This post focuses on the Group A era in the 1000 Lakes Rallies. After the exaggerated slowing in 1987, the stages were now again naturally flowing, but modernized with varying road types. There was also now only very little driving in the dark. Each leg reached out to a different direction and the routes were longer than ever in the history of the rally, but still almost no stages were repeated.
Cover image by Jouni Laakso (c). Driver quotes from the Vauhdin Maailma spectator guides.
I think I’ll be retired before we get a more persistent route for the rally. If we ever will.
– Markku Alen
1988 – A new beginning
– The first time the rally started on a morning –
The 1988 1000 Lakes Rally started a tradition of having a long leg South-West towards Tampere/Valkeakoski on Saturday and two slightly shorter legs – South towards Joutsa and East towards Pieksämäki – divided between Friday and Sunday. This contrasts the previous seven years having a large portion of the route driven South-West from Jyväskylä. The spreading of the route also resulted in no full stages being repeated anymore.
For the 1988 season the 110 km/h stage average speed limit set by FISA had an increased tolerance of 20% which gave more freedom to the organizers. They had faced a lot of criticism from the 1987 route and admitted instantly that they were on the wrong path. Chicanes and the smallest forest roads would be gone for good.
The rally was now again three days long after the four-day experiment of 1987. To give more time for the night breaks, the rally started already on the Friday morning, being the first time the rally started on a morning. The first stage was again Laajavuori, after which the crews headed South towards Joutsa to many of the same stages used on the 1987 Friday leg.
Ylemmäinen might have been a new stage title, but actually it was just the first half of the Mynnilä stage from the year before. Mutanen returned from 1975, with an extended route. Hotila and Vartiamäki were reversed, the latter and Soimaharju having brand new opening sections. The only all-new stage of the loop Töppöspohja can be seen on this footage at 0:40
“Spectators don’t need to wear their shoes for [Töppöspohja] because it doesn’t offer any special targets of interest. It has a soft surface and is somehow just routine.”
– Markku Alen
The Harju super special was driven after an afternoon regroup. It was followed by a two-stage run Westwards with the dusk falling. This loop had Kuohu reversed for good, as well as introduced the Parkkola stage, utilizing the previous year Pöykky route in reverse direction.
Korpiaho was the first stage of the Saturday morning, returning from 1985. Västilä and Sahalahti were brought back for the first time since 1981. Konivuori had a new beginning on the wide Hassi road, being again the longest stage of the rally, and the first stage with over 30 km of length since 1980.
“One of the most difficult to remember and drive. Precise lines are important and although most of the stage is familiar, you cannot be careless. The rhythm change in the middle is challenging and you need to be neat all the time. An interesting stage which I like.”
– Hannu Mikkola on the Konivuori stage
The day also contained again the Valkeakoski super special, in addition to a regroup in the city. On the way back, Siitama was one of the new stages. It would make a record by being driven in the exact same format for 12 years in a row.
Väärinmaja had its small roads replaced by many kilometres of fast driving. Ristijärvi also had an extended route, ending with the narrow road familiar from the Riukusalmi stage. Still Ristijärvi was one of the fastest stages of the rally, thanks to the very fast long section in the middle of the stage. It would take 20 years for Väärinmaja to return, but for Ristijärvi this was the last appearance so far.
“21 kilometres of clearing the exhaust! Restricted for under 18 year olds!”
– Markku Alen on the Ristijärvi stage
Ehikki returned also onto the itinerary, using an old route from the early 70’s in reversed direction. With only wide roads and one junction for 13 km, it became the fastest stage of the rally at 121 km/h.
Moksi was an extended rebranding of the 1975 Niemiaho stage, having nothing in common with the 1986 Moksi stage. The following Surkee was a new stage beginning its stint as the Saturday night closer, alternating multiple times between small and wide roads.
The 1988 rally had four super specials. In addition to Laajavuori, Harju and Valkeakoski, a new mixed surface test was added for the Sunday morning near Jyväskylä in Vaajakoski, seen at 13:57.
The short Sunday leg was driven Eastwards, although not as far as usually. New to-be-staple-stages for the leg included the angular and narrow Laukaa as well as the soft and sandy Lankamaa. The former can be seen on this video at 43:18.
