I’m about to list the 30 best Rally Finland stages. Instead of just picking my personal favourites, I have gathered data to make up the ranking. Before I start listing, this introductory post sheds some light on my rating system.
Cover image by kallerna, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
What makes a stage good? It’s a good question.
In terms of Rally Finland, the first things that come to mind are speed and jumps. Challenges are appreciated, so the technicality and length of the stage need to be considered, as well as the variance of roads. A classic stage should be picked from year to year onto the itinerary but its route should not vary too much from edition to another. Finally, a popular stage should yield memorable incidents that could become legendary.
What separates one stage from another
Before I start giving points, I need to define how to pick stages into the list. There can be many versions of a stage that have no shared kilometres of road, or conversely two identical routes with two titles.
For this blog post series I’m being going to do the listing absolutely by the stage title, but making a few exceptions where the case is clear. For example, sometimes there is a history of a stage where one or two years the title has been different, but it still clearly belongs onto the same continuum. Furthermore, I’m only focusing on the WRC era starting from 1973 (and 2022 is not counted in yet).
The first points are awarded for years how often the stage has appeared in the event. Also note that this omits the effect of double (or triple) run stages. I’m using the scale of five – one point for every five years of appearance in the rally. Shakedown usage does not count.
The other purely numerical column is for length. Almost all stages have various versions so I have to calculate the average lengths between the editions. Longer is better and the same scale of fives works here, one point for every 5 km, where 25 km or more awards maximum five points .
In order for a stage to have a strong character and memorability, it should have a route that doesn’t change from year to year. Thus I’m evaluating how much common every edition of the stage has with each other. If the route is always the same, it’s 5 points, but if there are versions which don’t share any metres between each other, it’s 0.
Meanwhile, road variety is a factor that should be given value to. If the stage is one road or similar roads the way through, it’s 0 points. If the stage is consisting of equally long bits of different types of roads, it’s 5 points. For example the road surface and width are defining features in this category.
Speed is also somewhat numerical, but should not be rated absolutely because rally cars have had different speeds at different years. A stage of 120 km/h average speed in 1988 has been very very fast, but the same pace in 2021 has been actually quite technical and slow. Thus I have to use relative comparing to find out how quick the stages have appeared and comparisons to the overall winner’s speed must be made at times. But to give some idea: 0 is slow like a super special, 1 is a technical forest stage, and 5 is one of the fastest stages in the whole rally. Some stages have had both slow and fast versions, so calculating average average speed (sic) is needed at times.
Jumps could be counted through onboard videos, but it would be an arduous task, and it’s down to the car and its pace whether a crest is a jump or not. That’s why I’m resorting to some sort of gut feeling or estimate of the frequency and heaviness of jumps.
Technicality is also difficult to estimate. Technical driving is the opposite of a flowing stage, so the driver has to use special techniques to make the car “dance” through the route. Technical roads involve tight turns, junction turns, jumps over bends, blind corners over crests, corner and/or jump combinations and also narrow parts with possibly obstacles close to the road. Most stages will have different types of road, or different versions, so again some sort of average will give the final sub-score.
Finally there are incidents. I’ve tried to narrow it down to crashes, rolls, offs and spins which happened in current top ten of the rally (technical faults are not counted). To help with this I have made a list of incidents that have happened throughout the years, and the points for each incident depends on the driver’s position when the incident happened (most points for incident in the lead position etc), incident result (positions lost, super rally, retirement etc) and incident type (spin, off, roll etc). The overall score is again scaled to make a 0-5 score, but essentially 5 means countless incidents while 1 is just a couple of minor incidents.
There are now eight fields (length, years, common, variety, speed, technicality, jumps and incidents) with five points from each. To make the ratings readable, the overall points should be scaled to result in a “five stars rating”, also from 0 to 5. Thus the maximum should be 50, to be divided by 10.
To make it to 50 max, some weight needs to be applied to some categories. Jumps, speed and technicality are in my opinion the most important aspect of the stage so they are weighted by 2, while length and variety are less important and are thus divided by 2.
(jumps + speed + technicality) * 2 + incidents + years + common + (length + variety) / 2 = SCORE
Of course, I cannot apply this formula into all possible Rally Finland stages because once again, it would be arduous. But I’ve tried to hand-pick 50 candidates and apply this rating system on them find out the 30 best ones.
I will reveal the results in a series of blog posts ten at a time. Ready to start?
Spoiler alert: the winner will not be a surprise. However, it’s more important to explain why the 29 other stages were left behind it.