I love driving there,” says the Frenchman who in 2010 and 2011 finished in second and third place in Finland and is now contesting the rally for Volkswagen for the first time. I think with our Škoda a place among the top ten is realistic. We’ll also benefit from the experiences we gathered there in the test with the Polo R WRC.”
For his team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen, this marks the fourth run at Rally Finland. Mikkelsen made his debut in the classic event in 2007, shortly after his 18th birthday. Last year, he competed there in the Škoda for Volkswagen Motorsport. Until suffering radiator damage due to falling rocks on the 17th special stage the Norwegian was running in the top three of the S2000 classification. “My experience from last year will probably be helpful on some of the stages,” says Mikkelsen. “Spectacular jumps, blind corners and lots of trees – Finland is the quickest gravel rally on the calendar, which makes it so popular with the drivers. I’m especially looking forward to the famous, near-33-kilometre Ouninpohja special stage that is back on the calendar this year.” This year, the Norwegian is hoping for a better finish than last year. “All in all, we want to deliver a clean and consistently good rally and gather valuable findings for next year.”

In this endeavour, 23-year-old Mikkelsen can also count on his seasoned co-driver Ola Fløene. “For me, this is the seventh run in Finland and a wealth of experience is certainly not a disadvantage here,” says the 43-year-old. “It’s a very special rally, like Formula One in the woods. For a co-driver, it’s arguably the most difficult event on the calendar. You’ve got to go about your job with extreme concentration and, in contrast to slower rallies, not announce the course too early as you read the road-book to the driver. Everything’s got to precisely fit in terms of timing or else you end up in the woods.”
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