Rally Finland Route History I: 1973-1981

Rally Finland or 1000 Lakes Rally has always been based in Jyväskylä, but its route has stretched towards various parts of Finland throughout the decades. Stages have come and gone, sometimes altering their route and changing their title. This is an attempt to put all this together.

In this blog post series I’m going to go through all the years Finland has hosted a WRC event from 1973 to the present, first in 1000 Lakes Rally and then in Rally Finland. I’m observing how the route was structured each year and when a stage appeared for the first time on the itinerary. I’ll also mention if a stage changed its name or route distinctively.

The focus will be mostly on long-lived stages, but curious single-runs are also mentioned. In addition there will be some interesting numerical statistics such as average speeds, stage counts and route overall lengths. Stages aren’t described in great detail unless there’s something abnormal about them.

1973 was the year the World Rally Championship started and 1000 Lakes Rally was immediately included as a round of it. The rally had been already organized similarly as a special stage rally for about a decade before, and many stages were already staples at that point. However, for these blog posts 1973 was chosen as a good starting point, and juwra’s statistics also begin from this year.

In order to make this story more readable, it’s split into sections, with each post covering a distinct era. The first part covers the rallies from 1973 to 1981, when most of the driving was done in the dark and the drivers could only sleep for a few hours in the middle of the rally. The routes would extend far from Jyväskylä into cities that haven’t since been even near the rally. Both the routes and individual stages alter between long and short.

The itineraries and statistics can be observed at juwra. The maps from 1979 onwards can be viewed in greater detail at rally-maps.com. Cover image is taken by Jarmo Mäki – JKM(C)Pictures (CC BY 2.0)

This blog post is dedicated to the memory of Kari Mäki, author of the Jyväskylän Suurajojen jäljillä books, which were an important source for this text. Kari Mäki was a big inspiration for me. Rest in peace.

1973-1974 – Two nights, two legs

In 1973 the rally was arranged on the first weekend of August. The event started on Friday night and ended on Sunday morning. Most of the driving was done overnight, with only a six-hour break at Saturday noon. The rally was 2079 km long, out of which 517 km was special stages. This is the longest route that the rally has had during its WRC era, and the competitive length is the fifth-longest.

1973kartta
1000 Lakes Rally 1973. Friday leg (blue) and Saturday Leg (red)

Laajavuori was the opening stage of the rally every Friday evening from 1973 to 1986. It is situated near the hotel of Laajavuori which also served as the rally headquarters at the time. The gravel road for the stage itself is purpose-built for rallying in the 60’s. It goes up and down a hill which also serves as a skiing center.

The 1973 Friday night continued with many classic stages towards Petäjävesi and Jämsä. SS3 was Urria with its big jump, making even slower cars airborne, seen from 1:20 on this video.

Other stages during the evening – Kuohu, Ehikki, Ouninpohja, Västilä and Väärinmaja – would remain on the rally route for decades to come. The Salokunta stage would make up a part of Juupajoki in the later yearsm whereas Siikalahti stage would return later in the opposite direction as Sarvana.

The route went overnight North-East to Virrat and returned in the morning to Jyväskylä through Keuruu and Saarijärvi with the future staple stages Jukojärvi, Palsa and Humalamäki on the way. Also the Lehtola stage would later form a part of Muittari, in the opposite direction.

The drivers had a few hours to sleep before heading out for the Saturday night route towards East. The first forest stage of the leg was Kuukanpää. Its infamous bridge can be seen on this video at 4:00

The route also contained the short semi-super-special of Sirkkaharju – which infamously went below a main road through a tunnel – as well as the gravel pit test of Seppälänkangas. In those days that was enough of super specials along with Laajavuori. Most likely no special stages contained tarmac roads.

The Eastern leg continued North-East all the way up to the city of Kuopio. Classic stages on the way included Sirkkamäki and Myhinpää. From Kuopio the route headed South towards Mikkeli. A definite highlight was the 42 km Kokkosenlahti stage, the longest stage ever in the WRC history of the rally (driven even a kilometre longer the year before).

