Which classic stages will we see in Rally Finland 2020?

2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the Finnish WRC event. On such anniversaries it has been a tradition to add classic stages from the past. We should expect to see some historic touches on next year’s route as well, but which classic stages would suit the current cars and how should they be modified?

The 50th anniversary of Rally Finland in the year 2000 marked the comeback of the stages Urria, Palsankylä, Ehikki and Päijälä. 10 years later Laajavuori and Sirkkamäki were brought in, while Myhinpää and Väärinmaja had returned already a year or two earlier. Ouninpohja and Ruuhimäki were driven in 2000 but not in 2010, while Harju was absent both years.

Laajavuori2010
Dani Sordo, Laajavuori, Rally Finland 2010. Photo by kallerna

The WRC cars of today are the fastest rally cars ever built. This makes many old classic stages too fast for the current cars, especially the ones driven mostly on wide public roads.

There is no speed limit for a special stage or a part of it per se. However, FIA representatives review the route before the rally and may order changes or chicanes to be applied if the stage or a section seems too outrageously fast. A good rule of thumb is that a stage should have a slower section to balance a fast one, with multiple sections combined together bringing frequent rhythm changes, not letting the drivers get speed blind.

Markku_Alén_-_1978_Rally_Finland
Markku Alen on the Saalahti stage in 1978. 29 years later the stage was driven 18% faster. Photo:Jarmo Mäki – JKM(C)Pictures

Maybe some of the classic stages could be modified in order to be included again in the itinerary? It wouldn’t even be the first time in the history of the rally that this happens. A good example is the modern Ouninpohja route which includes small road sections that the classic version does not. And similar treatment has been done to classic stages in current use such as Urria, Ruuhimäki and Päijälä.

Another thing to keep in mind is that today’s route cannot be as widespread as decades ago, limiting the use of some classic stages. Some roads are also not anymore in drivable condition because they have been paved or deteriorated.

Cover image by Richard Simpson / Flickr

Vintage classics

Ouninpohja

There’s no question that everybody wants Ouninpohja back. However, even the modern version is too quick with 25 kilometres of fast or very fast roads with only one junction in between.

One particularly problematic section occurs after the yellow house jump where Marcus Grönholm infamously kept his right foot down for 46 seconds.

If we would put the finish line before this section, on the yellow house jump, like in Ruuhimäki, we would get a roughly 6 km stage. However, there would be little access roads. The stage could be extended from its start onto a small road which has never been used in rallying. This would add one junction turn, as well as the Hämepohja bend for spectator access before the yellow house jump, making the now stage 10 km long.

Ouninpohja
Ouninpohja with a new beginning and end set at the yellow house jump

This stage wouldn’t include the Kakaristo junction, but it could be driven on a separate stage. This year’s Kakaristo route would work well, shortened to start on Okskulmantie, or reversed altogether.

Myhinpää

Myhinpää is one of the most requested stages by the fans. The classic version is just one road with no junction turns. The Western half is very fast and loaded with jumps, the Eastern half is more technical and has some tighter turns. The clerk of the course Kai Tarkainen said in a radio preview of this year’s Rally Finland that the Eastern part is one of the greatest rally roads ever, but also addressed concerns of the stage’s overall speed.

The stage was last driven in 2014 and 2015. Both times the average speeds were around 135 km/h, and with the current cars it would be for sure even more! Already in 1985 it was one of the fastest stages. Back then the roughly the same piece of road was contested at 125 km/h with the Group B monsters.

Maybe adding some small road sections would give enough of balance and variation to make this stage drivable again. This version which I’ve designed would be all of 32 km long with eight junction turns, but maybe a partial version could work as well.

Myhinpää
32 km of Myhinpää with additional small roads

Other challenges with Myhinpää is its location quite far from Paviljonki and limited amount of access roads for spectators, especially in relation to its popularity. However, adding new roads to a stage always adds more spectator access points.

Ehikki

Decades ago, Ehikki was a staple at the beginning of the 1000 Lakes Rally, usually after Urria. It was driven in 1986 a total of three times during the rally, each time with a slightly different ending. This video shows the first one of them.

Ehikki is an Ouninpohja-like wide and firm road loaded with bends and crests. This video shot from Marcus Grönholm’s Peugeot 206 on a test event before the Rally Finland 1999 shows its nature well.

All old versions of Ehikki would be too fast for the current cars. It’s all quite wide road with only one junction in between. There has been small roads used to the South of the stage, but some of them are still very fast, some in bad shape today. Maybe this is why Ehikki hasn’t featured in the rally since 2007? Perhaps a new small road could do the trick to keep it balanced? There might still be a too long continuous section of fast driving.