“Although we are so close to Laukaa, new Kankkunen’s aren’t born along this road! The road is soft and has no crests so it mostly offers monotonous driving.”
– Markku Alen on the Laukaa stage
Leskelänkylä appeared for its last time rebranded as Leskelä. Jouhtikylä was reversed and given a new beginning on fast forest roads. Kalliokoski and Äijälä had extended routes, but the last four kilometres of the latter were dropped because the road had been damaged beforehand in a local rally.
“A completely useless stage, because road repairs disturb the driving. Not a typical stage to the rally where the driving would be enjoyable – I doubt spectating will be either”
– Juha Kankkunen on the Leskelä stage
Kuukanpää ended the rally after two years of absence, but it wouldn’t be driven ever again. A decade later a major part of the stage would be paved, abandoning the infamous bridge for good.
The road sections were now again under 1000 km long. The stage count was decreased to 39 but the competitive length remained almost the same the year before, at 496 km. This also means that the average stage length was increased from to 9.7 km to 12.7 km with six stages at over 20 km in length. There were no repeated stages per se, but Surkee ended with most of Parkkola, and Hassi started with all of Rapsula.
A remarkable thing about the route at this point of the history of the rally is that the stages started now combining more of different road types and having more junctions. If we look at the 1985 route which was the last one before radical average speed limitations, 15 of the stages have no junction turns at all, whereas in 1988 there’s only three such stages (Haukila, Savo and Leskelä). Over the whole length of the rally, super specials excluded, 1988 has 23 junctions per 100 kilometres, whereas 1985 has only 11. The increased number of junctions also opened more access points for spectators to follow the rally without walking on the stage.
The added junctions and amount of daylight driving seemed to compress the average speeds, as only two stages were marginally over 120 km/h and only one forest stage under 100 km/h in average speed. Still, the overall pace of the rally was already matching the Group B years.
1989 – Friday and Sunday switch places
– The rally reached its record for highest percentage of competitive length –
In 1989 the rally headed to the East leg already on Friday. It also marked the return of the fast Myhinpää stage after three years of absence, now driven to the other direction than the last time, from West to East.
In the middle of the day, a regrouping was held at the city of Pieksämäki. On the way back, Toikkala and Alajoki returned onto the itinerary, driven to the other direction than in 1984. Halttula was a brand new stage for this year, its ending shown here at 17:55
“[Halttula] feels like something had to be arranged for the drivers around afternoon tea – tastes like driving for the sake of kilometres”
– Markku Alen
Friday ended with Vesala and Kuohu. The former had a mostly new route, starting now only briefly in the gravel pit. The two stages were situated close to each other and the road which ended Vesala has also been driven as Kuohu in the 70’s.
The Saturday leg was much like the year before. Vaheri returned with its route being a combination from 1980 and the small roads from the second repeat of 1987 – all in reversed direction.
Hassi was also now driven in the opposite direction to all previous runs having also some new roads in the beginning. Laitikkala and Haukila were merged together through fast gravel roads and a tarmac junction as Uskila.
On the way back from the Valkeakoski regrouping, Juupajoki returned in a configuration which used the routes of the 1983 stage, the 1986 stage in reverse direction and the old Salokunta stage. One particularly tricky section can be seen here at 30:04 (alternating with the wide road footage from Siitama).
“This over 20 km stage offers speed and action.” “An interesting stage with a lot of differences to offer”
– Markku Alen on the Juupajoki stage
Kalasaari from 1983 was extended, becoming renamed as Haukilahti in the process. Huhtia returned in reversed direction from 1987 and Surkee had a new beginning section.
Sunday went now South-East. It mostly combined stages from the two previous years, but Lahdenpohja hadn’t been driven since 1981.
“You could think Lahdenpohja is a piece of cake, but it doesn’t come so easy”
– Markku Alen
Lempää in turn was extended to contain a part of the Hara stage, while Vartiamäki was cut much shorter, not containing the old section anymore at all. Murakka became again the slowest forest stage of the rally with only 92 km/h of average speed. It can be seen here at 14:24
“At Murakka it’s costly to be greedy, because the road needs to be driven very precisely. Treacherous stones lurk in the grass on the sides”
– Timo Salonen
The total stage count was now at 43, but the competitive length exceeded 500 km for the first time since 1973. The road sections were so economic that the rally reached its record for highest percentage of competitive length, 35,1%. It’s also remarkable that not even parts of any stages were repeated.
