In the two previous posts we have recognized the popularity of Ouninpohja, gotten familiar with the roads and researched the history. But now it’s time to look into the future. I’m afraid that Ouninpohja, as we know it, may not be driven again in Rally Finland at least for a while.
Cover image by Kyn Wai Chung / Flickr
The 2017 Ouninpohja stage was attempted to be slowed down by chicanes but still we were seeing average speeds of 135 km/h, and the cars are not going to get any slower for next year. Ouninpohja contains some wonderful roads and is a brand in the name itself that should be kept on the itinerary, but also we all would like to get rid of the chicanes.
In order to make this happen, the route needs to be changed. As we have seen, Ouninpohja has changed a lot during the history. For some years, there was no stage named Ouninpohja at all, but parts of it were driven as other stages. Let’s clear the table and look at some alternatives with an open mind.
Analysis of the the available roads
Using available onboard videos, it’s possible to calculate average speeds for portions of a road. This way I have analyzed the usability of the parts of the roads available for Ouninpohja, adding also roads used in the past years on the Kakaristo, Hassi and Rapsula stages.
For example, in 2015 Jari-Matti Latvala drove 5 kilometres on Okskulmantie from the Mutanen junction to the Salavamäentie junction with a hefty average speed of 154 km/h. For comparison, on the 7 kms from the stage start to the landing of the yellow house jump, his average speed was “only” 126 km/h.
The slowest road on the map is Konivuorentie, where the stage winner Mikko Hirvonen’s average speed was 87 km/h in 2011. I have no information from Rapsulantie, but I’m sure it would be a slower road. At least it’s narrower and softer and there’s an additional junction, and the average speeds on the Rapsula stages have been modest.
In addition to the speeds, we should also try to think about the popularity of certain sections and spots, listed earlier on the blog. The yellow house jump and the Kakaristo area should be both included in the rally, if not on the same stage, maybe on separate stages? The power line corner on Hassintie is also popular, as are certain spots on Ouninpohjantie and Okskulmantie.
I have used the same 2017 start and direction for all the Ouninpohjantie versions for simplicity’s sake, but all of them could be reversed and/or extended beyond Hämepohja junction.
6 km sprint version
The beginning of Ouninpohja is actually not super fast. It has a lot of tight bends and crests, often at the same time. If the finish line was after the yellow house jump, we’d get a 6 km stage. Esapekka Lappi’s average speed in 2017 at this point was 124 km/h (with one chicane). It would make a decent sprint stage similar to Lempää or Saalahti in the recent years. In fact, this is quite close to the 1986 Ouninpohja version, but reversed.
Ouninpohja West and East 12 km + 19 km
In 2005 and 2006 Ouninpohja was split into west and east sections. The idea was to leave out the fastest part of Okskulmantie, and of course to add a new standing start.
The West version contains mostly technical, but fast road. The super fast section where Marcus Grönholm once went flat out for 46 seconds straight would be balanced by the more technical road after it and the Mutanen junction at the end. I have shortened the ending here, not letting the cars accelerate to full speed on Okskulmantie.
The East version has lots of junctions and a small road part at the end, but I would still add another small road loop through Salavamäentie, Salavajärventie (used in 1987) and Rapsulantie just after a short acceleration on Oskulmantie. The downside of this detour is that the popular and least fast part of Okskulmantie between Salavamäentie and Rapsulantie would be left off.
There are also other small roads to the west of Okskulmantie to make detour into, but they are too rough and narrow for rally driving. Instead, some of them could be used as a liaison to get to Salavamäentie for a stage start and then join Okskulmantie earlier to get the best section included.
The resulting stage would resemble the 2014 Kakaristo, just shortened from the beginning, being now 17.7 kms long. The average speed of 2014 Kakaristo was 118 km/h on the second run so this stage probably wouldn’t get too fast, even though half of the small road at the beginning is removed.
Konivuori 26 km
Konivuori was a staple of 1000 Lakes Rally in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Typically it ended where Ouninpohja starts nowadays, but should work in reverse as well. I have shortened the ending here to make spectator access better near those lakeside bends on Puukkoistentie, but I’m sure it wouldn’t take away anything essential of this stage, a combination of fast and slow but all technical, where the average speeds surely wouldn’t get too high.
However, this may not be the most spectator-friendly stage as Konivuorentie wasn’t allowed for spectators in 2011 as a part of the Hassi stage. It’s also questionable whether Konivuorentie can take two runs. Then again, we could also have the second run resemble Ouninpohja West, having two different endings for the same start.
Rapsula 18 km
Rapsula from 1000 Lakes Rally 1996 went through Kakaristo and Pitkäjärventie and ended up to Hassintie through a tight hairpin. For 18 kms, it had as many as five junctions and five different roads.
The smaller forest road of Pitkäjärventie makes up almost half of the stage, and Rapsulantie adds more slower kilometres. The average speed of Rapsula in 1997 was 113 km/h when Ouninpohja the same day was 123 km/h, so we’re talking about almost 10% slower speeds than Ouninpohja.