Ehikki
Ehikki with a new small road at the start. The orange part would suit the stage, but might be too deteriorated.

Vaheri

Vaheri is also one of the stages run regularly since the 60’s, but now it hasn’t been seen in the rally since 2006. However, parts of the stage were run on the Himos stages, but not after 2010. Kai Tarkiainen again mentioned in the radio preview that the area is great for rallying and the organizers are in frequent talks with the locals.

Vaherintie is the best part of the road network, being again a fast and firm public road with enough of jumps and bends. The area also hosts a good number of smaller roads to connect to.

The 2010 Himos stage would work quite well as it was. This onboard introduces the roads well. Vaherintie opens the video, whereas a sequence of bumpy and jumpy small roads combined by tight junctions begins at 2:20. There’s a faster passage at 6:30 but then the climb to the Himos mountain begins at 7:15 with a Mickey Mouse section at the end.

An even bigger climb and a steep descend used on the Himos stages 2013-2015 could be also attached to this stage. It is seen on this video at 0:55.

Palsankylä

Palsankylä was known as Palsa in the 60’s and 70’s. It became again a staple stage in a modernized format in the first decade of the millennium, but hasn’t been used since 2013 when Kris Meeke and Evgeni Novikov tandem-jumped its infamous big jump.

Palsankylä has a good amount of smaller roads, junctions and rhythm changes, but also spectacular places – exactly what the current rally requires. This video from the 2007 version shows the stage well, including the series of big jumps at 2:00 and the aforementioned very big jump at 6:00.

Kuohu

Kuohu was often the last stage of the rally in the 80’s, and also has featured many times as the first forest stage of the rally. However, after 2006 it hasn’t been used in the WRC event.

Most of the roads are not super fast but still spectacular. The location close to Jyväskylä would be also excellent. However, most of the stage is driven through forests, making it more challenging to find areas for spectators, compared to fields.

Mynnilä

Mynnilä is situated South from Jyväskylä on the East side of the lake Päijänne, quite close to the city of Lahti. This stage has been a staple since the 60’s, known especially for its ending downhill hairpin.

Mynnilä has been run in a 24 kilometre stage during the early 90’s, although sometimes the beginning part was split into its own stage called Ylemmäinen. The last time Mynnilä was driven in 2012 this section was omitted. However, I would definitely keep it, as it’s comprised of slightly slower forest roads. Again, there could be a too long intact section of fast roads.

Vartiamäki

Vartiamäki, situated in the same area as Mynnilä, was driven already in the 70’s, and then revived in the late 80’s. However, the versions after 1988 don’t have anything in common with the 70’s versions, which are now a part of a nature reservation area. The most famous part of the latter version is passing of a houseyard with the stairs close to the road.

Vartiamäki hasn’t been driven in the WRC event since 1999 (and then as Tammimäki without the stairs part), but has featured frequently in local rallies. However, the condition of the soft forest roads could be questionable, but at least it wouldn’t be too fast.

Väärinmaja

Väärinmaja used to feature often in the rally throughout the 70’s and 80’s. After that it was absent before a short comeback from 2008 to 2010. Originally the stage was just one road, but in the 80’s other sections were added to it. The 2010 version was actually the longest stage of the whole rally in almost 30 km length with a plethora of roads.

Meanwhile, the 2008 version shown on this video was almost half shorter. It shows a distinct difference between the narrow forest roads in the beginning and the wider but still quite technical classic section at the end, combined by a short strip of tarmac at 4:09

 

The only challenge with Väärinmaja is that it’s situated relatively far West from the service park. However, the distance from Paviljonki to the beginning and the end of the 2010 stage is 110 km – the same as to the beginning of Päijälä!

Kalliokoski

Kalliokoski was a staple part of the route from 1980 to 1993, but never again since then. It is located on the North-East side of Jyväskylä and could be combined with a number of other classic stages, such as the extended Myhinpää. The most famous place of Kalliokoski is a bridge with bends on each side and a tilted bump afterwards, on open fields with a long view.

However, the route will need some adjusting for being again too fast. The Sirkkamäki stage – another 1000 Lakes classic – is so close they could be connected together through a forest road. This would make up a 16 km stage. There would be a mix of roads, junctions, spectator access roads and it finally, also the infamous bridge near the end.

Kalliokoski
Kalliokoski with Sirkkamäki in the beginning

Laajavuori

Since 2014 Harju has been the sole super special of Rally Finland. There’s nothing wrong with it, but a little change would be refreshing. I would love to see Laajavuori as the Thursday opening stage. This video shows the version from 1987

The road at 1:42 has been removed as of now, but there could be another path to join the stage again to the Killeri area, to make a spectator super special spectacle there?

