Classic 1000 Lakes Rally: 1988 – The Watershed

While waiting for the 2018 Rally Finland route to be revealed, let’s look at the route 30 years ago, from 1000 Lakes Rally 1988. It was like a watershed, making blueprints for years to come and leaving weight from the past behind. Some stages were run for the first time, some for the last time, and many were left off from the previous year.Date: 26 – 28 August 1988
Length: 496.33 km
Winning average speed: 108.10 km/h
New stages: Töppöspohja, Ylemmäinen, Parkkola, Siitama, Surkee, Vaajakoski, Laukaa, Lankamaa
Stages run for the last time: Laitikkala, Haukila, Leskelä, Kuukanpää
Majorly new versions of stages: Leustu, Hassi, Moksi, Kuukanpää

The 1988 1000 Lakes Rally started the tradition of three long legs, one towards Pieksämäki, one towards Tampere and one towards Joutsa with one shorter leg around the Petäjävesi/Jämsä area. The Joutsa area stages had already made up a day in the 1987 itinerary but the Pieksämäki area stages made a comeback after an absence of two years. Stages near Lammi, South of Valkeakoski or around lake Näsi were already dropped for 1987, but the roads on the Teisko area were now also benched for good.

The driving was majorly civilized, as the days were now shorter and didn’t include much driving in the dark. Although there weren’t any overnight driving around the clock after 1985, the 1986 and 1987 editions featured plenty of kilometres in the dark with a very early awakening or final service in the small hours. On the 1988 route maybe the two last stages of Friday and Saturday got some dusk falling on them.

Another new thing was that the rally started on the Friday morning. Typically the rally had always started on the Friday evening (except in 1987 it started already on Thursday evening).

The drivers critiziced heavily the number of reversed stages, as the organizers had promised not to introduce too much new road, but reversing a stage is practically a new road for the drivers.

Also, 1988 started an era of no repeated stages that would last until 1994 (although sometimes a stage pair or two shared a part between them).


The opening stage was the traditional Laajavuori super special, after which the crews headed South-East towards Joutsa. Many of the stages of the morning/afternoon loop were familiar from 1987, a few of them with some changes.

Vartiamäki and Hotila had their direction changed, while Ylemmäinen was actually just the beginning of 1987’s Mynnilä. Soimaharju received a new beginning with fast road and big jumps, but the rough narrow ending was kept, shown at the beginning of this video

Mutanen was a relic from previous decades but familiar today. Ari Vatanen crashed there in 1972 and nowadays it’s known as a power stage under the name Oittila. The nearby narrow stage of Töppöspohja was the only completely new one of the loop.

Mutanen 1988
Mutanen 1988, mostly reversed and slightly longer than Oittila 2016-2017

After returning to Jyväskylä for another traditional super special of Harju the crews had two more stages to run to the west of Jyväskylä with dusk falling, Kuohu and Parkkola. Kuohu was run for the first time from North to South, and similar reversing was done to the ending of Parkkola, which had been run in the opposite direction as the stage Pöykky in the two previous years. Parkkola was a new stage title, and the roads on the beginning of the stage before joining the Pöykky stage weren’t driven before.

The surprise of the rally on Friday was probably the speed of the new Toyota Celica of Juha Kankkunen, which was pretty equal with Markku Alen’s Lancia all day. The RWD Ford Sierras were also faster than expected, and it was a surprise that the 1000 Lakes veteran Stig Blomqvist was struggling to match the pace of newcomers Didier Auriol and Carlos Sainz.


Friday was just a warm-up in comparison to Saturday, which consisted of 280 kms of stages, from 7 in the morning to 9 in the evening.

Leustu was driven the year before in a different form, but the 1988 format was a mix of that, 1987 Tuohikotanen and 1986 Painaa with some totally new road at the end. Leustu in this format with minor changes would become a staple in the rally up until the recent years.

