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The 2019 FIA World Rally Championship rushes on with the final six events of the season due to be held in 15 weeks in three continents, starting with the traditional and very fast Neste Rally Finland this weekend. Based as usual at the central Finnish town of Jyvaskyla, the route this year will be very familiar with seven of the 13 stage locations exactly the same as last year, and only small changes to the other stages, but there are two major team driver changes. It is expected once again that Neste Rally will be the fastest event in the series.

The Rally Finland service park being constructed on the shore of Lake Jyvasjarvi.

Sixty five cars are entered for the WRC event while another 100 have been entered for the supporting “Vetomies” event, in which competitors drive the four Saturday stages, usually in non-homologated cars between the first and second runs of the WRC cars. There are three new drivers making their first world championship appearance in a WRC car this year, notably Craig Breen (Hyundai i20 Coupe #42), Hayden Paddon (Ford Fiesta #20) and privateer Jouni Virtanen who drives a Fiesta from Janne Tuohino’s JanPro team, running with #18. This is the first WRC entry for Paddon not in a Hyundai since 2013, and the first WRC entry for Breen not in a Citroen since 2015. Around half the entries in the WRC event are Ford Fiestas, among them three new version Fiesta R5 cars and around 27 entries are for R5 cars. There are no entries for cars running under National rather than current FIA rules. There are 14 Junior ERC entries, including Sarmi Pajari who is the 2019 winner of the “Flying Finn Future Star” award.

Kris Meeke will drive his 100th WRC event - this time for Toyota.

Main pre-event celebration is expected to be at Toyota to commemorate Kris Meeke’s 100th WRC start. Both Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala competed on this rally for the first time in 2003, 16 years ago, and are among the five different entered drivers who have won this event in the past - Latvala three times. This is due to be Latvala’s 17th entry on his home WRC event. In clear weather conditions, Neste Rally Finland is one of the least critical events for tyre choices on account of a traditionally low rate of tyre wear. Medium tyres are the prime choice, with only very rare hot conditions favouring hard tyres.   Three quarters of the Vetomies entry are for two-wheel drive cars, which create different road lines and create a special challenge for the top WRC entries on the Saturday afternoon, where drivers will find unexpectedly different lines have been cleared. Late news was the entry change when Elfyn Evans was withdrawn because of an injury suffered on a heavy landing during the recent non-championship Rally Estonia. This injury was likely to be aggravated on the countless jumps on the route on the Neste Rally. He is to be replaced by Gus Greensmith, who had originally been entered with an M-Sport WRC2 Pro entry. No replacement driver will take Greensmith’s place in the R5 car. Eric Camilli is confirmed as the second M-Sport WRC2 Pro entry, on the first appearance of a latest version Fiesta on a WRC event. Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta is also due to drive a new version Fiesta R5, prepared by the Markko Martin's team.
  • Rally Finland team-by-team previews will follow.
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