The final stages of the rally, Ohensalo, Taulu and Ruuhimäki, were driven early on the Sunday morning. Ruuhimäki would be the rally closer also often in the future, even in the power stage era. In 1973, Hannu Mikkola’s co-driver hurt his back in one of the jumps and had to be taken to the hospital, resulting in disqualification. The unlucky jump is seen on this video at 8:07.

The statistics of 1973 show a massive average speed of 148 km/h on the Kaitainen stage, but this is due to the stage being actually two kilometres longer than the history books tell. However, 128 km/h was a pretty impressive average speed from Stig Blomqvist’s Saab 96!

The 1974 route total length was shortened to 1179 km because of the oil crisis. This made it the shortest Finnish WRC rally when both road sections and special stages are counted in. The competitive length decreased to 363 km and 36 stages, out of which Väärinmaja and Mataramäki were cancelled.

The route was very similar to 1973, but shortened distinctively at two points. The first leg didn’t go Northwards to Saarijärvi just before returning to Jyväskylä, and the second leg skipped going to Kuopio.

A notable mention is the introduction of the short Koivistonkylä stage, sharing the end with the 2018 Äänekoski stage. Back then it caused a scary crash for Per Eklund in a Saab 96, seen at 3:48 on this video. It’s the same corner where Teemu Suninen had his FIA-awarded near-crash in 2018.

After 1973 drivers had complained that the route is too fast. The clerk of the course Reino Pättiniemi had tried to make the 1974 route slower but with no success, as the rally only became faster. The 107 km/h overall winning average speed wouldn’t be matched in eight years.

1975-1976 – Journey to the East border

In 1975 the rally was moved to the second-to-last weekend of August, where it would remain for decades to come.

The 1975 route had only 284 stage kilometres, meaning it’s competitively the shortest Finnish WRC event ever. However, there were as many as 42 stages and this meant that they were very short! Only five stages stretched for longer than 10 km and half of the stages were 5.5 km or shorter in length. The stage average length was as low as 6.85 km.

The short stages could be a result of the route consisting deliberately mostly of private roads. The clerk of the course Tapio Lätti said this was a way to bring down the average speed of the rally.

The route had an interesting new feature – it used a ferry to go over Lake Päijänne from Korpilahti to Joutsa after the first six stages. Nowadays there is a bridge, which has also been used as a road section on the recent Rally Finlands.

The six first stages were mostly familiar from the beginnings of the previous rallies. However, they were the only ones to be driven on the West side of Jyväskylä.

1975
The first seven stages of the 1975 1000 Lakes Rally with a short ferry ride

Another curiosity was that only 13 of the stages were open for spectators. This was done for safety reasons, and all the spectator-allowed stages were driven in daylight.

The 1975 route included a bunch of stages that look weird on the itinerary but on a closer look are very familiar. The last stage before the ferry ride, Niemiaho, would be driven as Moksi in 1988, whereas the next stage Mutanen is a part of today’s Oittila stage. Additionally, the stage pair of Hännilä and Tenkkeli would be known in the later years respectively as Alajoki and Toikkala, the former also being titled Kutemajärvi from 1990 onwards.

Instead returning to Jyväskylä, the drivers took a longer ride Eastwards. The mid-rally break was held in Savonlinna with another loop further towards the East Border before returning to Jyväskylä through Pieksämäki. At the time there were plans of maybe crossing the border over to the Soviet Union in the upcoming years, but as we know it never happened.

The Makkola stage near Savonlinna should not be mixed with the one driven in 1974 near Jyväskylä. In fact, the Paukkula stage of the 1975 route was situated quite close to the latter.

The statistics talk about the Kermola stage having only 59 km/h average speed. Most likely this is a statistical error, as the same stage has been driven the year after at 87 km/h, which sounds more correct.

