Rally Finland returns to full length and its normal calendar slot. Half of the route is reused from last year with about a third completely new or dusted off from the archives. The stages consist again largely of smaller roads, but especially on Friday they are very fast, and surprisingly void of jumps. There’s also a new shakedown and changes on the Harju super special.
After three editions of Vesala serving as the shakedown, now it’s time for a change in the form of Rannankylä. It’s the same shakedown which was used in 2010, and the stage was actually included in the rally already back in 1965.
The stage is medium wide and very straightforwardly fast-flowing. The only technical place is the tight junction near the finish. Furthermore, there’s no big jumps on the stage. It’s definitely not representative of the whole rally and will likely remain as the fastest stage of the weekend.
The rally opens again with the SSS1 Harju street stage in Jyväskylä, alternating between tarmac streets and gravel park pathways. However, this year the route has been revised. The most northern part of the stage has been cut out, but in contrast the it extends now South, using a gravel road last used in 1981 into the opposite direction and then some of the streets last used in 1992. But it doesn’t end there – the stage turns now left to return to the gravel climb again for a second lap and then right for the finish line.
Friday is driven in two stage pairs. A new thing for this year – or current WRC events in general – is that the cars visit the service twice in the middle of the day. In addition, the Harju super special is driven already in the afternoon instead of being the evening closer. All the forest stages are mostly driven on relatively narrow but very fast private roads and remarkably feature almost no jumps at all. Three of the four forest stages are completely familiar from last year.
SS2+4 Laukaa has remained almost unchanged since it was reversed in 2018, but having its place on the itinerary moved from the penultimate to the very first forest stage of the rally makes it more intense. However, not everyone has been just Sunday cruising in the past: in 2018 Esapekka Lappi crashed at the end of the stage, while the year later Kris Meeke did the same at the beginning of the stage.
The very beginning of Laukaa is narrow and technical, but just after 700 metres the stage becomes quite wide and angular – meaning that there are long straights or flat out sections, but also many tight corners, including several junction turns. Despite going through a string of roads, the character and width remains similar to the end of the stage with only slight variations.
The only jump of the stage is at the crossing of a tarmac road at 7.6 km. It’s followed by the infamous “lossinmutka”, a long uphill corner, and then a series of square bends on a field. Near the end there’s a triangular junction turn taken “the wrong side” as a chicane (which is not visible on the following 2018 video).
SS3+5 Lankamaa is back on the itinerary for the first time since 2017. The route is similar to that, but driven in the opposite direction, and without chicanes. It’s the second time Lankamaa is driven clockwise, the only time so far being 2013. You can see most of the stage on this video from 1:21 to 10:57 where the finish line will be this year. The forest is now cut down around 7.5 km (4:20 on the video), making a better view for the spectators but and increasing the challenge for the drivers as well.
In overall the stage is quite sandy and soft, more than most stages of the rally. It will likely get quite rutted for the second pass, although the compact entry list helps with this. There’s also some sudden changes in terms of surface, width and character, which don’t always occur at junctions. Furthermore, big stones and trees right next to the road can be hazardous, since there’s no ditches for most of the stage.
The first two roads of of Lankamaa are very fast and medium wide with just one jump and one tighter corner on the way in addition to the junction between them. At 3.5 km we enter the small road section which is still relatively wide. It’s also angularly fast, but the frequency of tight corners and increases along with small bumpy crests. At 7.4 km the road becomes narrower and there’s also some technical passages. All of a sudden it becomes again wider and straight, leading into a tight junction at 9.2 km.
The following section is narrower, but very fast with just a couple of tighter corners. But it gets even faster and wider at 12.2 km while entering the sandy esker section with banks on the side of the road instead of ditches. After the junction at 15.2 km the stage becomes again more “normal”, first fast-angular and then more narrow and sinuous at the end.
You might remember “Latomutka” – the corner where Petter Solberg crashed into a lake in a Focus WRC in 2000 – or the farmyard where Colin McRae damaged the rear wheel of the Impreza WRC in 1998? Well, neither of them is sadly on the route this year but there’s still plenty of difficult corners on the way!
The cars return to the service park already after SS3. After servicing and repeating the morning stages there is SSS6 Harju, in shorter form than on Thursday, without the second loop. After the second service the cars head out West for another pair of stages.
