Rally Finland has announced its 2020 route – and we’ve got the full inside line on the changes to this most spectacular of World Rally Championship rounds as it celebrates its 70th anniversary.
First, here’s David Evans to summarise what’s happening:
One of the World Rally Championship’s most iconic hotels will return to August’s Rally Finland route to help celebrate the 70th anniversary.
If you were picking any building synonymous with the ‘Jyväskylän Suurajot’, Hotelli Laajavuori would be the one.
Fortunately for many – but unfortunately for most – the rooms of the place once known as the Hotel Rantasipi will keep their secrets. And there are many. Once the home of the Jyväskylän Suurajot (Grand Prix), countless celebrations, commiserations and contracts have been discussed and dealt in these corridors. The Mäkinens, Toivonens, Aléns, Mikkolas and Vatanens of this world adorn the walls by way of a tribute to the great and the good who came and conquered the roads around the Rantasipi once a season.
And now it’s back.
The final day’s podium celebrations will be back in the hotel, with the powerstage finishing close by.
That’s just one of a raft of changes made to the route for this August’s event.
The headlines include a very different opening day made up of a brace of runs at Laukaa and Ruuhimäki – the Sunday tests from last year. Friday afternoon remains in the Jyväskylä area two loops of Humalamäki, Ässämäki and Sahloinen-Moksi.
Humalamäki is one of two completely new stages for this year.
Saturday remains largely the same as last year with Pihlajakoski, Päijälä, Kakaristo and Arvaja. Arvaja is the other new stage and replaces Leustu from 2019. A shorter Laajavuori test concludes Saturday night.
Sunday is two runs at Oittila and Laajavuori.
Deputy clerk of the course Kari Nuutinen said: “We were able to include nearly everything we wanted, with the legendary Ouninpohja as the biggest compromise. Based on the decisions made jointly with the FIA, the stage as it is would not be suitable for our modern rally cars.
“However, the competitors and spectators alike still get to enjoy parts of Ouninpohja, thanks to the familiar Kakaristo special stage. We trust and wish the rally crowds at our anniversary event get to experience some amazing moments out along the route, honouring the long traditions of the rally and enjoying the success of our national heroes!”
Deputy clerk of the course Kari Nuutinen talks us through each and every stage:
Thursday August 6
Shakedown – Vesala
“The Vesala special stage, familiar especially from the 1980s and ‘90s, gets the honour of warming the drivers and cars up before the start of the actual competition.
“The shakedown stage is a summarised representation of what to expect from the route. Vesala is located close to Jyväskylä, features different types of road and acts as a fantastic prologue for the drivers.
“Vesala has been the shakedown stage for a couple of times in recent years and this year, driven in the opposite direction, it will be a totally new experience.”
Harju SS 1/12
“Naturally, this king of city special stages will be the opening stage of Neste Rally Finland 2020. Harju is a high-speed firecracker of a stage with amazing atmosphere. A perfect mix of asphalt and gravel – and definitely not your average drive around the block!
“The extra special anniversary side events and entertainment complement the package. Once again, Rally Finland starts in a worthy manner in the heart of Jyväskylä, and so the grand prix on gravel begins.”
Friday August 7
Laukaa SS 2/4
“Friday’s string of forest stages kicks off in Laukaa, with many different types of roads and changing Lakeland scenery. This stage with long traditions has its roots deep in the history of the rally.
“In recent years, Laukaa in its new form has made a comeback into the Neste Rally Finland route. Our cooperation with the Laukaa municipality generates a new kind of local vitality, and the Laukaa and Ruuhimäki duo have clearly established their place in the hearts of all rally fans.”
Ruuhimäki SS 3/5
“Ruuhimäki is like Neste Rally Finland on a miniature scale: action-packed, high-flying and challenging in many ways.
“In the past few years, we have been accustomed to seeing Ruuhimäki as the rally-ending powerstage. And this year we absolutely wanted to keep this popular speed test in the anniversary route, so now fans get to tune in to the fantastic rally spirit well in advance, near the Ruuhimäki stage finish for example. All the basic elements of a rally festival as well as service providers can be found near the stage finish – so get ready to rock.”
