When Juho Hänninen won last month’s Arctic Lapland Rally he was close. Very close. Can the winner of that event’s big brother go one mile per hour better and rewrite the World Rally Championship’s fastest record?
The record we’re talking about is, of course, Kris Meeke’s Rally Finland 2016 benchmark of an average speed of 78.68mph – the fastest WRC round in history. Driving a Toyota Yaris WRC, Hänninen ended the opening round of the Finnish Rally Championship at an average of 77.99mph. Fellow Toyota-driving Finn Kalle Rovanperä managed a similar feat (on his maiden competitive outing in a Yaris) at 76.68mph last year.
Does the 20-year-old have Meeke’s record in his sights?
“I think it will be very fast in places,” Rovanperä told DirtFish. “But there are also some technical places.
“The key is to be really quick and precise and make no mistake – you can lose a lot of time in snowbanks. You have to be precise and push all of the time. I think the speeds will be quite like Sweden. Faster than Finland? Maybe some stages will be, but also Rally Finland is very fast in the summertime.”
Arctic Rally Finland clerk of the course Kai Tarkiainen isn’t so sure about this week being a record-breaker.
“The first stage is fast,” he told DirtFish. “That stage on Friday is the one most like Rally Finland – it’s a nice wide, fast road with lots of crests. I think we will see the cars at 200kph (120mph) there. But the rest, there are some slower sections. It’s hard to say, but I’m not sure for the fastest rally ever.”
Those speeds pale into insignificance when you look back at what’s reckoned to be the fastest speed on a stage ever.
That came on the 1983 Rally Argentina when Stig Blomqvist won the 51-mile stage from Fray Louis Beltran-Valle Azul at an average speed of 118mph. Basically, he wound his Audi Quattro A2 up to its 130mph maximum and fired it down a largely straight piece of road.