Rally Finland’s 70th anniversary run in 2020 had to be canceled and the 2021 event was further complicated by having to be moved to October, in order to secure better COVID-situation and secure allowing spectators for the event. The compact three-day route of the event was published today, and this is a quick analysis of it.
Cover image by Richard Simpson / Flickr (C)
The rally uses the shortened three-day format used in the COVID-times for Rally Estonia and Rally Turkey 2020 as well as this year’s Arctic Rally Finland. Thus the shakedown is contested on Friday morning. The Vesala stage used for the task is the same as in 2018 and 2019, but run in reverse direction, making it essentially a new stage.
The actual rally starts at 13:30 in the afternoon with the familiar Harju super special. The route is unchanged, but the start time is earlier than before. This resembles the early 80’s, when Harju was driven typically in the afternoon, often in sunny weather.
The route proceeds with five forest stages. Ässämäki is reversed from its previous occasions. Its ending was run in this direction on 2016 and 2017 as Halinen, but the beginning will be new for everyone.
Similarly, Sahloinen-Moksi starts with some roads not used since 1995, then proceeds along the route of the 2010 Surkee stage. The direction is opposed compared to the Moksi and Surkee stages from 2012 to 2019, so again it’s basically new for most drivers.
The night is concluded with a single run of Oittila after the sunset, making it the first night stage in the rally since 1994. The stage is also reversed, meaning that the ending is new for everyone, while the beginning was used as the power stage from 2016 to 2017.
Saturday is a long day like in normal route structure, with four forest stages driven twice. Kakaristo-Hassi has a new beginning, approaching the iconic Kakaristo junction from a new direction, proceeding on last year’s Kakaristo route and ending with a bit of road used on the 2011 Hassi stage.
Päijälä is run in reverse direction to last year. Most of it was run this way in 2016, but the small road loop added in 2017 hasn’t been driven in this direction. This could be the fastest stage of the rally.
Arvaja is a new stage, not used since 1994 (then as Hassi). This and Sahloinen-Moksi are the only additions from the 2020 route to survive for 2021, as Humalamäki and Laajavuori had to be left out.
Patajoki is another new stage title, but the roads have been used on various versions of Vaheri and Himos. However, nothing on the route has been driven on WRC level since 2010 and the very ending never before.
The night is concluded with the second run of Harju, now in darkness!
Sunday is driven just like 2018 and 2019. Laukaa and Ruuhimäki are driven twice. As we remember, both stages were renewed for 2018, Laukaa by reversing, and Ruuhimäki by adding a new beginning and new ending with the big final jump.
All in all, it’s a great route. Obviously it’s sad to have a compromised route with less stages than would be possible, but we must accept the current situation and remember it’s better than no rally at all. In addition, the compact route will likely make it more hectic for the drivers, fitting for the sprint nature of the event’s heritage.
Only Harju, Laukaa and Ruuhimäki are remaining as they are from 2019, and in addition to these stages, only Kakaristo can have reused pace notes from 2019 as most remaining stages have been reversed! I’m happy that the organizers are never resting on their laurels, trying to change the route every couple of years. This makes it challenging for the drivers and interesting for the spectators.