Of course, this stage shouldn’t be called Ouninpohja. In fact, I would reverse it, as it would work as a pair for Konivuori or the sprint Ouninpohja. Although, the “power lines corner” isn’t probably as spectacular when driving Northwards.
Thinking outside the box – Okskulma 10 km
Okskulmantie has been combined in the past with either Rapsulantie or Salavajärventie and Vuorisjärventie in the past. But why not have both? If we connect the two small road sections, we get the best section of Okskulmantie with Sokolov/Galli’s corner and the Amazon jump. But obviously, this blocks having Kakaristo on the stage. But sometimes it’s good to question the status quo and think outside the box. After all, this would be better than no Ouninpohja at all.
This stage would be 10 kms long and could be called Okskulma, like a reverse partial version of Ouninpohja was decades ago.
Dusting off Hassi area roads
We could use the beginning of Ouninpohja 1992-1993 with a combination of flowing roads and some surprising junctions. Combined with the ending to Rapsula, this would result in 22 km stage with lots of junctions and rhythm changes. However, Hassintie is very fast and quite boring on the section used here.
This doesn’t really combine well with driving a short Ouninpohja as the start is far from its finish. For that usage, the start could be on Kilpijärventie, which was a part of Arvaja 1987 and Hassi 1992-1995. It’s a twisty and soft-based forest road with lots of big crests and hills. In fact, combined with Pitkäjärventie, this would be quite a technical stage with just a short bit of very fast road in between. Because this start is longer, the stage could already finish at Kakaristo and be still 22 km long. Extending it to Rapsula would make it 5 km longer.
It could be also possible to start the stage on Arvajanreitintie which is obviously infamous for Colin McRae’s second roll on the Subary Legacy in 1992, but that would probably block too much access roads if Ouninpohja was already in some form on the route.
38 km marathon version
Combining the beginning of Ouninpohja and reversed Rapsula with Juuvantie would give us this 38 km monster of a stage with lots of different roads and countless jumps omitting most of the super fast Okskulmantie. Again, the ending could extend to Vuorisjärventie, but it would block spectator access roads to yellow house and Mutanen junction, but there’s probably enough kilometres anyway!
The weird thing about this one would be that Ouninpohjantie would be driven in the other direction than Pitkäjärventie, Salinmäentie and Okskulmantie on Ouninpohja usually. We would get a big yellow house jump and a left turn at the Kakaristo hairpin.
I added a detour through a forestry road between Juuvantie and Hassintie, but it might be too soft for rallying use. Otherwise, the stage could be too fast for the 2017 spec cars as especially the Southern part of Hassintie is super fast, and the first slower road wouldn’t appear until 23 kms into the stage, with only one junction on the way (although it’s the same numbers as on the modern Ouninpohja).
If any of these versions is epic enough for the name Ouninpohja, it’s this!
Since most of these versions are shorter than the modern Ouninpohja, we could group two stages together to make up for the kilometrs.
Power Stage usage
Ouninpohja was the power stage in 2012 in its full 33 kilometre glory. Nowadays the power stage is typically around 10 kilometres and is selected together with the WRC promoter, as the stage must fit the demands of the TV crew as well.
The podium ceremonies occur right after the winner has finished the power stage. What could be a more iconic place for them than the Kakaristo fields? To make this happen, we could split existing stages in half.
The Kakaristo stage from 2014 with the Ouninpohja 2017 ending would have small roads at the start, fast Okskulmantie then for few kilometres, and finally the Kakaristo junction. It would be around 11 kms long.
Taking the reversed Rapsula from 1996 would give us first some good corners on Hassintie, then the small road of Pitkäjärventie and finally ending right after the Kakaristo junction, having the podium on those fields. I gave it the name Hassi because it shouldn’t be called Rapsula anymore, and not to confuse it with the other Kakaristo. This would be also about 11 kms long, by also shortening the start, where Hassintie is very straight and fast.
We could also stretch Ouninpohja into a power stage by making it end on Juuvantie. It would be 15 kms long, but maybe it would be too fast without any junctions on the way. And of course, no Kakaristo.
Showing Ouninpohja on live TV with the drivers fight for power stage points would be epic. Since the power stage would cover only a part of the available roads, another stage on the area could be run on another day. Like for example having the full Kakaristo on Saturday and then Ouninpohja power stage on Sunday.
Looking at the number of alternatives, I think we’re safe, if we just dare to let go of the current format. Ouninpohja is a stage of legends, and some new ones could be made on these roads as well.
Also, I know that organising a stage isn’t as simple as drawing lines on a map, there’s many other factors as well. It could be that none of these stages are actually possible to drive in a WRC rally, but let’s hope for the best!
Which one of these ideas is your favourite? Do you have visions of your own on this vast network of roads? Please drop a comment!
UPDATED Sep 24 2018: Changed the Dusting off Hassi Area roads paragraph because the earlier version ideas contained a road that turned out to be unusable.