Day 2 of Rally Finland 2018 was all about one thing – jumps! Finnish roads are renowned for their huge crests and rally cars getting airborne not just a few times during an event, but often several times in a single stage. It certainly gives the suspension a workout…
To get our own taste of Finland’s famous jumps, my Dad and I headed to Special Stage 8 ‘Urria 2.’ Over the course of the rally, more and more spectators have been heading to the forests, making for an amazing atmosphere unlike anything I have experienced before.
Surprisingly, the driver with the most visible support is not one of the ‘flying Finns,’ but rather Estonia’s Ott Tanak. On almost every stage, the Estonian flag can be seen flying, often with the Toyota driver’s name emblazoned across it. His fans have certainly not been disappointed, as Tanak is currently leading the rally by 39 seconds over Citroen’s Mads Ostberg in second place. If Tanak wins, he may well become a national hero, such is the excitement among his loyal supporters! Meanwhile, Tanak’s Toyota team-mates, Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi, are third and fourth respectively, leaving the team tantalisingly close to a 1-2-3 finish on their home event. With four stages remaining, nothing is decided and so that dream may yet become a reality.
As for the cars themselves, the sight of pure competition-bred machinery (only loosely based on the road-going models you and I can buy) being launched into the air at ridiculously high speed and landing in such a composed manner is simply astonishing. To describe is as ‘dramatic’ feels like an understatement, as it is only when you consider the incredibly large forces being absorbed by the suspension and the clever aero that helps the cars fly level and land smoothly that you really appreciate what you’re seeing.
The sheer effort and number of people involved in preparing a car capable of performing such a feat perhaps explains why I’m only just mentioning the commitment of the drivers. Their ability to push right to the edge was evident once again on Day 3, when we headed to the second running of the Kakaristo stage. It always surprises me when a driver claims to be holding back, as to the uninitiated they seem to be taking constant risks that most of us wouldn’t even dare to contemplate. The speed they were carrying on the fast, flowing section of track where we spectated from on Saturday afternoon was breath-taking, awe-inspiring and a vivid demonstration of the step-up in performance of the latest-generation World Rally Cars over their predecessors. Based on the corner speeds alone, the extra power and aero seem to be working! There is always a debate as to whether such changes are detrimental to the sport’s wider appeal, arguably by making the cars increasingly ‘irrelevant,’ but having now experienced watching them live, I can confidently say it only adds to the spectacle.