Because the first third of the Rally Finland Top 30 Stages included already eleven stages, only nine can be revealed here before the top ten. There are many classics of the 80’s but also the most modern stage of the whole listing. The grades range from 2.5 to 2.95.
Cover photo by Kyn Wai Chung / Flickr
This is the most Northern stage of the listing. Everyone remembers the big jump on this stage, but the smaller roads offer other kinds of challenges as well.
Palsankylä used to be very short in the old days like most stages, but the modern versions have been 13 or 25 km long.
The 1973 Palsa stage is counted here, similarly short in length and title. The stage returned with its new title and a longer format in 2000 and was used nine times until 2013. It also served as Toyota Gazoo Racing’s permanent test location until 2021.
Palsankylä has basically three alternate beginnings but all versions end in the same spot. The last 5 km have always been the same and the last 10 km on all modern versions. The direction has never been reversed.
The junction turns are very frequent, after every 2-3 km on average. The small roads appear in many flavors and are topped by the wide state-maintained road at the end. The 25 km long versions included more of very wide roads and a very small forest road. And even the 6 km version from 1973 consisted of two roads!
Palsankylä is best known for its big jump on the wide road near the end, but one of the small roads packs in eight jumps onto just one kilometre!
The average speed of the stage has been often below the rally winner’s overall pace.
Most of Palsankylä is “semi-technical”, without a proper flow but not being super twisty either. There are long straights but also many tight junction turns.
The first big name to crash in Palsankylä was Simo Lampinen on a Saab 96 in 1973. 40 years later Palsankylä was again in the headlines as Evgeni Novikov crashed into a pile of logs. As if it wasn’t enough, the bonnet was stuck open and he kept driving. Kris Meeke caught him and they tandem-jumped the big jump!
The position 16 is split between three stages with somewhat similar character. We start with Mattila, a definite 80’s classic that might be a bit less familiar to younger Rally Finland goers, but something that the older generation remembers well, although it has been run under an interesting alias.
The length of Mattila didn’t vary much, only from 11 to 13 km.
Mattila was used every year from 1977 to 1987 – except 1981. Also take note that some archives list the stage on the itinerary as Kesäpäivä, which was a local grocery store sponsoring it.
Mattila is one of those stages which are just one road from beginning to end, a medium wide and firm road. Apart from 1977 it was always driven in the same direction, from North to South, following Päijälä.
Especially near the beginning (North) of the stage there are some heavy and/or frequent jumps.
The average speed was typically close to the rally winner’s overall pace.
Mattila is a rather angular stage, where long straights or flat out passages connect tight corners. There are also more thoroughly sinuous sections.
Markku Alen went into the ditch on this stage from a jump while being in the heat of the battle for the win with Timo Salonen in 1985. But other than that, the top drivers always took this one with enough caution.
A definite classic, one of the most often used stages and and one of the fastest stages of the list.
Ehikki has never been over 20 km long. In contrast, the stage appeared three times during the 1986 rally.
Driven in 27 editions of the WRC event, it’s one of the most often used stages in the history of the rally, but not since 2007 (although it should return as Vekkula in 2022).
For example the 1975 and 1976 editions don’t have anything in common, but most of the versions are based on two roads with something else as a spice every now and then.
In its classic format Ehikki is all fast-flowing on relatively wide road. Only in the 90’s the stage started containing other road types in relevant amounts.
Ehikki is more about crests than jumps, but the lightly lifting crests can still be challenging.
This is a predominantly fast stage. It was the fastest stage of the rally in 1988, whereas 130 km/h was exceeded in 2003 and 2007 – the latter even with a chicane!
The classic section is fast-flowing, and even most of the later added forest roads are straightforward. There are some technical passages and tricky corners over crests, and of course a handful of versions include several junction turns and/or a piece of very small road.
Everyone remembers Malcolm Wilson’s roll in 1993 on the brand new Escort Cosworth. In addition, Marcus Grönholm had a ditch excursion going into the smallest road on the non-WRC year 1995. However, despite these incidents, the rally win has never been decided in Ehikki.
This stage is very archetypal 1000 Lakes. Compared to Ehikki, there are less road types used but the overall character is similar.
Västilä was typically 12 or 17 km long, and the few exceptions don’t change this number too much.
This is one of the early stages used in the pre-WRC years well as in the inaugural WRC year of 1973. In 1981 it was the stage that took the place of Mattila, as the stages are located parallel to each other. Finally Västilä returned onto the itinerary in 1988 and remained as a staple until 2001.