Lätti’s plans to slow down the rally succeeded. The 1975 rally winning average speed was clearly lower than before at 99 km/h. This is one of the two times the rally was won with an average speed under 100 km/h during its WRC era, but the second one would need more brute methods.

The 1976 route was similar in structure, keeping the road section length almost exactly the same but increasing the competitive length to 428 km with 45 stages – which were again longer more than rarely!

Now only five stages were driven before the ferry ride on the opening night. Pohjoislahti would driven decades later as Lautaperä.

After the ferry crossing the route first headed South East towards Heinola through future staple stages like Hauhanpohja, Lempää, Mynnilä and Lahdenpohja. The Marjoniemi stage had a 3 km tarmac section which was something previously unseen in the rally.

Most of the stages were again quite short, but there were still a few longer ones. Kokkosenlahti was shortened to 35 km, but Risulahti after it was 41 km long. Here we can see a junction turn on this very long stage at 1:22.

On the way back to Jyväskylä, long-lived stages like Mäkrä, JouhtikyläÄijälä and Valkola were driven for the first time. The Suontniemi stage would form a part of Jäppilä 14 years later. The Seppälänkangas super special was moved to close the rally, just like in 1975.

Notable for these two years is that Ouninpohja was not driven – not even parts of it were included on any stages. The same would happen only on another two-year period, more than three decades later.

1977-1978 – Return of the double leg format

The 1977 route brought back the double leg format similar to 1973-1974 with the one proper break of the rally held again in Jyväskylä. This video begins with the 1977 ceremonial start and the start of SS1 Laajavuori. The end of the video shows Seppälänkangas, which opened and closed the second leg and thus ended the whole rally in both 1977 and 1978.

The first night was driven again towards Kuhmoinen, but then Northwards around Juupajoki and straight towards Keuruu before returning to Jyväskylä. The stages Hassi, Päijälä, Mattila, Väärinmaja, Ristijärvi and Sahloinen would be used often in the future, whereas the very slow Rumpali would return as Poikkijärvi 10 years later. Even slower was the the forest adventure of Rutajärvi which was criticized by the private drivers for being a car breaker. The stage returned in 1981 anyway.

The second leg was again driven Eastwards to Mikkeli and back through Pieksämäki. One of the first stages on the way was the super fast Vartijamäki equaling the 1973 Kaitainen average speed record of 128 km/h. Next was a slower forest road stage of Rakokivi, which in its turn would make up a part of Lempää 15 years later.

The return to Jyväskylä introduced a longer version of the Koivistonkylä stage. In fact, the same format would be used much later in 2016.

In 1978 the Friday night leg was changed to go deeper South from Kuhmoinen, adding the long-lived stages Koivulahti and Torittu as well as PihlajakoskiSaalahti and Autio on the way back. Syväjärvi would be driven later as a part of Kavala, while the narrow forest road of Riukusalmi would be an important part of many future stages, most notably Juupajoki.

Markku_Alén_-_1978_Rally_Finland
Markku Alen on the 1978 Saalahti stage. Picture: Jarmo Mäki

1978 also introduced the sequence of opening stages Laajavuori, Humalamäki, Urria, Ehikki, Ouninpohja and Päijälä, which would be used in the exact same order and on almost exactly same roads every year until 1985. Meanwhile, the new stages of Mattila in 1977 and Koivulahti in 1978 were driven in the opposite direction to every other future year.

Another classic stage which had made its WRC debut in 1977 was Vaheri, although it had featured in the rally before the championship had initiated. Here at 8:30 we can see a junction which is something like a center point of the stage, featuring in some direction on every edition of the stage. It’s no coincidence that the house at the junction gave its name for the stage.

The 1978 second leg went first towards Kuopio, bypassing Mikkeli this time. The pair of quite short stages Leskelänkylä and Korpijärvi introduced here would remain also for the four following editions of the rally.

