When having a conversation about the World Rally Championship, what’s the first rally that comes to mind? For many, it’s an easy question to answer.
Its reputation for pure speed, having the cars flat out on gravel roads, and the huge jumps that really test both the driver and car is something that drags you in to get excited each time it comes around.
Some gravel rallies are much slower, a lot more technical. But in the case of Rally Finland, it’s very much pedal to the metal. So much so that nine of the 10 fastest rallies in WRC history have Finland’s name featured – including last week’s spectacular.
So, let’s take a look at each of those 10, shall we?
10. Rally Finland 2005
Average speed: 76.11mph (122.49km/h)
It’s a signal of just how much quicker WRC cars have become over the years that this is one of only two rallies in this top 10 that took place over a decade ago.
Marcus Grönholm took the spoils aboard the much-maligned Peugeot 307 CC, with his Finland win one of two during his last year with Peugeot before it departed the WRC at the end of the season.
Grönholm dominated the weekend, winning by over a minute from Sébastien Loeb, and his average speed just edged Tänak’s 2019 pace by 0.01km/h, averaging 76.11mph (122.49km/h).
9. Rally Finland 2018
Average speed: 76.16mph (122.57km/h)
As he did in 2019, Tänak ended Rally Finland on top the year before but with a slightly faster average speed of 76.16mph (122.57km/h).
It was also a bigger margin of victory compared to a year later as this time 32.7s separated the Toyota driver from his closest competitor Mads Østberg.
Tänak was engaged in a close battle with Østberg for much of the first full day of the rally but gradually eased away as the weekend progressed, taking a maximum 30-point haul as he added the powerstage win to his overall victory.
8. Rally Finland 2010
Average speed: 76.30mph (122.80km/h)
Jari-Matti Latvala successfully defended home honors (following Mikko Hirvonen’s 2009 triumph) in his Ford Focus RS WRC in 2010 against an army of Citroën C4 WRCs.
After an initial challenge from Petter Solberg, who would fade down to fourth by the finish, he wrapped up the win by keeping Sébastien Ogier at bay by 10.1s.
By the end of the year, Latvala was the only driver in the championship top five that wasn’t driving a Citroën too.
7. Rally Finland 2012
Average speed: 76.36mph (122.89km/h)
In his final year of WRC domination, Loeb took his third and most likely final Rally Finland win in 2012 and in doing so set the sixth fastest speed on a WRC rally, averaging 76.36mph (122.89km/h).
Despite leading from start to finish Loeb was at no point comfortably ahead, fending off team-mate and 2009 Rally Finland winner Hirvonen by 6.1s by the end of the weekend.
Loeb’s sixth win of the year and fourth in a row increased his championship lead to 43 points, which would expand to 57 by the end of the season.
6. Rally Finland 2021
Average speed: 76.88mph (123.73km/h)
Making his first of two appearances on the list, Elfyn Evans set an average speed of 76.88mph (123.73km/h) in his Toyota Yaris WRC, putting up a 14.1s gap over Tänak’s Hyundai on what was the last gravel rally for World Rally Cars at the front of the WRC.
The rally also provided a different kind of challenge from what the drivers have been used to in Finland, with the event taking place in the fall after being pushed back due to the pandemic. That led to a night stage being featured for the first time since 1994.
But it’s back to normal this year with the usual early August slot being taken once more.
5. Rally Sweden 2020
Average speed: 77.22mph (124.28km/h)
Thrown off slightly? We are. There’s a sudden break in Rally Finland’s dominance of the speed charts as Sweden’s 2020 event sneaks into fourth.
In what was set to be a very different year with the pandemic and lockdowns, the 2020 Rally Sweden event was nothing like a normal snow rally – eventually leading to the event departing its long-term base in Värmland and moving further north for its 2022 return.
A lack of snow meant the overall route of the weekend was dramatically shortened, and it also allowed Elfyn Evans to set a 77.22mph (124.28km/h) average speed in doing so.
How much different was Sweden without snow than with it? Torsby’s last turn as host produced an average speed that was 10% faster than when Tänak took the victory a year prior.
4. Rally Finland 2022
Average speed: 77.86mph (125.3km/h)
The first time the hybrid Rally1 cars hit the Finnish stages, they were into the history books. Ott Tänak’s unexpected victory against pre-event favorite Toyota was officially the fourth-fastest event in world championship history.
Tänak took the lead on the first forest stage and began to steal a march, pushing to the extreme right from the off. But it was a herculean effort, given the Hyundai driver was fighting all of his natural driving instincts in order to get the most out of his car.
All three works Toyotas were in the battle but in the end it was thinned to a Tänak vs Kalle Rovanperä showdown – a contest Tänak bossed with a statement stage win on Sunday.
From there he could afford to manage his lead for the first time all weekend to seal his third – and Hyundai’s first – Finland win, topped off with the added taste of breaking Toyota’s unbeaten Finnish record.
3. Rally Finland 2015
Average speed: 77.94mph (125.44km/h)
Latvala went head-to-head with Volkswagen team-mate Ogier for victory in 2015.
Despite Latvala’s home advantage, it was Ogier that initially shot into the lead. But by the Saturday afternoon loop, Latvala had put the hammer down to pull away out front and secure a 13.7s victory, setting a 77.94mph (125.44km/h) average speed on his way there.
It was Latvala’s third win on his home event and his second of three wins that season, where he would ultimately finish as championship runner-up for a second consecutive year.
2. Rally Finland 2017
Average speed: 78.39mph (126.16km/h)
The 67th running of Rally Finland brought a first outright WRC victory for Esapekka Lappi, all while scoring the second-fastest average speed of all time with 78.39mph (126.16km/h).
It was a commanding victory at that as over half a minute separated him from closest rival Evans, who back then was driving a Ford Fiesta WRC. But there had been a battle with Toyota team-mate Latvala before then which ended when Latvala retired from the rally with a mechanical problem.
Finland 2017 could potentially have set the record for the fastest rally ever in WRC history had the rally organizer not made a decision to install several man-made chicanes onto stages. With the new-for-2017 regulations leading to the fastest WRC machines ever built, there had been a deliberate bid to keep a lid on average speeds.
1. Rally Finland 2016
Average speed: 78.68mph (126.62km/h)
Taking the honor of holding what is currently the fastest ever WRC rally is Kris Meeke, who earned the achievement on the 2016 edition of Rally Finland.
It was Meeke’s second win of the year and the third of his WRC career, taking home the victory by 29.1s aboard his Citroën DS3 WRC with a 78.68mph (126.62km/h) average speed.
Will his record ever be beaten? The introduction of Rally1 provides a golden opportunity for a new entry on this list, though topping Meeke’s benchmark will always remain a big ask of any driver and car.