A winter survival kit and a stage running across the top of a deep-frozen swamp, those are the headlines from Tuesday’s communication for Arctic Rally Finland.
As previously outlined in DirtFish’s guide to rallying in Planet Earth’s far north, no competing crew will be allowed to cross the start line on Friday February 26 without having packed a pair of snow shovels and some warm clothes in the back of the car. It’s that cold and that isolated.
Deputy clerk of the course Kari Nuutinen outlined the challenge, saying: “Arctic Rally Finland is winter motorsport at its very best and we can’t wait to deliver a fantastic, challenging and compact addition to the FIA World Rally Championship calendar under rigorous COVID-19 protocols.
“The ambient temperatures should be between minus 6 and minus 14 degrees centigrade during the week of the rally although they could dip as low as minus 20. And there will be plenty of snow – or what Lapland people call ‘white gold’ – on the ground, so perfect conditions for a winter rally.
“The stages won’t be too unfamiliar to those used on the Arctic Lapland Rally, although some will be shorter to suit the WRC format, while others will run in reverse direction to create a level playing field for all crews.”
As was the case with last month’s Monte Carlo Rally, the event will be closed to spectators, adding to the need for the crews to be ready to fend for themselves if they stop on what will be some of the WRC’s most remote and challenging terrain of the season.
The event organizers said: “Regulations require each competing car to be fitted with a winter survival kit including two shovels and warm clothing in the event of a rally car going off the road and getting stuck in the snow. Because immediate help won’t be at hand from spectators due the event running behind closed doors in line COVID-19 protocols and government restrictions, the survival kit is an essential requirement.”
The Rovaniemi-based event will include 10 stages and 156 miles. And, while it runs to a now familiar shortened format with the 3.53-mile shakedown test on Friday morning, the afternoon packs a punch with two runs at the 19.29-mile Sarriojärvi stage. The first of those will start with the winter sun setting, while the second starts in total darkness.
Saturday’s longest day delivers two loops of three stages, once again featuring night stages and 90 miles’ of competition. Sunday’s about two shots at Aittajärvi (13.96 miles), the second of which will offer powerstage bonus points.
Friday: “Sarriojärvi passes through probably the most beautiful terrain in the Arctic Circle. The stage includes flowing sections and will be a firm favourite among the drivers with the second pass run in the dark. It’s the longest stage of the rally and crews will need to be ready for some extremely narrow sections and many corners over crests. The snowbanks were one-metre high during the recent route planning.”
Saturday: “Day two begins with the 24.43 kilometers of Mustalampi (SS3), which runs over the top of a frozen swamp at one point. The stage includes sections of Jyrhämäjärvi, a stage well known to Finnish drivers. Mustalampi, which also counts as SS6, ends with a spectacular charge through a driver training area. Kaihuavaara (SS4/7) is 19.91 kilometers long and one of three during the event being broadcast live on TV around the world. It’s a very fast stage with many height variations and narrow sections. Siikakämä (SS5/8) is a typical of the forest roads around Rovaniemi but some 15 kilometres shorter than the version used on the Arctic Lapland Rally last month at 27.68 kilometers.”
Sunday: “This is a legendary Lapland stage with a section running through the farmhouses at Niemelä. It’s hard to compare it to anything else and needs to be seen to be believed.”