Petrolhead is live from Rally Finland 2018! I’ll be bringing you the fan experience with regular updates throughout the rally on http://www.petrolhead.blog and social media.
Yesterday began with the Vesala shakedown stage, giving teams the opportunity to make any last-minute changes to their cars’ setup before the rally began in earnest. This also provided my Dad and I with our first glimpse of the cars that will be flying through the forests over 317.26 km of competitive stages.
What became immediately clear was the difference in speed and driving styles between the different classes. The latest-generation WRC cars were quite simply on another level compared to the WRC2 machinery, even though the latter share the former’s 4WD and turbocharged, 1.6 litre engines (albeit to a lower specification).
We viewed the cars from a tight left-hand corner which quickly turned into a deep rut, dragging some of the less powerful cars out wide and close to the bank. Factor in the huge boulders which appeared as the ruts became bigger, and it became rather treacherous. Despite this, the corner seemed to favour a more committed approach. Several drivers braked too early, failing to carry enough speed into the corner and were caught out by the bumpy terrain.
Special Stage One – Harju
The city of Jyvaskyla was buzzing with anticipation as the crews prepared themselves for their first proper test against the clock. The Harju stage is a mixture of tarmac and gravel, so provided a different challenge to what the drivers can expect from the rest of the rally. It also proved extremely popular with spectators, with those who couldn’t buy tickets even climbing trees to get a view of the stage.
For this stage, we positioned ourselves by a roundabout at the end of a long straight. The speed which the drivers were able to carry before braking heavily, throwing the weight of the car onto the front end to generate as much grip as possible for the corner, was truly impressive. The atmosphere was the best I’ve experienced so far at a rally, and naturally the noise levels went up a notch for Finnish stars such as Kalle Rovanpera and Esapekka Lappi.
It is said that a rally can be won or lost on the first stage, so Toyota driver Ott Tanak’s fastest time will have certainly put down a marker for the rest of the field. Many fans will no doubt be hoping to see Toyota claim another victory on their home event. Check back tomorrow for more Rally Finland coverage and follow Petrolhead on social media for live updates!