We have reached the final part of the Top 30. We could say all these ten stages are classics as the grades go from 3 towards 5. The number one will not be a surprise, but the reasons behind it are hopefully interesting.
Cover image by Simon Durand / Flickr
Position 9 is split between two neighboring stages close to Jyväskylä. First up Urria, best known for two jumps right after each other.
Includes 1987 “OKO” stage.
Urria has typically been a relatively short stage, especially by today’s standard. The shortest version of 1987 was only 4 km long, and the longest 13 km in 1973, while the modern versions were 10 or 12 km long.
Urria is one of the most often used stages, although it took a long break between 1987 and 2003.
The earliest versions of the stage consisted of just the wide main road, originally for as long as 13 km. However, since 1981 various small roads have been added to the beginning and/or end, shortening the distance on the main road to 5–6 km. This is one of the few stages that have been always driven in the same direction.
Urria is best known for its huge dropping jump and the following right over a jump known now as Hirvonen’s corner – although it was popular already before Hirvonen’s incident – but in addition to them there’s not much jumping action. However, many crests lightly lift the car, requiring a precise line.
Six times this has been the fastest stage of the rally, with average speeds reaching over 130 km/h.
There’s not much technical elements on Urria, except for said jumps and a couple of tight corners or junctions (not on all versions). Even the small road sections are usually not the most technical ones, except for the 2018–2019 beginning and end.
The biggest incident was Mikko Hirvonen’s big crash in 2010, although there was a technical fault behind it. In 1975 Pentti Airikkala and Hannu Valtaharju crashed out next to each other on another unlucky bend in Urria.
Often in the 70’s and 80’s Humalamäki was always the stage to be driven just before Urria. It seems almost like a straight line on the map – but then again, jumps are not visible on the map!
Being one of the shortest forest stages in the history of the rally, Humalamäki has never been more than 4 km long.
Humalamäki was a staple stage in the beginning of the rally in the 70’s and the early 80’s. In fact, if we list the first forest stages of the WRC history of the rally by excluding opening super specials, Humalamäki appears more often than any other stage although it hasn’t been ran in the rally since the Group B years (except as a shakedown). It was close to making a return in 2020 but a certain pandemic decided otherwise.
It’s one of those stages which are just one road from the beginning to the end, and usually with the same start and finish locations. Furthermore, only the second run of 1979 was run in reversed direction, otherwise always from North to South.
Humalamäki is best known for its jumps, especially a certain straight with three heavy jumps which used to be void of trees for good spectator visibility. However, I find the following section more interesting where the road starts turning over crests.
Like one could guess, it’s a fast stage. It was the fastest stage of the rally in 1983 and 1985, the latter in 1985 resulting in average speed of 125 km/h, in slippery wet conditions. That was also the last time the stage was run.
The only element of technicality comes at the aforementioned section with blind corners over jumps.
Stig Blomqvist damaged his car in one of the jumps of Humalamäki in 1976, before the rally had even properly started. In 1977 Kyösti Hämäläinen had a close call when they caught Leo Kinnunen’s Porsche with the co-driver sitting on the rear bumper, operating the throttle manually as the throttle cable had broken. Hämäläinen almost jumped onto the Porsche, but was able avoid the collision and go on to win the rally!
We have also two stages on position 7, and old stage and a newer one. The vintage one is Vaheri. It’s known as Tommi Mäkinen’s signature stage. Often he was able to beat others by more than 10 seconds here.
Includes Vaheri – Himos.
The length of Vaheri has varied from 8 km blasts to 30-plus-km monsters with weight on the longer ones, setting the average just below 20 km.
This is one of the old stages that was used often before the WRC started. It was also included almost every year from 1977 to 2006, but never after that. The Himos and Patajoki stages have used partly same roads, mostly the smaller ones.
Vaheri has had many different configurations. The house of Vaheri is situated at a three-road junction with always two of them used in all possible combinations so there isn’t a bit of road to feature on every version. However, every version still has at least half of its length shared by numerous versions.
The earliest editions were just typical wide and fast-flowing state-maintained road all the way. Since 1987 forest roads – from very narrow and rough to wider and smoother – have been an integral part of the stage. The width and character of the state-maintained roads also varies slightly with every junction turn.
