Like promised, I will take a better look at the recce videos published by the organizers. I’m focusing on the roads which haven’t been driven before or are driven to the opposite direction, since the familiar roads are better checked through old onboards at rally speed.
The videos are shot with a very wide angle lens, resulting in a fisheye effect which makes all corners appear a lot straighter than they actually are. This can be reduced slightly by blinding the left and right thirds of the screen, leaving only a road width of the screen visible to the eye. Also, using 2x speed is just practical and gives a better feel of speed.
The new Vesala shakedown has been attempted to represent the rally by including two rhythm changes and tricky junctions over 4 km. Between two faster roads there is a small road section, but it’s not very technical. In fact, this could be among the fastest stages of the rally.
To me the most interesting place of this stage is the bend over a surprising jump on the small road at 3:15 on the video. The first junction at 0:55 is also very tricky.
This stage has multiple rhythm changes, probably the most switching between fast and slow of the whole rally. The public road at 3:04 is almost completely flat out driving, likely the fastest section this year, but the bends can be surprising, such as the ones at 3:44 and 4:38. The public road before the Parkkola junction (at 12:47) is also very fast, but the one after it has more bends and crests.
The small roads present varying degrees of technicality, but the one starting the sections familiar from Surkee stages of 2012-2016 at 5:20 is probably the most difficult one. The first road of the stage also has some surprising junctions in the middle of the forest (1:52, 2:47) while the final section of the rally contains a number of junctions and tight turns, such as the one at the farmyard at 16:48.
This is a good wake-up call for the morning. If your setup isn’t right from the get-go, you’ll lose many seconds on a long and challenging stage like this. Also, especially the public roads will be very slippery for the first car(s) if it’s dry.
The new road at the beginning of Urria is a narrow forestry road, but a quite fast one. It has long straights with moderately tight bends between them. The junction where the stage joins last year’s stage at 2:30 seems tricky, with the new road first turning right before the tight left junction.
The main road of Urria is a prime example of farmer’s tarmac, a very firm base which has a good grip once the loose gravel has been swiped away. The familiar locations such as the big jump or Hirvonen’s corner probably don’t need introductions. The road gets a bit twistier towards the end near the eight minute mark, before turning onto a smaller road at 8:35, like last year.
The ending has new small roads added, shown from 9:26 onwards. I would consider the corner at the power lines (9:57) as a possible surpriser. The following junction at 10:38 is also pretty blind.
The small roads on this stage are similar to the shakedown – narrow but fast. Again, the numerous junctions should keep the average speed down, but the public road part is probably the longest super fast section of the whole rally.
Ässämäki starts with the familiar Halinen stage driven into the opposite direction. The stage starts with some big jumps on a medium wide private road. More jumping is expected at 2:28, although into this direction we probably won’t see as big air. After a relatively fast start the road becomes a bit more technical around the three minute mark.
The second part of the stage starting at 5:20 is a bit narrower, bumpier and even more technical. A couple of especially tricky corners appear at 6:50 and 7:02.
The junction at 7:50 leads to a public road for a short acceleration before the next junction takes us onto another medium wide private road. For a while the road is relatively easy, but a long series of almost square bends appears at 9:45. The nature of the road changes again for the last hundreds of meters at 11:45, becoming more fast and flowing over crests.
As we can see, this stage has more rhythm changes than junctions, with the roads changing their nature suddenly from fast to technical. It’s also remarkable that there’s not a fast public road part in this stage, except for the short acceleration between the two junctions.
Äänekoski is reversed from last year. Now it starts with a long straight going over a dip with a bridge into a long left-hander. The same corner is known as Al-Rajhi’s corner from 2016, driven to the other direction, but it should be tricky this way as well, tightening with a junction on the outside. Another long straight follows before entering the forest at top speed.
The private road used for most of the stage looks firm-surfaced but only medium wide. It’s relatively easy, but can contain some surprising corners to this direction like the dropping left at 6:11. The public road at the end is again on proper farmer’s tarmac and very fast. The combination of a crest and a left hander at 7:50 could be interesting.
This stage contains only one junction and two rev-limiter straights at the beginning. I would guess it’s fighting for the title of the fastest stage of the year.
Oittila is the only single-run stage of this year’s Rally Finland. It also has 9 km of new roads in the beginning.
We can instantly see that the roads starting the stage are one by one becoming narrower and rougher, with even grass growing in the middle at times. The small roads on the previous stages had a much firmer base.
The ascent to a small mountain starts at 3:11 and the road becomes also bumpier. A very tricky tight left appears at 4:57. The crest at 5:44 could generate big jumps. The right hander at 7:56 is well hidden behind the crest. As the ascension turns into descension, the downhill at 8:45 is very steep.
The entry to the public road happens through a double junction at 9:48. A full on acceleration follows, going into a hairpin left, joining the last year’s route for a while on the narrow farm roads. Last year’s finish is passed at 12:58.
After negotiating through another pair of junctions with a short acceleration on the main road (13:33), a section of fast and flowing medium wide private road follows, also familiar from last year but to the opposing direction. It’s relatively easy and very fast until a dropping left hand junction at 18:13. I would also pay close attention to the similar corner at 18:39. The rest of the stage has a bit more bends and crests than the previous section, but it’s still relatively easy.
Like I said in my preview, this is a stage of extremes. Fast and slow, easy and technical. In overall, I would say the beginning of the stage is the most technical part of the whole rally. That road probably couldn’t take two runs without becoming a car wrecker, although post-rally repairs will most likely make it firmer and smoother than it is now.