SS7+9 Ässämäki is driven just like last year, in opposite direction to 2018 and 2019, but in the same direction as the 2016-2017 Halinen, which formed the second half of this year’s Ässämäki. Before those years the rally had never used any of these roads, making it still the newest stage of the rally.
Ässämäki connects three soft-surfaced quite narrow private roads together with a short link on a wider and firmer state maintained road. The first and last road are similar in the sense that they are first angularly technical, then straightforwardly fast. There’s also two jump straights on the final section of the stage, but they are not big jumps. The middle road meanwhile is more like fast-technical and a bit narrower than the two other roads, shown on this video.
Last year Takamoto Katsuta had a huge lucky spin on the last road just as it was getting faster after the sinuous section.
SS8+10 Sahloinen – Moksi was a new stage title for last year – although the roads are familiar from the Surkee and Moksi stages – and now it has retained on the itinerary in shorter format. In contrast to the previous stages, this one has plenty of wide state-maintained “farmer’s tarmac” and also properly technical small roads. However, sadly a really nice technical “rollercoaster” road has been cut from the end, making the stage now faster in overall.
The stage begins on narrow but straightforward private roads. However, there’s four tight junction turns until the 4 km mark, two of them right next to each other, both seen on this video.
Then we turn onto a wide state maintained road – for the first time in this rally – for a very very fast section. A loop of technical small roads slows the pace down at 7.6 km. It’s first medium wide, then narrower with three junction turns inside the loop. The first road also contains a nice jump. The rest of the stage is more of the wide and fast stuff with just one junction turn – a popular spectating place – on the way.
The Saturday loop takes us South-West for a long loop with 150 stage kilometres. Only less than a third of the day’s route can have pace notes from last year with one completely new stage in the program. In comparison to Friday, there’s more sections on cambered wide and firm roads as well as more jumps. However, there’s also more technical sections, and thus the stages will clock in at around 120 km/h average speeds rather than close to 130 km/h like on Friday.
SS11+15 Päijälä is driven in the opposite direction to last year. It’s the same configuration as 2017 and 2019, but the fastest and straightest section at the end is removed. The versions in 2014, 2015 and 2018 also had most of 2022’s route contained with just different endings. Päijälä will likely be the fastest stage of the day, but still slower than the Friday stages.
Päijälä starts on the “modern section” introduced in 2014, which is a fast but technical road where most of the road is void of ditches. There are some sudden rhythm changes and good jumps on the way. Midway through there’s a particularly spectacular section in a pine forest.
At 8.7 km the stage turns onto a short sinuous section on a wide and cambered state-maintained road. The first corner is very famous:
Subsequently a paved bridge is sandwiched between two 90° junctions at 10 km. This is where the “classic section” begins, although in the 70’s and 80’s the stage was always run in the opposite direction. It is a quite wide and firm road loaded with jumps, crests and fast bends. Especially midway through it starts resembing Ouninpohja with constant jumps, but then at 17.1 km the stage turns into a loop of small roads – very narrow, relatively rough and technical – with two additional junction turns within. Finally back on the classic section there’s the corner where Juho Hänninen crashed in 2014, and this year the finish is just after that.
SS12+16 Rapsula is a familiar stage title from the 80’s and 90’s, but its namesake road made a comeback already on the 2019 Kakaristo stage. In fact, that stage should have been called Rapsula, as the route was exactly the same as Rapsula 1996-1997. Actually this year’s Rapsula is also using the same route for the first 14.5 km, while the ending is borrowed from last year’s Arvaja stage. In between there’s a short link which includes the typical ending of Ouninpohja.
So, Rapsula starts with its namesake road. First it’s narrow and fast-technical, but after a junction it gets narrower and more sinuous. Near the end it contains the corners where Malcolm Wilson and Markku Alen rolled their Group B machines back in 1986, when the stage made its debut appearance in the rally.
The Ouninpohja route is joined at 2.7 km on a very wide, firm and fast section. Most of it is completely flat out with a couple of nice crests and corners.