While returning to Jyväskylä, Tervakorpi was a partial and reversed version of Tenkkeli (later known as Toikkala), while on the other side of the main road, Hännilä (later known as Kutemajärvi) was now driven in reverse direction as Alajoki. At the same time, Ruuhimäki made a return onto the route.

A new short stage called Rikkaranta broke the 130 km/h average speed barrier for the first time in the history of the rally. Pentti Airikkala’s winning average speed was a massive 134 km/h.

The competitive length of 1977 was 452 km over 46 stages, whereas 1978 dropped the stage count by one but decreased the competitive length by 87 km. Meanwhile, the road section length remained where it was before, at slightly over 1000 km.

1979-1981 – Tour de Päijänne

The routes of 1979, 1980 and 1981 started with the same South-Western stages as before, but proceeded with a counter-clockwise run around the lake Päijänne.

In 1979 the route went first towards Lammi to introduce the stages Vesijako and Kostila. Coming back to Jyväskylä, future staple stages like Murakka and Hara were driven on the East side of the lake. Marjoniemi was modified at the last minute not to include its infamous tarmac section. Meanwhile, Vartijamäki dropped one letter from its name to become Vartiamäki, whereas the next stage after it was canceled.

The 1979 stage Sydänmaa was new and should not be confused with the one driven on the East legs of 1975 – 1977. In addition, the 1979 Sydänmaa stage would later become known as Vehkalahti, which is far from the 1978 Vehkalahti stage driven near Kuopio!

For 1980 and 1981 the Päijänne tour was extended with a detour through Kangasala. This introduced the future staple stages Sahalahti (as Tyry in 1981, nothing to do with the later Tyrynkylä stage) and Laitikkala. In 1981 one stage was cancelled after the regroup break in Aulanko.

After the mid-rally break, the second leg of all these three rallies started with a loop of stages East of Jyväskylä before heading again South-West for the final night stages. The 1979 regroup was in Leppävirta, using some of the same stages from the previous year route when it returned from Kuopio. One stage between Korpijärvi and Kumpulahti was canceled before the rally started, most likely that being Iisvesi, which was between them the year before.

Towards the end of the 1979 rally, stage repeats were introduced for the first time on such a large scale. Jouhtikylä and Kuukanpää were the first double runs, although Kuukanpää’s second run was in the opposite direction than 11 hours earlier. Humalamäki, Urria and Ehikki from the previous day were also repeated, as was the first section of Ouninpohja, as a part of Mutanen (not related to the 1975 stage).

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 9.34.18
Mutanen (red) and Hassi (orange) 1979. Both stages were live at the same time in the four road junction, separated by concrete posts.

This Ouninpohja/Mutanen partial repeat was also used in 1980. However, in addition to it, only two full stages were repeated that year.

The first stage on the Saturday of 1980 was  Harju a street stage in the centre of Jyväskylä. It had been driven before 1973 but this was its WRC debut. It would remain for decades on the rally’s route. Harju features on this video from 10:09 onwards.

The 1980 East leg had an extended version of the Äijälä stage. A similar version would return in 1988, but otherwise only the extension section would be used in the following years.

The Saturday midday regroup was now in Suonenjoki, closer to Jyväskylä than before. It also introduced a new super special on the Suonenjoki rallycross track. It remained for 1981 as well.

The classic Kalliokoski stage was introduced on the way back from Suonenjoki. This time the route skipped returning to Jyväskylä in the middle of the night, instead having a regroup near Saarijärvi on the North side of Jyväskylä.

From there the rally headed towards the Jämsä area via Keuruu like the year before. The second stage after the regroup was Muittari, the longest of the rally at 32 km. On the way back to Jyväskylä there was a rare 12 km version of Saalahti, including a road which is familiar to today’s WRC teams from testing. The rally closer was a 6 km version of Seppälänkangas.

In 1981 the Ruuhimäki stage was driven in two different versions. The first one was over 12 km long, made by merging it with the Taulu stage. The second one started with a private road section – the same one that was used on the 2018-2019 power stage. The long version can be seen on this video at 10:19.