Päijälä is familiar from last year for the most part, but new interesting parts have been added at the end. The first 18 km are very challenging and often technical but also fast. Reference WRC+ for rally speed onboards for the beginning or take advantage of a Vetomies video.
The junction onto the small road at 16:45 is the same as before, but at 18:00 another junction takes the stage onto a new road. It’s again a narrow and quite rough road in the middle of the forest, with the trees quite close to the road. The road seems to turn all the time but never too drastically. However, the occasional tighter bends like 19:56 can be surprising. After a tight right junction at 21:11 the road becomes very twisty before it goes over a narrow bridge in the middle of a long left hander at 22:23.
Finally we come again on a wider and firmer road for a flat out finish. The first bend at 22:54 over a crest is blind and there’s a pair of tighter bends near the finish at 23:52.
The updating of the stage seems successful. This stage covers many types of roads, but instead of only alternating between fast and slow or flowing and technical, the rhythms don’t repeat during the stage and the faster roads are also mostly technical.
Pihlajakoski is the same as last year so there’s no sense in evaluating the recce video, but it gives us a confirmation that the only chicane of the rally will be present at 7:07. I would rather watch a rally speed onboard from the Vetomies series or go for WRC+.
On a stage with this much history it’s more interesting to look at actual rallying onboards, which can be found from the Kakaristo stage from 2014 and Hassi from 2011. However, what the fresh recce video shows is that some foresting has been done along the stage, making familiar places look different.
Early into the stage at 1:01 on the video we see a place where the line of the road is hard to distinguish behind the crest without the trees. The bends behind it appear quite surprisingly.
One of the famous places of the Ouninpohja stage, Sokolov’s corner, is now completely naked of trees, making the place almost unrecognizable. On the video it can be seen at 7:20.
Another classic location, the power lines corner on the final part of the stage appears at 23:08 on the video. It has also seen some foresting, on the right side before entering the corner, but it shouldn’t be so distracting as it’s not so memorized to the current drivers. If nothing else, better visibility for the spectators!
A unique thing to this stage not present on the old onboards is the hairpin at 21:00, which is very untypical to the whole rally. For a moment, you can see your own dust!
This is a classic, or at least a modern classic stage and it has been successfully updated and combined from old stages. It is divided between fast and slow roads, but the natures of the roads are different between each other. The Hassi part at the end is wider, firmer and more flowing than the more angular Okskulmantie, the second part of the stage. Similarly, the small road at the third fourth of the stage is more bumpy and rough than the beginning of the stage.
The beginning of Tuohikotanen hasn’t been driven in this direction. There’s some surprising crests before corners which could make braking difficult, such as in 1:25. The second road is accessed through a tricky double junction at 2:07.
The stage becomes now a bit wider and easier for a short while. The junction at 2:45 is blind on the top of the hill so it might be difficult to find the correct braking spots. After that, the road becomes again narrower and technical, much like the opening section.
The fourth part of the stage starts at 6:15. It’s again a bit wider, but now there’s some crests big enough to generate proper jumps, such as the one at 7:22.
The junction at 8:18 is now relatively easy when turning left instead of the usual right. The following road is actually the same as the second one, having similar long bends and high crests.
The final acceleration is made on a wide public road. I’m not sure if the crests around the nine minute mark are enough to make a modern WRC car jump.
Compared to the other stages of the day, this is driven almost completely on narrow and technical roads. It’s also percentually more unknown to the drivers than the other stages.
Laukaa is now driven to the opposite direction. The first part of the stage is very twisty, but lasts only for a few hundred meters. It’s followed by a medium wide forest road containing occasional tight bends but long straights between them, the longest one occurring right after the junction.
A couple of junctions and fast-flowing farmhouse roads take us over a tarmac road at 8:32, possibly causing a high-speed bump. The following section is twisty and excellent until the slight junction turn at 11:48 after which the stage is again easier.
As we can see, the stage is run only on medium wide private roads but it still doesn’t get too fast, except for some of the long straights. I would say this is the easiest stage of the rally, but it’s the perfect place for a breather, before the power stage.
SS21&23 Ruuhimäki (power stage)
Ruuhimäki has been extended in length since it was last included in the rally in 2014. New roads have been added at the beginning and the end of the stage.
The first road is a quite narrow forest/countryside road which doesn’t seem that challenging. Going around a stone barn at 2:00 is interesting, probably also the one that gives the road its name, Kivinavetantie = stone barn road. A right-left kink at 2:47 leads into the right junction onto tarmac, making an interesting sequence of bends.
After a short acceleration on tarmac, we turn again onto a narrower road for a series of straights and junctions or tight bends – making up a total of seven pairs of acceleration and braking. At 7:20 the nature of the road becomes more technical with the start-stop feeling left behind.
At 8:50 we reach the main road – a very wide and firm public road with big ditches, lots of crests and cambered bends. The infamous classic five jumps appear at 10:35.
At 11:33 the newly-built section begins, first with a straight and a pair of square bends, but only to gather speed for the final artificial jump at 12:35. As this road is so newly built, it could become a bit rutted, but the artificial jump could be the longest of the whole rally.
The number of junctions is quite hefty and the rhythm varies from easy to stop-start to technical to classic fast 1000 Lakes into a super special kind of rhythm, so there’s a bit of everything. We could see some big gaps on the power stage. The one who gets the junction brakings correctly is the winner, not the one who jumps the farthest.
The Finnish YLE Ralliradio traditionally makes stage presentation videos. This year the Vesala Shakedown and Tuohikotanen ones are already published and more is to come. If you understand the language, it’s interesting to listen to the stories from Riku Tahko and Kari Nuutinen.