The average speed of the rally remained the same at 108 km/h. It would have been higher if one of Alen, Kankkunen or Vatanen would have survived to the end the rally to set the winning pace.
1990-1992 – Four day structure
– The longest competitive length that the rally has ever had with WRC value –
In 1990 the rally was again extended to be four days long. This structure was also used for the two following years.
“Nice that the route team hasn’t put too much new sections into the route”
– Markku Alen
Like in 1987, the Thursday leg started with the Harju super special in the evening and continued onto a short leg towards Petäjävesi and Jämsä. Vesala and Parkkola both had now more straightforward routes. Parkkola introduced its infamous junction for the first time, seen here at 8:53.
Ehikki was also back after a year off. The beginning of the route was reversed from 1988, or familiar from the early 70’s. The ending extended on forest roads used for a short part in 1986.
Vaheri was the longest stage of Thursday, driven in the dark. Its route was the same as in 1989, but the direction was reversed. Saalahti returned as the leg-closer after being absent for four years.
“Vaheri is definitely the most important stage of the first loop. It calls for confidence to drive a fast stage in the dark.”
– Ari Vatanen
All Friday was now driven in the East. A new fast stage Jäppilä was added into the route, using the old Suontniemi stage reversed in the end. Also, Mäkrä returned from 1984 in reversed direction, whereas Alajoki was renamed as Kutemajärvi.
“For the most part, only the two top gears are used in Jäppilä”
– Ari Vatanen
The Laajavuori super special was now driven as the Friday closing stage and in the opposite direction for the first time ever, starting from the Killeri trotting track and ending with a steep downhill near the hotel. This video from 1991 shows it well.
Saturday was largely the same as before. Hassi had some new roads in the beginning, starting Eastwards from Kakaristo. The Valkeakoski super special was replaced by a similar one in Tampere.
On the way back to Jyväskylä, Kaipolanvuori had a new extended beginning, whereas Sahloinen was driven again for the first time since 1986, extended from its end. The route of Surkee was again modified slightly, and it included a piece of road repeated from Thursday’s Parkkola stage, being the only road driven twice in the rally.
A new stage called Pitkäjärvi near Jyväskylä was introduced to commence Sunday. Meanwhile, Mynnilä was again merged with Ylemmäinen for a long stage.
“The road does not offer anything special, but suits opening the final day”
– Markku Alen on the Pitkäjärvi stage
Many stages around Joutsa were dropped. Instead, the leg was now stretched further in the South towards Heinola in the form of a new narrow stage called Lusi. Its first half was the same as the Marjoniemi stage from 1979. Lusi can be seen here at 48:49
The stage count was decreased by one. However, the competitive length was increased, becoming finally longer than 1973 with 527 km. This is the longest competitive length that the rally has ever had with WRC value.
By now the Group A cars were already faster than the Group B ones on gravel roads. A new whole rally average speed record of 112 km/h was made. The fastest stage Vesala would keep its Group A average speed record of 128 km/h for a few years, being one of the six stages of 1990 to exceed 120 km/h.
1991 stayed largely the same as 1990. The super fast and wide Vesala and Parkkola were replaced by the narrower roads of Kuohu and Moksi on the Thursday evening.
In addition, Himos was added to the itinerary. It had a Mickey Mouse element from the turns on the parking lot of the skiing center and a small hill climb at the end.
“Have they tried to make this the Pikes Peak of Jämsä?”
– Markku Alen on the 1991 Himos stage
Valkola appeared for the first time in the rally after 1985, as the Friday morning opener. It was driven now in the opposite direction, last driven such way in 1981.
“If you want to see how today’s Group A car does bends, Valkola is a suitable place to go”
– Markku Alen
Jouhtikylä was again driven in its classic format, but in reversed direction. Meanwhile, Ruuhimäki had a new ending which included a bit of forestry roads, junctions and some tarmac on a driving school track. This video from 1992 shows its trickiness alongside the classic jumps.
For Saturday, Korpiaho was removed while Leustu started slightly differently, omitting a small road section. This format of Leustu would remain in use for the next ten years.
The Hassi stage received new roads, containing now the “Ouninpohja small road” and the Kakaristo hairpin for the first time ever. It was also now the longest stage of the rally, with Konivuori being shortened on its last run so far. Subsequently, Päijälä made a comeback in its 1987 format.