The main section of Vaheri has frequent jumps, although not especially big ones. The small roads also offer their share of bumps and jumps.
Vaheri has been modest in its speed, never among the fastest or slowest stages of the rally.
The main roads are more or less fast-flowing with some technical sections, while conversely the forestry roads are primarily technical with some straightforward sections. However, Vaheri is one of the rare stages to have always featured a junction turn, even in the early days, and since 1987 there has been many of them.
Marcus Grönholm has been twice unlucky in Vaheri. In 1992 his Toyota works debut ended by taking a wheel off Vaheri. In 1998 he survived an offshoot closely, while Harri Rovanperä went into the field. However, almost acting as a redemption, in 2000 Vaheri was the final stage of the rally when Grönholm took his maiden home win. And while Grönholm was giving joyous interviews at the stop line, his Peugeot teammate Francois Delecour went off mid-stage, rolling quickly at a junction turn.
Another neighbor of Urria and Humalamäki, this modern classic totally deserves its place in top ten.
The length of Mökkiperä has not changed much, typically from 12 to 14 km.
This is a relatively modern stage, having debuted as late as 1998. However, it immediately became a staple until 2016, missing out only twice in between.
Mökkiperä has had the same core always, but the beginnings and ends have varied slightly.
Most of Mökkiperä is driven on similar medium wide private roads apart from a short link on a wider road.
The original beginning has some of the most infamous jumps of all time in Rally Finland – comparable to Humalamäki – but sadly that section hasn’t been driven since 2005. However, there’s a couple of other spectacular jumps on this stage but not all over the place.
Mökkiperä is angular, where long straights or very fast sections alternate with tighter corners and technical passages, so braking points are crucial. Some of the jumps also require careful lines and speed.
Mökkiperä became almost like a nemesis for Jari-Matti Latvala early into his career, going off the road in 2007 and 2008. Jarmo Kytölehto’s one-off on a works Subaru in 1998 was ruined here with a ditch excursion, although his home is just a stone’s throw away. Mads Östberg has also had a heavy crash here with a Subaru, in addition to Francois Duval and Jussi Välimäki going off in 2003.
The third stage pair of the top ten is at position 5. Ruuhimäki is the most often run stage in the rally, and another to be best known for a specific set of jumps.
Ruuhimäki is typically a relatively short stage with the longest versions being 11-12 km and shortest just 3.5 km.
Ruuhimäki is the stage to have featured in most editions of the rally. To top that, it has also served often as a shakedown!
Ruuhimäki is based on one wide and firm road, but after 1985 it has always featured a string of simple smaller roads as well, sometimes even a bit of tarmac. There’s been slight differences in how the stage has started and ended, but most of the route has been the same since then.
Ruuhimäki is world-famous for its jumps, but they do not feature all around the stage. Also, some of the heavy jumps on earlier versions have been smoothed down and paved.
Ruuhimäki used to be a very straightforwardly fast stage, especially in 1981 when it was 12 km of the same wide road and Hannu Mikkola reached 130 km/h on the Audi quattro. Conversely, the versions since 1985 have been slower and more technical, mostly due to numerous junction turns and one more sinuous section.
Hannu Mikkola was disqualified in 1973 because he finished the rally without the co-driver. Why? The co-driver had been taken to hospital after injuring his back on a heavy jump in Ruuhimäki. From the early 00’s we remember Harri Rovanperä’s 2004 off while leading the rally, as well as Chris Atkinson’s going into the ditch the following year. In 1994 Tommi Mäkinen spun here on the small road while leading on the first day. In the end losing the lead and starting second on the long Saturday in dry conditions might have been only a benefit!
The fourth stage in the top ten representing the Petäjävesi area West of Jyväskylä. Perhaps a slightly surprising entry this high, but the numbers do not lie.
Jukojärvi has typically been a long stage, over 20 km in length with only the versions in the 70’s being 10 or 17 km long.
It was there already when the rally had its first WRC value in 1973, and has appeared on every decade until the current one, but it still has some years to make a comeback.
