The Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team will welcome four-time FIA World Rally Champion Juha Kankkunen to the Cumbria-based squad at Neste Oil Rally Finland next week.

To mark the event’s sixtieth jubilee, Kankkunen will contest the eighth round of the WRC in a Ford Focus RS WRC alongside long-time co-driver Juha Repo.  The 51-year-old driver started his professional rallying career at Rally Finland in 1979, but the Finn has not competed in the hugely-popular event since 2002.

Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor will also be back behind the wheel of a Ford Focus RS WRC after contesting the previous WRC round in a Ford Fiesta Super 2000.  Last year at Rally Finland Solberg sustained damage to his front suspension, which dropped the Norwegian from fifth position and caused Solberg to compete under SupeRally regulations on the final day.

Regular Stobart M-Sport drivers Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin will lead the way for the Cumbria-based team in Finland. This will be the British duo’s fifth outing at the event and they will be looking to improve on their best result at Rally Finland when they finished eighth overall last year.

Also flying the flag for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team is another Finnish crew of Mattias Therman and co-driver Janne Perälä.  The duo contested last year’s Neste Oil Rally Finland driving a Munchi’s Ford Focus RS WRC and finished fifteenth overall.  Neither Kankkunen or Therman will be nominated to score manufacturer points for the team.
Event Summary
Formerly known as the 1000 Lakes Rally, Neste Oil Rally Finland is one of the most popular events on the WRC calendar and this year will also commemorate the event’s 60th anniversary. The Scandinavian country is regarded by many as the 'the spiritual home of rally' and this year’s rally has an impressive 30 of the 101 starting entrants behind the wheel of a Ford.

This year’s Rally Finland will consist of a shorter format than previous years and most of the 19 stages covering 310km will be contested over two days. A confident driving approach is essential as Rally Finland will test WRC drivers to the limit as they face extremely fast tree-lined gravel stages combined with blind crests and huge jumps. The smallest of mistakes can prove fatal so maximum concentration from the drivers is essential.
Rally HQ is based in Jyväskylä, a bustling student city located in central Finland, 270km north of Helsinki and located on the northern coast of the beautiful lake Päijänne.  The service park will be based at the Paviljonki Exhibition Centre.
The shorter format for this year’s Rally Finland will kick off with a 4.19km forest stage based in the outskirts of Jyväskylä on the Thursday evening.   The first full day of action on Friday will consist of ten stages covering 143.8km and the opening loop consists of four 70.08km stages located west of the service park.  Friday afternoon will see the WRC drivers cover six 73km stages based north of the service park, culminating with a repeat of the day’s opening stage in Jyväskylä at the end of the day.
The second full day is the longest of this year’s Rally Finland and will include two services.  Saturday’s opening loop consists of three stages totalling 59.23km located south of the service park.  Väärinmaja (SS13) is the longest of the rally at 29.29km long and the opening stage of the morning, Surkee (SS14 and SS17) is a new stage.  The final five stages of the day are once again based south of the service park and total 103.55km of competitive distance.  Three stages (SS11, SS16 & SS19) will all be filmed live along with the finish podium ceremony.  The pre-event FIA press conference will also be filmed and broadcast live for the first time.
Date:  29 - 31 July, 2010
Round:  8 of 13 FIA World Rally Championship
Based: Jyväskylä
Stage surface: Gravel
Total stage distance: 310km
Number of stages: 19
Longest stage: Väärinmaja, 29.29km (SS13)
Service Park:   Paviljonki
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
“I’m really looking forward to Finland and getting back to driving on gravel with the [Ford] Focus. Last year, I finished eighth which was my best result in this rally so I’m hoping I can improve on this result next week.  There are a lot of Finnish competitors this year though and this is definitely a rally where experience counts for a lot so I’m expecting the competition to be tough. Concentration is extremely important for this rally and even more so for this year as they’ve made the days longer than usual.  I’ve been working very hard with Barry [Johnson, Matthew’s trainer] recently so hopefully this will help with my concentration.”
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
“Rally Finland is one of my favourite WRC rounds - it is such a  fast rally and there are huge jumps on many of the stages.  Finland is very similar to my home country of Norway so it almost feels like I’m at home when I’m there.  There is also a fantastic fan base which really helps keep my spirits high.  Last year, I had some problems on the second day but I’ve achieved top five finishes in Finland before so I think I can do well at this event - I just need to keep good concentration throughout.  I want to get to the end of this rally with no major problems and with a good end result for the team.”
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Juha Kankkunen said:
“It's going to be great to drive again and I’m very excited to attend the jubilee event as a part of the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team.  It is also a fantastic opportunity to enjoy a World Rally Car, especially after knowing they'll disappear from the series after this season. I haven't spent much time in the latest generation cars and I know there's been a lot of changes, but I don’t foresee any undue surprises.  My target is a place in the top 10 and to battle with Kimi Räikkönen. Juha [Repo] last competed in this rally in 2003 where he finished eleventh so he also eager to finish inside the top ten.”
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Mattias Therman said:
“Finland is my home country so I really can’t wait for next week.  I competed in Rally Finland last year for the first time and it’s a tough event because it’s so fast and the smallest of mistakes can prove fatal.  I think my experience from 2009 will help me as some stages are the same so I should know what to expect. I also drove the [Ford] Focus last time I did this rally and it was a great car to drive on the fast gravel so I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the Focus again. I feel privileged to be a part of the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team and will push hard for a good end result.”
Stobart M-Sport Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“I’m delighted to welcome four-time World Rally Champion Juha Kankkunen into the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team.  He is an idol to thousands in the rallying world and it is fantastic news that he will be joining the team in Finland next week.  It is also good news that Mattias is back behind the wheel of a Ford Focus RS WRC – we are expecting a strong performance from him over the weekend.  There is little doubt that Finland is a very challenging rally but Matthew and Henning have good experience of this rally which will hold them in good stead for a healthy points haul at a crucial s tage of the season.”

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