On the way back to Jyväskylä, Haukilahti was replaced by Autio. Its route was shortened from the start at the last minute (possibly because of being ruined weeks earlier in Mänttä 200-ajo), meaning that in the end it had nothing in common with the 1983 route.
Sunday had again a new stage title, Vehkalahti, which was mostly the same as Sydänmaa last driven in 1979 (nothing in common with 1978 Vehkalahti or 1975-1977 Sydänmaa). However, this stage wouldn’t be driven ever again. The other major update for Sunday was that the rally closer Vartiamäki contained now a section on the Josemora rallycross track soon after its start.
The whole rally average speed was again increased by 1 km/h, although the fastest stage was now slower than the year before. The competitive and overall length remained almost unchanged from the year before. Just like in 1989, there were absolutely no repeated sections within the 42 stages.
1992 was as long as 1991, but with five less stages. This meant that many old stages were extended and the stage average length was now higher than ever, at 14.18 km.
The first forest stage of the rally, Kuohu, was also the first to become longer, although still rather short. The new route was a reversed version of the one driven in 1985. It can be seen on this video at 1:32.
“Kuohu is so short that a few unnecessary liftings set you back far from the lead”
– Ari Vatanen
The first stages to be dropped were Himos and Saalahti. Parkkola (replacing again Moksi) was extended with challenging forest roads and Ehikki with a fast private road. Thus the Thursday leg had now less stages but more kilometres than the two previous years!
Friday introduced Haapakylä, which wouldn’t be driven ever again. In addition, Lankamaa, Jouhtikylä and Myhinpää had new forest road sections, although short-lived. Out of these only half of the new Lankamaa beginning section with a tricky houseyard passing would remain in use, shown here at 14:15.
In addition, Laukaa was back after a year off, reversed. It would remain in that direction for the following 25 years.
For the first time in the rally, servicing was prohibited between two stages. This happened between Toikkala and Kutemajärvi, which had only about 100 metres of liaison between them anyway.
“1000 Lakes Rally without Ouninpohja would be quite tame.”
– Markku Alen
The name Ouninpohja finally made a return on the itinerary on the 1992 Saturday, replacing Konivuori. However, it was mostly the same as the Hassi stage the year before, just turning right instead of left at the last junction, and ending where Konivuori did in 1991.
Koivulahti, Västilä and Uskila had new high-speed endings. Out of these three, only the one in Uskila would remain in use.
After the afternoon regroup a new stage called Paateri was introduced. It ended with parts of the Hassi stage driven in 1985. The famous jumps of Paateri can be seen here at 33:44, along with some wide road action near the end of the stage.
Päijälä had a new route which started with the old Päijälä stage in reverse direction and proceeded on the small roads from the 1991 stage. A bit from Poikuskulma was also used before a new bumpy small road section at the end.
“Driving in Päijälä is like playing the piano. I enjoy driving in Päijälä”
– Ari Vatanen
The 1992 Hassi stage had nothing in common with the 1991 route. Instead it borrowed a major part of its route from the 1987 Arvaja stage.
Since Parkkola had returned onto the Thursday itinerary, a five kilometre section was again shared with Surkee, like in 1990. This partial repeat remained for the three following years as well, being often the only twice-driven section of the rally.
The 1992 Sunday was tightened not to include anymore stages south of Hartola. At the same time, Ylemmäinen and Mynnilä were separated again. Lempää had a new ending with now utilized the forest roads of the Rakokivi stage from 1977. Meanwhile, the Vartiamäki rallycross track part was approached from a different direction.
The whole rally average speed record was broken again, now to 115 km/h. 11 of the 37 stages exceeded 120 km/h and no forest stage was slower than 100 km/h except for the rally closer Vartiamäki, but only thanks to the aforementioned rallycross track excursion.
1993-1994 – Back to three days
– The rally started now for the first time with a forest stage –
1993 returned to the three-day format in the 1989 style. Similarly, the Friday loop was modified to have previous Thursday stages in the evening. However, this meant that alarms had to be set two and a half hours earlier on Friday morning.