The early configurations of the stage are leaving nothing in common between all existing versions thanks to a three road junction with all combinations being used. However, the most common route remained almost unchanged from 1995 to 2014 and the alternate 2015–2017 version reused parts from earlier versions.
Jukojärvi has many roads put together, and the types alternate between wide and narrow, but not in many different flavors. Furthermore, the 1973–1974 version consisted of just one road.
There are jumps all over the stage, but the biggest jumps are on the wide section used from 2015 to 2017 and every version before 1995.
Jukojärvi is often a quite fast stage, but the numerous junctions keep it from being the fastest one.
The wide roads are quite fast-flowing and the small roads only semi-technical, apart from one more sinuous road at the North-East end of the 1995–2014 version. There are also long straights on both the wide and narrow roads.
The most havoc was wrought in 2017 when Sebastien Ogier crashed into a tree and out of the rally after a heavy jump possibly damaged the car. On the same run of the stage, both Ott Tänak and Hayden Paddon went wide on the very first corner of the stage, damaging their rear wheels and ruining their rallies. Tänak was even leading the rally at the time. “Crash masters” Kris Meeke and Egveni Novikov also have their names written on corners of this stage.
A very unique and difficult stage, one to have caught many drivers, no matter how close to the route you have grown up.
The first versions of Lankamaa were moderately short but after that it has always been over 20 km long – in fact the longest stage of the rally in 2008 and 2014.
Lankamaa was another stage to be introduced in 1988 and remained a staple until 2014, after which it has been used only once (but will feature again in 2022).
Lankamaa has had a pretty common route throughout the years with only two short alternate endings and occasional different start location. Only in 2013 it was run in reverse direction (and will do so in 2022).
Lankamaa has a unique sandy esker section with the road ploughed into the ground with banks on the sides, and most of the stage is missing ditches. There are several road types and not all rhythm changes occur where the junctions are. Funnily enough. it almost seems that the most typical road types for Rally Finland are missing!
There’s plenty of crests but only a few to send the car airborne.
The early short version of Lankamaa was very fast – actually the fastest stage of the rally in 1991 – but the subsequent versions have been only slightly above the rally overall pace.
Lankamaa is often technical but fast at the same time. It’s tricky to balance the car through the narrow ditchless corner sequences, and obviously the small road is also sinuous. However, for example the 2008/2012/2014 ending is very straightforward.
Where do we start from? Colin McRae’s infamous roll in 1992 happened on the esker section, while the infamous “Latomutka” corner took out Petter Solberg in 2000. Neither of of these champions learned from the first time but had two crashes in Lankamaa, McRae at a farm near the stage start in 1998 and Solberg in 2004 soon after the aforementioned farm. But the most shocking crash of the stage’s history was Juha Kankkunen’s in 1994, since it happened very close to his childhood home. Even his brother was the first one to help him back onto the road!
When we talk about speed and jumps, Myhinpää is the place to go. Junction turns or small roads are not in the way on this stage!
Myhinpää has varied in length from 15 to 20 km. However, a couple of longer versions also exist, like 1982 which was the longest stage of the whole rally.
This is again one of the staples from the early years. However, since the mid-90’s it has been used only four times.
Myhinpää is essentially just one road all the way through. There’s only one small road loop used in 1992 and 2014, and an alternate beginning in 1982. Otherwise it’s just different start and finish locations or directions.
When the stage is just the same road all the way through, there’s not much variety, but the road character changes midway to the stage.
Myhinpää has jumps all over, but not constantly. There’s also an infamous three jump sequence at the West end of the road.
Myhinpää is definitely one of the fastest stages of the rally. The five last times it was included in the WRC event (1994, 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015), it was the fastest stage of the rally. In 2015 the average speed was up to 135 km/h.
The East end of the stage is considerably sinuous and the West end has many tricky crests/jumps, but then again there’s just flat out blasting as well. The 1992/2014 small road loop is narrow but actually faster than the main stage, although it adds a number of junction turns.
