Finnish WRC director puzzled by Swedish plans – Rally Finland will not follow

This year, the route of the Rally Finland includes chicanes. But why are they necessary?
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Photo by: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool
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For the first time in eight years, this year’s Rally Finland will feature a special stage exceeding 30 kilometres. In fact, the longest special stage in recent years has only been around 20 kilometres.

“20 kilometres is the ideal length for a special stage and it’s manageable as a whole,” explains Kari Nuutinen, Rally Finland’s Deputy Clerk of the Course, discussing the absence of longer special stages.

Regulating the length of special stages can also have cost benefits. As an example, Nuutinen points out Päijälä, where shortening the stage by a few kilometres allowed it to be run with one less safety marshal point.

Remote service under consideration

For next year, the FIA’s working group has proposed regulation changes that include remote service. However, Nuutinen is not yet promising the much-anticipated ‘Tampere loop’.

“Remote service opens up many possibilities for route planning. Of course, the overall benefit must be weighed,” Nuutinen contemplates.

Nuutinen highlights the Paviljonki service park in Jyväskylä as one of the strengths of the Rally Finland, attracting many visitors. He says that factory teams use this for marketing purposes.

“The teams’ attitudes are a significant pillar for our continuation in the calendar. That’s why we shouldn’t rush into opportunities but rather weigh everything carefully,” Nuutinen explains.

Nuutinen is not enthusiastic about the possibilities for short or long WRC events proposed by the FIA working group when it comes to the Finland Rally. He sees reduced ticket sales as a problem with short rallies and challenges in obtaining rescue equipment and marshals for longer rallies.

Read also: This man is the architect of the Rally Finland route – “Sometimes I wonder myself if there’s any sense in it”

Single-run stages to remain history

Single-run special stages have not been featured in the Rally Finland since 2021. Kari Nuutinen does not believe there will be more in the near future, simply for cost reasons.

“Organising a special stage nowadays is a huge effort, requiring a lot of personnel and permits. It’s not practical to do all that work for a stage run only once,” Nuutinen states.

Nuutinen also wonders about Rally Sweden’s intentions to organise all special stages to be run only once.

“They might be aiming for a short WRC round. Otherwise, the recce wouldn’t be possible in two days, and the teams do not like extra recce days,” Nuutinen ponders.

In Latvia, meanwhile, pairs of stages are run once, sharing parts of the same route. This was also done in Rally Finland in years like 1996-1997 with Rapsula and Ouninpohja. Nuutinen does not rule out such a solution but reminds that it prevents additional classes from driving.

Frustrating average speed discussions

Since 2017, Rally Finland special stages have been slowed down using various methods – chicanes, more intersections, and routes consisting more of smaller roads. However, in recent years, high-speed stages like Myhinpää and Ouninpohja have been reintroduced.

Nuutinen states that FIA’s guidelines on special stage safety haven’t changed, but average speed is no longer the criterion as it was in previous decades.

Kari Nuutinen getting acquainted with the speed of a WRC car. Photo by Sami Kolsi.

“Overall, the average speed discussion is quite frustrating. Of course, they must be addressed if the numbers are unsightly,” Nuutinen remarks.

Despite this, the 2023 Rally Finland’s Lankamaa stage, which had a record average speed of 143 km/h, did not result in any warnings or reprimands from FIA, nor was the stage speed a surprise to the organisers, as the stage had been run before.

Nuutinen believes that instead of lowering the average speed, it is more important to regularly interrupt high-speed driving to prevent drivers from becoming speed blind. This year, this is implemented in stages like Myhinpää and Ouninpohja using chicanes.

“Research data from track racing shows that the risk of going off increases exponentially when driving at high speeds for extended periods,” Nuutinen explains.

It might seem that the Rally Finland organisers would welcome FIA’s working group plans to slow down Rally1 cars by removing the hybrid unit, reducing the restrictor, and diminishing aerodynamics.

“I think it’s the right direction to make the cars more challenging to drive,” Nuutinen concludes.

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