The rally started now for the first time with a forest stage. The stage to take this job was Valkola. It had a new small road section in the middle. However, it was the familiar main road section that instantly took Markku Alen by surprise, breaking his Subaru Impreza’s radiator. Both the small road and Alen’s incident can be seen here:
The Friday loop had mostly past stages exchanged for another. The technical Hannula was the only completely new one in the whole rally. The footage at 7:08 alternates between the fast bridge place in Kalliokoski and a twisty farmyard section in Hannula.
“This kind of stage does not fit into the rally. Too many different roads. Stones await everywhere. A lot of junctions and the rhythm is interrupted.”
– Ari Vatanen about the Hannula stage
However, one staple stage was missing. For the first time during the WRC era, Laajavuori didn’t feature at all on the rally itinerary.
Saturday until midday was pretty much the same as 1992. Most notably the popular Savo stage was driven in the opposite direction for the only time in its 1000 Lakes WRC history, although local rallies have had it driven even both directions during the same event.
Vaheri was now moved near the end of the Saturday evening to be a key stage. In addition, Hassi was merged with Paateri for a massive 36 km stage. However, one small difference was that a shortcut through a farmyard was now replaced with a junction turn very close to the 24 main road, requiring tarpaulins and piles of dirt to protect the main road traffic from the live rally stage.
The Sunday route was changed back to the 1989 configuration with the slower stages Soimaharju and Töppöspohja taking again the place of the fast Pitkäjärvi. The rough and narrow Soimaharju is well shown in this footage, also with two onboard bits, from 37:35 to 38:47.
Vartiamäki – closing the rally now for the fifth successive time – borrowed its beginning from the ending of 1987 in reverse direction. Thus the stage was now shorter and omitted again the rallycross section.
The stage count decreased to 35 and the competitive length to 507 km. However, the average stage length kept increasing. The average speed of 1992 was only matched, although the conditions and competition level were comparable.
– This is the first time the rally didn’t introduce a new stage title at all –
1994 followed pretty much 1993’s guidelines, with just single stages modified or swapped for another. However, this is the first time the rally didn’t introduce a new stage title at all. It almost seemed as if Markku Alen’s prediction of a more persistent route had come true, just after his retirement.
The new small roads of Lankamaa surprised instantly the previous year’s top two runners Juha Kankkunen and Ari Vatanen, the former even being very close to his home. The incidents can be seen here at 7:00, whereas the further footage of damaged cars limping is from the following Äijälä stage, driven now in reversed direction. Much talk also stirred up from the prohibited service between the two stages, which most likely resulted in the retirement of Vatanen.
A few Friday stages in addition to Lankamaa were given new small road sections. Kutemajärvi and Halttula had new sections at their starts, while Ehikki was modified from its end. All these stages were also considerably slower compared to the previous year. At the same time, the staple stages Kalliokoski and Toikkala were abandoned. Meanwhile, Mäkrä would be driven for the last time, seen here at 6:25 with the new Kutemajärvi section at 7:37.
Ouninpohja on Saturday was now shortened from the beginning but extended from its end. This created the “modern” format of the stage. The ending section – including the yellow house jump – hadn’t been used in the last three years at all. The yellow house jump can be seen on the above video at 13:34.
The Tampere super special was again replaced with a revised Valkeakoski but all the talk was about the twin-track super special of Himos. Although it wasn’t a new stage title, the roads were newly built for the rally in the downhill skiing slope. While it was something unseen in Finland before, the drivers largely criticised the narrowness of the track.
“It’s more show than actual rallying.”
– Ari Vatanen on the 1994 Himos stage
Hassi was now resembling again its shorter 1992 format, but Saturday still concluded with two long stages. Vaheri was extended with forest roads partly used in 1987, pumping the length up to 31 km. And as if that wasn’t enough, next up was a 37 km Surkee made by appending it to the Sahloinen stage and adding a new bit of forest road between them.
“You can tell the trend is towards longer stages. That’s where the differences are made, at least in theory”
– Ari Vatanen
Sunday was almost exactly the same as before. Mynnilä returned back to its long form and Hauhanpohja came back after 18 years of absence to be the concluding stage of the rally. Hauhanpohja can be seen here at 35:12, showing its fast but narrow nature well.
The stage count remained at 35. However, 15 kilometres were added to the competitive length, meaning that the average stage length was again increased.