Västilä is basically just one wide and fast-flowing road which is used for every version. Half of the versions use a smaller (but still fast) road, and two exceptional versions use two other roads instead. In turn we don’t get much variety.
There are some jumps here and there, mostly on the Northern section, but even these jumps are quite small.
Västilä has typically been one of the fastest stages of the rally, or actually the fastest in 1992 and 1998. The former had a new ending which was super fast and wasn’t used anymore after that in WRC (visible on the onboard).
There are some tight turns on the aforementioned smaller road but mostly this is a quite flowing stage.
Ari Vatanen had a time-consuming spin on this stage in 1990 while fighting for the win with Carlos Sainz. He lost 15 seconds on the stage, while at the end of the rally the difference was only 19 seconds. The Fiat works driver Alcide Paganelli also went off here in 1974 from a promising tenth position.
Position 14 is shared between two stages that were created to act as slower version of Ouninpohja. We start with Konivuori, which is one of the most technical stages in the history of the whole rally.
From 1987 to 1990 Konivuori was the longest stage of the rally, around 30 km in length. In addition to the aforementioned, 1986 and 1991 hosted shorter versions of the stage.
The 1988–1990 versions were identical and the 1986 stage uses the same route with just half of it cut off while the 1987 and 1991 ones both had a unique section not used on any other edition. In fact, only the signature Konivuori small road is common between all versions (and featured also on the 2011 Hassi stage).
There is a drastic contrast between small and wide roads, but not much of the medium wide roads. Also, sometimes there’s very long periods driven on the same road between junction turns.
Some versions have access to heavy jumps of Ouninpohja – including the yellow house jump – and some small jumps on the small road. However, other parts of the stage don’t have that many jumps.
This stage has typically been one third fast, one third medium and one third very slow, so on average it goes to the lower end of the spectrum.
The technicality of the Konivuori small road is exceptional, complete with hairpin turns, hard obstacles right next to the road, altitude changes and a rough surface. When it is combined with the tricky Ouninpohja road with many jumps over bends, and some technical parts of the Hassi stage, full points in this category are deserved!
The 1989 winner Micael Ericsson crashed out in 1990. The writing was on the wall, as he already had a spin on this stage two years earlier.
Kakaristo is an iconic location for Rally Finland, but it has given its name also to a stage. While Konivuori borrowed the South-Western part of Ouninpohja, Kakaristo utilizes the North-West area.
Includes 2021 Kakaristo – Hassi
The lengths have ranged from 18 to 23 km, keeping the average just above 20 km.
Kakaristo is the most modern stage of the whole top 30, having debuted as late as 2008, five times in total.
All the versions have utilized the “Ouninpohja small road” and the Kakaristo farm area, but that’s where the common parts end, and every version has been at least slightly different to the previous one. The 2019 route was actually identical to 1996–1997 Rapsula, while the 2021 Kakaristo – Hassi stage had a beginning not used any other year on any stage, on the other side of the Kakaristo junction.
Kakaristo is one of those stages where the road type changes constantly, alternating dramatically from super wide to very narrow. Although there’s practically no medium wide roads at all, the broad variety of narrow and wide road flavors compensates it.
There are some proper jumps on the “small road of Ouninpohja” and of course on the Hassi road used from 2018 to 2021, but also flatter roads.
The average speeds have been either slightly below or slightly above the rally average, depending on the version.
Most of Kakaristo is very technical, but for example the wide part of Ouninpohja that leads to the Kakaristo junction is quite straightforward.
In 2019 the Toyota drivers Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala hit the same stone on the small road. Meeke’s rally was over, while Latvala only suffered a puncture and lost the lead. Martin Prokop’s 2014 event also ended on this stage from tenth place.
Lempää could be another surprise to see this high on the list, but it was a key stage of the area on the East side of the lake Päijänne.
Lempää has often been a long stage, reaching 28 km on the longest versions, but shorter editions have also featured.
Lempää was used every year from 1987 to 1999, as well as 1976, 2016 and 2017.
The first 6 km are shared by all versions except 1976. The 2016 and 2017 didn’t continue further, but the 1987–1999 versions all had 4 km more in common, with two alternate endings.
