Rally Finland: The Gravel Grand prix

Rally Finland: The Gravel Grand prix

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After a six-week break, the 2018 World Rally Championship resumes this week with one of the most spectacular rounds of all: Rally Finland. After a thrilling conclusion to the last event in Sardinia with only 0.7 seconds separating the rally winner, Thierry Neuville, from the current world champion, Sébastien Ogier, the two contenders will continue their duel for the WRC title.

Rally Finland is the fastest event in the WRC. In fact, nine of the 10 fastest ever WRC rallies have been held there.

The stages consist mostly of smooth and wide gravel roads that contain numerous jumps lined by trees. The high speeds mean that accurate pace notes are crucial and time differences are usually small – meaning that any mistakes can be hard to recover from.

The rally remains in its long-time home of Jyvaskyla in central Finland, but almost 40 per cent of the 2018 route hasn’t been driven before, and nearly 65 per cent is different compared to 2017.

Esapekka LappiFinland has produced more world rally champions than any other nation, and now a new generation is emerging

Esapekka Lappi won on his first attempt in the top class at home 12 months ago and will be among the favourites again – as will his team-mates Ott Tanak and Jari-Matti Latvala in the locally-based Toyota team. Another up-and-coming Finn, M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen, could be among their strongest challengers. Watch out too for 17-year-old sensation Kalle Rovanpera in the WRC2 category.

One man who knows what it takes to win Rally Finland is Mikko Hirvonen, who triumphed on his home event in 2009: one of his 15 career WRC victories. That year, he came closest as anybody to interrupting the great Sebastien Loeb’s run of nine straight titles, falling short by just one point.

After retiring from the WRC at the end of 2014, Mikko has moved into rally raids, taking part in his third Dakar Rally at the start of this year. He continues to keep a close eye on the WRC though and will be Red Bull TV’s expert commentator for the whole of Rally Finland, joining regular host Mike Chen for highlights on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as well as live stage action on Saturday afternoon.

Rally FinlandRally Finland Schedule (GMT+3)

Thursday 26 July

8.00am: Shakedown Vesala (4,26 km)

6.37pm: Start (Jyväskylä Paviljonki)

7.00pm: SS 1 – Harju 1 (2,31 km)

7.25pm: Parc fermé

Friday 27 July

7.15am: Service A (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 15 min)

8.18am: SS 2 – Moksi 1 (20,04 km)

9.21am: SS 3 – Urria 1 (12,28 km)

10.13am: SS 4 – Ässämäki 1 (12,33 km)

11.36am: SS 5 – Äänekoski 1 (7,71 km)

12.51pm: Service B (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 30 min)

2.24pm: SS 6 – Oittila (19,34 km)

3.27pm: SS 7 – Moksi 2 (20,04 km)

4.30pm: SS 8 – Urria 2 (12,28 km)

5.22pm: SS 9 – Ässämäki 2 (12,33 km)

6.45pm: SS 10 – Äänekoski 2 (7,71 km)

8.00pm: SS 11 – Harju 2 (2,31 km)

8.30pm: Flexi service C (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 45 min)

Saturday 28 July

6.00am: Service D (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 15 min)

8.13am: SS 12 – Päijälä 1 (23,92 km)

9.29am: SS 13 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14,90 km)

10.38am: SS 14 – Kakaristo 1 (23,66 km)

12.13pm: SS 15 – Tuohikotanen 1 (8,95 km)

1.31pm: Service E (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 30 min)

2.55pm: SS 16 – Tuohikotanen 2 (8,95 km)

4.08pm: SS 17 – Kakaristo 2 (23,66 km)

5.36pm: SS 18 – Päijälä 2 (23,92 km)

6.54pm: SS 19 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14,90 km)

8.55pm: Flexi service F (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 45 min)

Rally FinlandSunday 29 July

7.30am: Service G (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 15 min)

8.38am: SS 20 – Laukaa 1 (11,74 km)

9.38am: SS 21 – Ruuhimäki 1 (11,12 km)

11.01am: SS 22 – Laukaa 2 (11,74 km)

1.18pm: SS 23 – Ruuhimäki 2 Power Stage (11,12 km)

2.21pm: Service H (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 10 min)

4.00pm: Podium

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