The overall average speed of 1994 was actually slightly slower than in 1993 and 1992. This can probably be addressed to both the added technical sections in the 1994 rally, but also the fact that the 1993 win was fought between the experts Kankkunen and Vatanen, whereas in 1994 between Auriol and the newcomer Mäkinen. In fact, Auriol’s average speed on both years was almost exactly the same, with the same car, but in 1994 he finished one step higher on the podium.
1995 – Year off the WRC
– Longer than any of the WRC 1000 Lakes Rallies –
1995 was a non-WRC year, since a rotation system demanded that all rallies took their turn in hosting a rally for only the front wheel drive F2 series. The organizers probably used this off-year to experiment with new stages and directions.
A few common service areas were set around the rally – Hankasalmi on Friday afternoon, Jämsä on Saturday afternoon, Tammijärvi on Sunday morning as well as Killerjärvi at the end of Friday and Saturday. This was most likely rehearsing for upcoming new rules.
The Friday leg was changed to start now on two stages West of Jyväskylä which were used previously on the Friday evening. Meanwhile, three additional stages North-West of Jyväskylä completed the circle towards last year’s first stage. Out of these stages Keuruu and Höytiä were new, but Jukojärvi was a modified version of the stage last driven in 1981.
Myhinpää had its route extended from the end. At the same time, the most Eastern stages Mäkrä, Jäppilä and Kutemajärvi were left out. The Halttula stage had a largely new route. A new stage called Hankasalmi was also introduced, seen on this video at 30:02
Out of the three new stages, Keuruu would be reused in the following years along with the returning Jukojärvi. Meanwhile, Höytiä and Hankasalmi remained unique to this year.
“[Keuruu] is an excellent stage for the 1000 Lakes Rally”
– Jarmo Kytölehto
The Saturday route reversed all of Hassi, Päijälä, Västilä, Ouninpohja, Vaheri and Ehikki. The Valkeakoski super special was also dropped, leaving the Saturday super special responsibility for the twin-car Himos, seen here at 30:01.
Sunday was even shorter than before. A notable detail was the second run of the Lempää stage, being the first complete stage repeat since 1987.
The average speed of the rally remained almost exactly where it was the year before, although Mäkinen must have not driven flat out after Kankkunen’s early retirement. This would imply the route was a bit faster than 1994.
The 1995 rally was surprisingly longer than any of the WRC 1000 Lakes Rallies, having a total of 529 stage kilometres (it would have been 16 km longer if Hassi had not been canceled because of an accident). In fact, all the rallies of this era fit in the 10 longest Finnish WRC events and five of them in the top five if we count in the non-WRC 1995.
|Year||Stages||Stages total length||Avg stage length||Winner
|Fastest stage||Longest stage|
|1988||39||496.33 km||12.73 km||108.10 km\h||Ehikki||121.67 km\h||Konivuori||32.15 km|
|1989||43||507.83 km||11.81 km||108.03 km\h||Hassi||122.70 km\h||Konivuori||32.15 km|
|1990||42||527.61 km||12.56 km||112.69 km\h||Vesala||128.84 km\h||Konivuori||32.15 km|
|1991||42||524.26 km||12.48 km||113.61 km\h||Lankamaa||126.25 km\h||Hassi||30.51 km|
|1992||37||524.82 km||14.18 km||115.45 km\h||Västilä||127.88 km\h||Ouninpohja||30.54 km|
|1993||35||507.53 km||14.50 km||115.41 km\h||Kalliokoski||126.90 km\h||Hassi||36.27 km|
|1994||35||522.76 km||14.94 km||114.58 km\h||Myhinpää||129.06 km\h||Surkee||37.31 km|
|1995||32||529.54 km||16.55 km||114.10 km\h||Myhinpää||127.38 km\h||Surkee||37.31 km|
Longest Finnish WRC events:
*= not a full WRC valued event
Highest percentage of stage kilometres in Finnish WRC events
|Year||Stage km||Total km||
Amount of stages
|1989||507.83 km||1447.34 km||35.10%|
|1992||524.82 km||1562.10 km||33.60%|
|1994||522.76 km||1558.45 km||33.50%|
|1990||527.61 km||1604.11 km||33.90%|
|1980||472.20 km||1421.00 km||32.20%|
Stages run every year 1988-1995:
- Hassi (canceled in 1995 because of an accident)