The long version of Lempää includes several types of roads, starting with a fast private road, proceeding onto wide farmer’s tarmac and ending on small forest roads. Thus no road type returns a second time during the stage. Furthermore, the shorter editions bring this value down a bit.
The first road of Lempää has four spectacular tilted jumps and the following wide road has also a few nice sharp crests, but the rest of the stage keeps the wheels more or less on the ground.
Lempää has typically been a quite fast stage, even the fastest of the rally in 1996 when the stage was cut a bit shorter, not to feature the most technical small road.
Although half of the distance is small roads, there are long straights and the wide road is very fast-flowing. However, to compensate that there are tricky junction turns, difficult fast corners over jumps and sinuous small road sections. The first road is also technical and fast at the same time.
In 2017 Teemu Suninen lost his runner-up position on this stage by going too wide and having a big spin, damaging the front of the car. Markku Alen also had a heavy jump in 1976, but with no consequences.
The Eastern section of the Ouninpohja area has hosted many different stages on a vast road network, with the common nominator Hassi.
Hassi might be known as a long stage – the 36 km monster was the longest stage of the 1993 rally – but shorter editions have featured occasionally as well.
Hassi was a staple from 1977 to 1994, but has featured since then only once in 2011.
The Hassi stages have featured almost 100 km of roads throughout all editions. For example the 1991 and 1993 stages make up together 67 km but share only 100 m. Basically we have two main versions, the wide road of Hassintie, and the smaller road parallel to it on the East side (used also on the 2021 Arvaja stage). Meanwhile, the 1991 version has more in common with Ouninpohja, being the first time the Kakaristo junction was used in the rally.
We can obviously expect a big variety of roads from the vast road network, but looking closer, usually the stages are composed from just two road types, with typically a drastic rhythm change from very fast to very slow. And obviously the longest editions like 1991 and 1993 have just double the amount of these rhythm changes. In fact, when summing up the roads used on the stages, there’s lots of wide and narrow roads – be it technical or straightforward – but very little of medium wide roads!
The amount of jumps depends on the version. The small road that featured on the 1977, 1982–1985 and 1993 versions has a bunch of sharp crests and a very big jump, and in 1993 it was preceded by the particularly jumpy Paateri road. On the wide road side, everyone remembers the “power lines” jump on the Hassi main road, having featured recently on the Kakaristo stages. Heavy jumps in Hassi have caused trouble to experienced drivers such as Hannu Mikkola and Per Eklund in the 70’s. However, there are also plenty of roads with less jumps.
Hassi has been often a quite fast stage, even the fastest of the rally in 1989, but there’s also slower editions such as 1992 and 2011.
Hassi features both straightforward and very technical sections – as well as something in between. The weight of these sections depends on the version.
One of the most infamous incidents is Colin McRae’s second roll in 1992 on the already battered Subary Legacy. Meanwhile, Juha Kankkunen and Markku Alen have had minor offs here while leading the rally, and Hannu Mikkola even retired in 1978 from second place.
The middle part of the listing is topped with a stage of many junction turns. And of course jumps.
Leustu is best known as a 21–23 km stage but there are also ~10 km versions.
Leustu was introduced in 1987 and became instantly a staple until 2014, except for a few years when it was eclipsed by the monstrous Moksi – Leustu. It was used last in 2019.
The long Leustu route has a couple of variations in the beginning and in the middle, while the versions after 2013 have been half the length and the 1987 version was also a bit different to the others. Stages such as Horkka and Painaa could be seen as a partial version of Leustu.
Leustu is a great example of a stage made up of many kinds of roads, but the weight is still on fast private roads, although with subtle rhythm changes, not always at junctions. Furthermore, only a few editions from 1988 to 1990 included a properly slow technical section, while the shorter versions after 2013 are lacking a section on wide farmer’s tarmac.
Leustu has some infamous jumps, like the one where Evgeni Novikov landed on the rear bumper (see the cover image of this post). There’s also two big jumps at the end of the stage (or start since 2012). Sadly, one of the classic jumps in the middle of the stage – infamous from many films of the 80’s – was turned into a gravel pit in 1994 and the road now uses a different line.
The broad mix of roads brings these values into the middle. There are flat out sections, but also sinuous passages as well as tricky junction turns.
This is not the stage for Ari Vatanen, as he went off on the BMW M3 in 1988 – after its steering broke on a jump – and rolled the Ford Sierra Cosworth in 1991. Kenneth Eriksson also spent quite a while in a ditch in 1990.