Modern classics

In this section I’m talking about stages that were introduced to the rally after the Group B era. These stages typically are already “modernized” with small road sections and constant rhythm changes, and usually have already a format that would suit the current cars.

Juupajoki

Juupajoki was surprisingly popular in a poll which I ran in a closed Facebook group of Finnish rallying enthusiasts. You could also call Juupajoki a classic stage since parts of it were driven already in the early 80’s.

However, the modern version was created in 1998 by merging a part of the older stage with Haukilahti. It remained a somewhat staple with only slight changes, sometimes under the moniker Talviainen. This stage would offer again many road types from fast to slow and wide to narrow.

Juupajoki has been driven equally often to both directions. The last time it was driven in  2008 was from East to West and this 2007 version on this video the other direction. These versions omitted a fast wide road on the East side of the stage, also shaving the overall length to 22 km, more suitable to today’s rallies in both senses. The only questionable part on this stage is the very fast and wide 3.8 km section starting at 5:38 on the video.

Lankamaa

Known as Juha Kankkunen’s home stage since 1988, Lankamaa has some unique features such as parts with no ditches or this fast section in a sandy esker.

As this stage is so technical and includes smaller roads and junctions, it could be driven as it is, although it had two chicanes in 2017. Like I’ve mentioned before, I would love to see the Latomutka ending of the stage, which was last used in 2014.

Lankamaa was also mentioned by Kai Tarkiainen in the radio preview to be in the route team’s sight for future usage, and in the end it’s not even a surprise since the stage has appeared on the route frequently.

Mökkiperä

Mökkiperä was introduced to the rally in 1998. It was initially best known for its heavy jumps in the beginning. However, this section hasn’t been in use since 2005, rumoredly thanks to a group of misbehaving spectators. The jumps can be seen at the beginning of this 2002 onboard.

Since then, Mökkiperä has remained a staple until the 2016 rally. Most of this stage is run on medium wide private roads. There is no particularly slow sections, but no overly fast either, which would make this a suitable stage for today’s cars.

Vellipohja

Vellipohja made a short appearance between the years 2005 and 2008. Parts of the stage have been shared by other stages on the Moksi area such as Leustu, Surkee, Tuohikotanen, and most recently, Moksi itself. However, what’s unique to Vellipohja is one road with particularly heavy jumps, especially memorable from 2005 when Timo Rautiainen couldn’t speak for the rest of the stage after landing too hard on one of them.

Vellipohja could be connected to various other roads on the Moksi area. There are many options. Here’s a version I have created, with the 2008 start, 2005 ending and a piece of new smaller road.

Vellipohja
A version of Vellipohja

Lost classics

Kuukanpää

Kuukanpää used to be a crowd favourite, with almost a super special status, being situated close to Jyväskylä. One of the most iconic places of the stage was a narrow bridge with bends on both sides.

However, the bridge has been abandoned for over a decade with the road line moved elsewhere. Also, major parts of the stage have been straightened and paved. Same fate has ruined the rallyability of some sections of Sahalahti, Juupajoki and Leustu, for example.

Humalamäki

Humalamäki was often one of the first stages of the rally, similarly always filled with spectators like Kuukanpää. It used to be a short stage run on one road with the most infamous place being the jump straight on an area where the forest had been burnt, giving a good view for the spectators.

Nowadays the area has grown dense with trees and bushes and the jumps have been slightly flattened, but especially the ending of the stage with crests and corners is still nice. However, reports say permissions for this road could be extremely difficult to obtain, and this stage hasn’t seen any rallying in decades.

Valkola

Valkola is located North from Jyväskylä, and has been a couple of times the first stage of the rally, ending the rallies of experienced drivers like Markku Alen and Tommi Mäkinen before they even properly started.

The last time Valkola was used was 2007 with a different direction than usually and a different ending section. Meanwhile, this Colin McRae onboard is from 2001 (although the video description says otherwise)

In the old days Valkola was just one medium-wide and fast forest road from its beginning to the end. In the 90’s a loop of smaller roads as added. However, in the recent years the condition of these smaller roads has been pretty bad. Also the main road also has is issues, such as in a local rally in 2017 when one junction dug up so bad that all cars couldn’t pass it properly.

Savo

Savo was a stage driven often in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s a wide and firm road but loaded with jumps and bends. As we can see from this 2017 video the stage is still in good shape. The average speeds of the fastest R5 cars weren’t higher than 116 km/h so it wouldn’t be too fast for the current cars, even with no junction turns.

However, this stage is simply way too far from the service park. Same applies to countless other stages, such as Pengonpohja, Onkemäki, Evo and Kokkosenlahti, to name a few. To understand why the distance is a problem, read my other post about the current WRC rules.

Which classic stage would you want to see in the 70th anniversary rally? Drop a comment!

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