The Rally Finland route in 2017 was excellent, nothing really to complain about, but we can’t deny the cars were too fast for the route, as chicanes were needed. What should be done to avoid the chicanes next year, as the cars are not getting any slower?
Cover image by Antti Leppänen / Wikimedia Commons
Compared to 2016 the stage material on the 2017 Rally Finland route was mostly the same. Urria, Laukaa and Lankamaa hadn’t been driven in the latest years, whereas Jukojärvi, Pihlajakoski, Päijälä and Ouninpohja were reversed. Meanwhile, Surkee, Mökkiperä and Horkka were dropped.
Good things about the 2017 route
There was a lot of different stages with variety. There’s a constant rotating between stages of under 10 km, stages between 10 to 20 km and stages over 20 km. The only thing missing are longer stages than 25 kms, but there hasn’t been any such stages in the last 10 years, other than Ouninpohja, which was already discussed in its own blog post. .
One innovation on the Friday was having two loops of 2-3 stages each run twice before returning to service. Spectators could easily watch two runs of the same stage without long waits, and then two more stages after the service. A good idea that should be continued. Of course, in order to have 3 stages run twice within a leg, the stages need to be quite near each other in order to keep the liaison times short.
Friday had a total of 12 stages – the highest number of stages in a day since 1996. Driving started at 7 in the morning and ended at 8 in the evening. Quite different to the 2 x 3 stages days of most rallies where the night break starts at 5 PM.
Saturday also had an interesting feature – the four stages were repeated but not in the same order. Saalahti was driven on both sides of the service, again a good stage to stay in for both runs. Meanwhile, Ouninpohja was the second-last stage of morning loop and the second stage of the afternoon loop. In between the runs, you could watch the local clubman Vetomies series. Good stuff.
What to reuse from 2017
The Clerk of the Course Kai Tarkiainen admitted in an interview that they need to find slower roads for 2018 in order to get rid of the chicanes. Let’s look at the current stages and think how we could still use them.
Halinen seems to be modest in its average speed. Would probably work without the artificial chicane. I’m OK with the triangle junction chicanes, as they are somewhat natural. Reversing the stage could also make it more challenging.
Urria seems to be too fast, no matter what small road you attach to it. Actually, combining the current beginning with the old beginning would make a drivable stage, but of course Urria cannot be Urria without the big jump and Hirvonen’s corner.
Jukojärvi would probably be usable without the long fast section at the end, where Ogier crashed, but then again that is also an awesome part. Maybe the fast part could be shortened and/or turn to a new direction?
Äänekoski-Valtra is a quite fast stage. Maybe it could be reversed as well? While reversing it, remove the long straight from what would now be the start of the stage?
Laukaa has never been among the fastest stages. The tight bends at the beginning part of the stage are what the rally needs. Again, removing the long straight at the end could make it enough to get rid of the chicanes. Or maybe use some of the neighboring roads used in Peurunka ralli 2017 to freshen it up, like this, to create some undriven parts and more junctions?
Lankamaa is a keeper with lots of unique technical roads, both fast and slow. Maybe the fast ending could be switched to the latomutka version? And maybe return the beginning with the narrow junction in the farm yard?
Pihlajakoski seems fast, but it’s actually so only because of the last 6 kms of flat out driving, which could be removed. The small road is excellent, as are the first few kms of the big road with more technical driving. Maybe there’s some more small road to be added on either end as well, something like this?
Päijälä is a definite keeper, the technical part in the beginning is great. Even the small road loop added at the final moment didn’t get too rutty after two runs, nor got anyone punctures there. Another version could be to continue to East from the small road loop, like the often did in the 90’s.
When Lempää was a 27 km stage in the 90’s it had some super fast sections but also some small roads at the end, the latter of which could be used again on their own like this?
There is also some very nice road to East from Saalahti used often for testing and driven in Riihivuori ralli 2017. I would arrange it like this but it may be difficult for spectator access.
Oittila is OK and I could live with the chicanes as they are natural and not made with strawbales. However, I think it’s a bit of a boring stage whose average speed gets lower only by the series of junctions at the end. It’s a different thing whether the WRC TV crew thinks it should be included for being a great stage for filming.
What to reuse from the past years
Surkee is probably the slowest forest stage of Rally Finland. It has a lot of narrow roads and lots of tight junctions. Also a good location allows it to be combined with stages near Jämsä or stages near Petäjävesi.
Painaa from 2013-2014 used a series of tight junctions and good private roads. It could benefit from a small road detour of Tuohikotasentie, driven in the 80’s as a part of Leustu and in the 2000’s as a part of Vellipohja. Speaking of Vellipohja, yes, you could probably make a good version of that as well, at least Papinmäentie with the big jumps and Mansikkamäentie should be included, why not Pöykyntie either, but it could easily get too fast as well.
If we think of the North-Eastern area, we could combine Laukaa and Lankamaa with stages such as Jouhtikylä or Hannula. Or maybe Ruuhimäki could be released once again from its endless shakedown status? Ruuhimäki could also start with a small road used in Toivakka Ralli, like this (here’s also an onboard of the said road).
I already mentioned Lempää and Oittila, but that area on the East side of lake Päijänne could give the rally a whole leg instead of just a Sunday drive. Vartiamäki, Hauhanpohja, Soimaharju, Töppöspohja, Mynnilä, Ylemmäinen…lots of demanding technical and bumpy roads with often trees and stones nearby punishing hard for the smallest of mistakes. Friday morning there, Friday afternoon in North-East and Sunday in North-West? Of course, it could be again challenging for spectators, as most of the stages are accessed by the same main roads, which could get badly jammed.
Digging deeper into the archives
Maybe we need to dig deeper into the archives? After all, it’s not uncommon to dust off stages from decades ago.
Mattila is a twisty road near Päijälä. It has only one access road for 15 kilometres, but maybe a shorter edition with added small roads could work. It could be too far down to South though.
Huhtia was supposedly a very ragged and bumpy stage driven on gravel pit roads. Right next to it we have Ehikki, a classic stage. It’s fast, but the 1994 version seems to have had a working small road loop with enough junctions.
Kavala has been driven in different form in the 2000’s, but returning to the twisty Kavalantie from the 80’s would be fun, and it could be continued with some small roads around the Halli airport like this. This route goes around a groundwater area, but I’m not sure how close a special stage can get to one.
Haukilahti was often driven in the early 90’s and later it was a part of the Juupajoki/Talviainen stage. It could work with an added small road loop.
The last but not the least, Humalamäki would be super legendary. It’s also a big fast road, but there’s some usable-looking forestry road to combine it with like this. Humalamäki is of course notorious for the accident in 1984, but crowd control is now better than in those days.
A lot of stages are available, and most likely they are drivable for the current fast WRC cars without the chicanes. We must also remember that this is the best rally of the season, and it shouldn’t be changed too much. I have trust in the guys designing the route, I’m sure it will be good once again.
The route is typically announced in March, the wait is on.
Please do drop a comment if you have ideas or predictions of your own!