The final regrouping was now again in Jyväskylä before the last night. After that the drivers tackled a new stage called Kuusanmäki and then Ouninpohja for the second time. Ristijärvi was canceled, making the cars head straight for a loop of stages in the Teisko area, such as Savonkylä, Terälahti and Lauttajärvi. On the way back, Väärinmaja was supposed to have new forest roads at the beginning, but for a reason or another its route was shortened.

The last regroup break was in Keuruu early on Sunday morning. The final stages were then driven between Keuruu and Jyväskylä. Sahloinen had debuted in 1977 but now it would remain a regular stop near the finish of the rally.

Urria was repeated near the end of the rally with a new smaller road section at the beginning and also a turn to a forest road just before the finish line. These modifications were probably made because the route approached the stage from a completely different direction. However, the new beginning would be used regularly after 1983, the new ending only in 1987.

Just like Ruuhimäki and Urria, Humalamäki was also repeated in a different version. To close the rally, it was driven in the opposite direction, seen on the video at 12:47.

1980 and 1981 were quite similar to each other with 47-48 stages and 450-470 kms of total length. with 1979 being a bit shorter, probably thanks to the two canceled stages. 1980 was the tightest route with only 948 km of road sections, but the others weren’t much longer. In 1981 Ouninpohja was the longest stage of the rally at just 25 km of length, but this would become normal in the following years.

The 1981 clerk of the course Pentti Huisman had taken his turn trying to bring the average speeds down. The issue was real since the cars progressed drastically, but at least the average speed in 1981 remained roughly the same as the year before.

Hannu Mikkola showed the first signs of the power of the Audi quattro by going 130 km/h in the long Ruuhimäki stage and 127 km/h in Urria. But more was to come in the following years.

Yearly data

Year Stages run Stages total length Avg stage length Winner avg speed Fastest stage Longest stage
1973 43 517.20 km 12.03 km 105.57 km\h Kaitainen 128.87 km\h Kokkosenlahti 42.80 km
1974 34/36 343.50 km 10.10 km 107.51 km\h Myhinpää 120.79 km\h Kokkosenlahti 38.40 km
1975 42 287.50 km 6.85 km 99.80 km\h Koivakkala 120.81 km\h Kokkosenlahti 35.60 km
1976 45 428.00 km 9.51 km 102.60 km\h Lempää 123.93 km\h Risulahti 41.30 km
1977 45/46 452.90 km 10.06 km 102.12 km\h Vartijamäki 128.00 km\h Kokkosenlahti 35.80 km
1978 45 365.70 km 8.13 km 105.06 km\h Rikkaranta 134.12 km\h Kurjala 25.50 km
1979 45/47 423.50 km 9.41 km 105.73 km\h Urria 123.65 km\h Mutanen 31.40 km
1980 47/48 472.20 km 10.05 km 106.97 km\h Patiala 127.89 km\h Muittari 32.00 km
1981 46/48 439.89 km 9.56 km 106.69 km\h Ruuhimäki 1 130.57 km\h Ouninpohja 24.70 km

Finnish WRC rallies with the lowest stage average length:

 

Year Stage average length Stages run Competitive length
1. 1975 6.85 km 42 287.50 km
2. 1986 8.12 km 47 381.86 km
3. 1978 8.13 km 45 365.70 km
4. 1984 9.15 km 50 457.27 km
5. 1985 9.16 km 50 458.01 km
6. 1979 9.41 km 45 423.50 km
7. 1983 9.45 km 50 472.43 km
8. 1976 9.51 km 45 428.00 km
9. 1981 9.56 km 46 439.89 km
10. 1987 9.80 km 51 499.65 km

 

Stages run every year 1973-1981:

  • Laajavuori
  • Humalamäki
  • Urria
  • Ehikki
  • Myhinpää
  • Kuukanpää

4 thoughts on “Rally Finland Route History I: 1973-1981

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