"Sisu" is the Finnish expression for showing strong nerves – something the participants at the Rally Finland will have to do plenty of. With average speeds of over 120 kilometres per hour, giving the rally its nickname of the "Finland Grand Prix", and incredible jumps that see the cars fly up to 60 metres through the air, Finland is not only the fastest but also one of the most spectacular rallies on the WRC calendar. Anyone not demonstrating enough "Sisu" can abandon any hopes of finishing towards the top of the overall standings at the end of the rally.
August, a total of 18 special stages will take the participants at high speed through the captivating Finnish scenery around the university city of Jyvaskyla, in the heart of the country, which also houses the rally’s service park. This year, the organisers have come up with a course that incorporates 302.82 timed kilometres, which must be mastered from Thursday to Saturday. Every day features a number of hotspots, which offer the spectators the best views of the action. And Finland is not only known for its action on the track, but also off it.
WRC drivers take more risks here than anywhere else. The high speeds require maximum concentration, while the long jumps demand plenty of courage and a high degree of skill, as the track behind the crest is not visible to the drivers as they approach many of the jumps. Every participant has to know exactly what awaits him. This makes an intensive recce, perfect pace notes and, last but not least, blind faith in the word of the co-driver essential to any success at the Rally Finland.
The rally is also a major challenge from a technical point of view. The many jumps demand harder suspensions settings and a larger spring travel. Despite this, the car should lie as low as possible in the corners and be well balanced, in order to achieve maximum grip. Finland expert and Mini legend Rauno Aaltonen says: "Not many teams have found the right combination for the Rally Finland so far. In particular, the third dimension of driving whilst jumping, as the car is still in the air, is not to be underestimated."
The three MINI driving crews will certainly not underestimate the Rally Finland. Armindo Araujo of WRC Team MINI Portugal is already familiar with the characteristics of the Finnish event and will be making his second outing in Finland, having made his debut in 2011. It is also far from unchartered territory for Armindo’s team-mate Paulo Nobre. The Brazilian will be making his third appearance in the far north of Europe. The man with the most experience of Finland, however, is MINI WRC debutant Riku Tahko. The 27-year-old, who will be in a MINI WRC for the Turkish TOK Sport Team, was born in Finland and grew up on his country’s quick gravel routes. As such, Riku will not be lacking "Sisu".
"We had some plans to drive a Super 2000 but we struggled to find a nice solution," says Riku. "When we contacted TOK Sport and they said the magic letters WRC." That gave Riku his ticket for the outing in front of his home crowds. Riku made his very first start in the WRC back in 2005 and now lines up in a MINI WRC for the first time thanks to a wildcard. All he is missing are his first points in the Drivers’ Championship. However, the qualities possessed by his MINI WRC give Riku every reason to be confident. "Of course the dream would be to collect our first ever WRC point and finish in the top 10," says the MINI rookie, who promises to go all out to fulfil his dream.
Finnish rally fans, friends of MINI Motorsport from around the world and the TOK Sport team itself are not the only ones who will be following Riku’s appearance closely: radio presenter Rebecca Williams is also looking forward to the event. For years WRC fans have known Rebecca by her nickname "Becs", and most recently by her Twitter name "Becsywecsy". Becs often reports around the clock from WRC events all over the world ("only possible with a lot of coffee") – always with a healthy portion of humour, great class and the best possible information. For drivers and teams alike, Becs has long since been a member of the rally family.
"Rally is my passion," says Becs, who has a particularly close relationship with MINI. The walls of her home are adorned with pictures of the classic Mini racing cars, with which Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Mäkinen and Rauno Aaltonen dominated the Rally Monte Carlo in the 1960s. She drives a MINI Cooper and was obviously thrilled when MINI made its comeback in the 2011 WRC. As such, she keeps a close eye on what the teams with the MINI WRC are up to in the World Championship. At the Rally Finland, Becs’ heart will probably beat even faster. Appropriately, she will make her trips to work through the Finnish forests at the wheel of a four-wheel drive MINI Countryman.
When the qualifying stage gets underway at 19:30 on Wednesday, Becs will be back behind the microphone for "WRC Live". The WRC circus then gets down to the serious business with the opening special stage, which starts at 17:23 Finnish time (all times are in local Finnish time: CEST -1) on Thursday. Rally fans will not only be able to get the latest information and updates from Becs Williams on the radio, but also, as always, at Facebook.com/MINImotorsport and Twitter.com/MINImotorsport.
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