Humalamäki SS 6/9
“The Humalamäki special stage is making a comeback in honour of the anniversary event. Humalamäki, a permanent fixture in Rally Finland in the 1970s, was last driven in the mid-‘80s and has been seen as a shakedown even a few years after that. We have now been able to update it into a full-blooded special stage suitable for the modern rally cars – which we are extremely proud of.
“As a completely unfamiliar stage to the current drivers, it will be a challenge to learn new and fast-paced road. It will be very interesting to see who will be the quickest to master this special stage classic.”
Ässämäki SS 7/10
“Ässämäki is yet another new stretch for the drivers to learn, as the driving direction has been changed from last year and there are also totally new, never-before-driven sections in the first part of the stage. This challenging special stage also has a little bit of the former Halinen stage woven into it.
“Ässämäki consists of smallish but rather fast roads that need to be driven with great precision. You won’t know how well you did until you reach the stage finish and see your time on the board.”
Sahloinen-Moksi SS 8/11
“This stage is also steeped in history. There was a special stage called Sahloinen driven in 1977-1993, and we have picked some special elements from those days and incorporated them into this new anniversary stage.
“We’re introducing new parts from the direction of Sahloinen to the beginning of the stage and the remaining part has been joined into the traditional Moksi roads, where the historic route is reflected in the interesting roads and fantastic scenery. The Moksi junction as a place to watch the rally from and where you can really immerse yourself in the fantastic atmosphere in a big way, is already a ‘concept’ in its own right.”
Saturday August 8
Pihlajakoski SS 13/17
“Pihlajakoski is a special stage with a really long history. It became a well-known favourite of especially the 1970s rally-goers. This year, Pihlajakoski will be driven in the same form as it was in 2019. It is a rather challenging fast-paced speed test, which is also one of the favourite stages among the drivers.
“The idyllic village of Pihlajakoski along the special stage boasts amazing scenery as well as the best spectator areas and great service. Despite of his young age, Kalle Rovanperä has already been able to write history in Pihlajakoski by famously driving there with his bonnet up.”
Päijälä SS 14/18
“A long stage, where the local Päijälä villagers play a very active role in ‘the making of their own special stage’. Päijälä also features one of the most famous bends in the rally, which pops up about mid-way through the stage, as well as picture-perfect scenery for several kilometres.
“A challenging special stage for all drivers, and that way also a very exciting stage for the spectators.”
Kakaristo SS 15/19
“Kakaristo, always one of the crowd favourites, needs no introductions. This is the familiar Ouninpohja stage that features many different road types. When it comes to the level of difficulty, Kakaristo is most likely an even more challenging stage than Ouninpohja and a true test for even the toughest rally professionals in the world.
“The Kakaristo junction is one of the most famous spectator areas in Neste Rally Finland, with guaranteed fantastic atmosphere.”
Arvaja SS 16/20
“Arvaja is a perfect addition to the anniversary route, as all the current drivers will be first-timers there. A completely new special stage for the WRC era that features some of the most challenging road sections in Finland and has especially spectacular spectator areas near the stage finish.
“Arvaja might just become everyone’s favourite – and if I were to go and watch Neste Rally Finland myself, I would definitely include Arvaja in my plans.”
Sunday August 9
Laajavuori SS 21/24
“The place of a thousand stories. Laajavuori was the Rally HQ in Jyväskylä for many decades, up until the turn of the millennium, and it’s an integral part of the history of the event. The last time Laajavuori was driven, as shakedown, was in 2014. This year, the special stage Laajavuori will provide high-speed rally action on gravel and also partly on asphalt.
“The stage starts with a climb up the ski slope and eventually winds its way down almost to the same spot. On Sunday, Neste Rally Finland 2020 culminates in the Laajavuori Power Stage, followed by the official podium ceremonies organised right there in Laajavuori. A historic full circle moment, quite literally!”
Oittila SS 22/23
“One of the most difficult special stages in Rally Finland, where you have to be able to control everything from the high speeds to the changing road types and precise details. Oittila is driven twice and in the same form as in 2019. It is more than challenging enough to kick-start the final day of the rally on Sunday – and Oittila might well be a game changer too.
“The length of the stage, the variety of different road types as well as all the changes in rhythm guarantee there will be plenty of action and the competition will remain exciting all the way to the end.”