In addition to Leustu, the 1988 Saturday introduced the stages Siitama and Surkee, which would stay on the itinerary for more than a decade. Also, Västilä and Sahalahti were dusted off from the previous years, Västilä being driven already in the 60’s. Meanwhile, staple stages such as Urria, Pihlajakoski, Vaheri, Päijälä and Mattila were put onto the bench.

Siitama 1988
Siitama 1988. It was rallied exactly like this every year until 1999.

The longest stage of the rally at 32.15 km was Konivuori, containing the ending part of the legendary Ouninpohja. The stage’s namesake small road part was majorly repaired for this year and the stage had a new beginning, borrowing sections from the 1985 Hassi stage.

The video below shows an infamous jump from Leustu and the ending Hämepohja junction of Konivuori.

A more rare name on the itinerary was Ristijärvi, driven in the past, but probably never in this form, which included 20 kms of very wide and fast road and then a few kilometres of narrower road. However, the said ending was familiar from stages called Kalasaari and Riukusalmi, and would be used later as a part of Haukilahti and Juupajoki/Talviainen.

Ristijärvi 1988
Ristijärvi 1988

The Moksi stage was also rare in this form, consisting of a road that had been driven as a part of Leustu in 1987 and would form a crucial part of the marathon-length Moksi-Leustu in 2001.

There were no repeated stages per se, but Hassi in the evening repeated Rapsula from the morning before, adding more kilometres at the end. Also, Surkee ended on the same roads driven on the night before as Parkkola. The drivers were concerned before the rally about how the small road of Parkkola/Surkee would take two runs on a rally with 200 entrants (although I have no information of how bad it actually became).

The Surkee version itself was unique starting with the small road loop around the actual lake Surkee which wouldn’t be driven again until 2007. The rest of the stage however would make up a staple late night ending to the Saturday night for almost a decade.

The only super special of the day was Valkeakoski, driven like the year before.

As usual, Saturday started taking out competitors. The steering of Ari Vatanen’s BMW broke in the jumps Leustu, resulting in a crash with a tree. Kenneth Eriksson and Hannu Mikkola also retired early in the morning with technical failures. Timo Salonen’s Mazda suffered issues as well, but he was able to continue. At the end of the day, Kankkunen and Alen were still pretty equal at the lead.


Sunday consisted of a loop to the area East from Jyväskylä last driven on in 1985. This leg introduced future classics Laukaa and Lankamaa, although the latter had been already partly driven in 1962 under the name Kankkunen, as the route went through lands owned by Juha’s father Pekka. Also the Flying Finns film from the 60’s was filmed on the same roads.

Lankamaa 1988
Lankamaa 1988, just the beginning of today’s version

The day opened with a brand new super special Vaajakoski, on the outskirts of Jyväskylä, driven on both gravel and tarmac, making it four super specials for the rally.

Ironically,  Lankamaa became the stage that decided the rally, when the engine of Kankkunen’s Toyota expired just kilometres from his home farm. After that Alen started cruising for finish, allowing even the RWD Sierras take some stage wins while fighting for lower positions.

Not all stages were in great condition. Leskelä had ongoing road repairs slowing the route, and half of the longer than usual ending of Äijälä had to be cut altogether well ahead of the rally, because the road was already worn so badly in a local rally.

The rally ended with the familiar stage of Kuukanpää, which combined the ending of 1985 and beginning of 1984 versions, leaving out some of the most legendary parts of the stage. This was the last time Kuukanpää was ever driven. It wouldn’t be even possible today, as most of the roads have been paved and straightened.


This compilation video shows the drivers on Laajavuori (8:26), Töppöspohja (10:01), Vartiamäki (18:29), Leustu (20:42), Konivuori (22:26), Sahalahti (22:34), Laitikkala (26:00), Valkeakoski (28:09), Savo (29:21), Siitama (29:30),  Väärinmaja (34:05), Ristijärvi (35:23), Hassi (36:48), Ruuhimäki (38:06), Laukaa (40:33) and Kalliokoski (42:39).

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