Timo Salonen had a quick roll here in 1978 but was able to keep second place despite losing the windscreen. Michele Mouton wasn’t as lucky in 1982 as her rally ended. The same happened also to Sebastian Lindholm and Anders Kulläng, in 1994 and 1980, respectively. The most recent unlucky one was Henning Solberg, as high as fifth when going off here in 2010.
One of the classics still regularly run on the route, Päijälä is highly appreciated by the drivers and spectators. Like with many old stages, the route used to be simple, but many complex versions have been used later on.
Traditionally Päijälä was 13 km long, but after 1987 it has been a longer stage, up to 23 km. Thanks to stages becoming shorter in general, it has been the longest stage of the rally since 2018.
Another very often used stage, first featuring in 1977 and only taking a ten-year break between 2003 and 2014 in addition to two shorter pauses.
The classic Päijälä road has always been the core of the stage, but extensions have been made – first Eastwards and later on Southwards – and many different combinations have been applied.
In the classic format Päijälä was just one road from beginning to end, but the latter versions have offered many types of roads from wide to narrow and fast to slow. The most modern addition in 2014 is a very unique road that is fast but technical at the same time.
Päijälä is loaded with jumps all over. There is a big jump on the most Southern part and the roughest small roads in the East also had a surprising jump passage where Didier Auriol almost went off the road and damaged his car in 1993.
The classic version was on the pace of the rally overall speed, then the technical 90’s versions were a bit slower and now the newest versions are very fast, reaching 131 km/h of average speed.
Päijälä is quite technical all over, even when it is very fast. There are really no easy sections on the stage except maybe for the most Northern part which is quite straightforward, or some of the Eastern extension.
Päijälä is known as “Mikkola’s summer house road” since his brother’s summer house is near the stage, but that didn’t prevent him going off in 1984 when the steering of the Audi Sport quattro failed on the landing of a jump. On latter years, all of Juho Hänninen, Eric Camilli, Hayden Paddon and Takamoto Katsuta have been unlucky here.
No surprise to anyone. This is one of the longest and fastest stages of the rally with the most jumps and incidents, and it has stayed relatively unchanged throughout the numerous years it has been included. Many argue it’s the most difficult stage of the rally, but also the best one.
Includes Ouninpohja Länsi and Ouninpohja Itä
Ouninpohja has been 15 times the longest stage of the rally. The early edition was 25 km long and the modern one 32–35 km long, and only in 1986 the stage was under 10 km long.
Ouninpohja has been a true staple of the event, being off only when it has been too fast for the current rules!
If you put all the Ouninpohja versions on top of each other on the map, it’s a 40 km long single line with no significant detours anywhere – only the starts and finishes have been in varying places. However, there are the shorter exceptions of 1986 and 1992–1993 which actually share no route between each other! From 2005 to 2006 the stage was also split in two parts to slow down the pace, but we count those editions here in.
Ouninpohja in its old 25 km form was made up of two wide and firm roads. The modern version adds a small road and two shorter bits, but five roads is still not much for a 30+ km stage.
If Päijälä had lots of jumps, Ouninpohja has more. There are big jumps, tilted jumps, jump sequences, you name it…
Ouninpohja has been the fastest stage of the rally six times. We could even say it’s too fast, since it has been slowed by chicanes, cut in half or removed from the rally for being too fast!
The South-Western part of old Ouninpohja and the small road are fast-technical with only a couple of straightforward passages, involving many jumps over crests and some tight corners as well. And of course the Kakaristo junction is one of the tightest corners that the rally can offer on a forest stage. However, the middle section of the modern route (or the beginning of the classic route) is mostly straightforward or fast-flowing.
Like with the jumps, the scale of five is not even close to be enough. Marcus Grönholm, Petter Solberg, Harri Rovanperä, Toni Gardemaister, Dani Sordo, Sebastian Lindholm, Thomas Rådström, Bruno Thiry, Malcolm Wilson – is there a driver who hasn’t failed somehow in Ouninpohja? In addition to numerous crashes, big stage wins like Hannu Mikkola’s in 1985 or Kris Meeke’s in 2016 have become legendary.
This is how the whole top 30 looks like!
Stages that almost made the Top 30
Which stage should have been included? Drop a comment and let me know!