This road leads into the infamous Kakaristo junction at 5.7 km. The next road at the Kakaristo farm is narrow but relatively easy, and includes the artificial Tommi’s Jump. However, it gets more challenging with the following “Ouninpohja small road” – fast but narrow, bumpy, rough and technical and loaded with hazards. This is where Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala wrecked their rear wheels in 2019, the former having to retire for the day.
The Hassi road is joined at 14.4 km for another fast, firm and wide section with a couple of nice bends, especially the first one, known as Minna’s corner, usually driven near the end of the 33 km Ouninpohja, here on this video at 8:45.
A paved junction takes the stage onto a narrower short link with long bends. This is where last year’s Arvaja route is joined for three more roads and junctions between them. Two of the first roads are straightforward apart from a narrow bridge, but the last road is narrow technical, and the junction turn onto it is tricky over a crest.
SS13+17 Patajoki was a new stage for last year – a variation on the Vaheri/Himos road network – and it carries over for this year in shorter form. Curiously, with the updates the route is exactly the same as the Himos stage in 2007 for the first 12.5 km.
Last year Patajoki started on two small road sections connected by short bits of wider state-maintained road. This year only the first of those narrow and technical forest road sections – the one where Kalle Rovanperä crashed out – is included in the stage, but in the opposite direction. It’s also preceded by a short acceleration on a wide road, not used last year. It’s followed by a different portion of the wide and fast-flowing Vaheri road. Just at a series of big jumps the stage turns left to rejoin last year’s route on a smaller road.
The ending of the stage is unchanged, and can be seen on this video from 7:00 onwards. First there’s a medium wide forest road with big jumps, then a very narrow and rough forest road, then yet another narrow but firmer forest road with more speed but also technical sections. Finally there’s a tricky downhill junction turn onto a fast and wide section just before the finish.
SS14+18 Vekkula is the only completely new stage title on this year’s rally. Of course, the ending is well known as Ehikki, while the very beginning was used on 2019’s Leustu stage. But in between that there’s some completely new roads on WRC level. And of course none of the current WRC drivers ever got to drive the Ehikki stage which last featured in 2007.
Vekkula is an interesting addition to the rally. There’s 12 junction turns and numerous rhythm changes from technical to fast-flowing and angular to straightforward. The width and surface of the road also varies multiple times throughout the stage.
The start of the stage is on more or less narrow small roads and frequent junction turns. The first half of it is the section borrowed from 2019 Leustu.
A total rhythm change appears at 2.4 km when the stage joins a very wide and firm state-maintained road, going very straightforwardly flat out for the next 3 km. A junction turn takes the stage onto a smaller private road but it’s even straighter and every bit as flat out.
At 7 km the stage turns onto a small forest road which still has long straights, but also jumps and surprising tight turns. An even smaller road appears 3 km later, barely as wide as the car. This is also the small road that was used on the Ehikki stage from 1994 to 2001 – but in this direction only on the non-WRC year of 1995!
Two tricky off-camber junction turns lead the way onto the classic Ehikki route for the last 8.5 km. It is proper classic 1000 Lakes – quite wide, firm and fast over crests although with few proper jumps. Instead of being smoothly flowing, it’s more like alternating between very straightforward and almost technically sinuous. A junction turn at 17.1 km doesn’t change things that much but the rest of the stage is a bit more narrow and technical. This whole part of the stage can be seen on this 2002 onboard from 2:57 onwards, where the 2022 Vekkula route will approach from the right.
Sunday contains two stages – all familiar from last year – on the South-East side of Jyväskylä. Just like on Saturday, the stages alternate between fast-flowing and technical sections and have many junction turns. The length of the day is only 14% of the whole rally, but there’s still many hazards on the way to the finish ramp.
SS19+21 Oittila was reversed for last year and it has remained similar for this year, with the exception of removing the (excellent) small road from the end. This has been likely done in order to shorten the liaison towards the next stage. Still, the stage offers a good amount of junction turns and rhythm changes.
The beginning is on a quite wide and firm, fast-flowing road with occasional tighter turns. One particularly tricky junction is where Ari Vatanen crashed in 1975 when the stage was called Mutanen. The very same corner took Pontus Tidemand off the rally in 2016.
Another victim of Oittila in 2016 was Ott Tänak, just a few corners later than Tidemand.
Next up is a turn onto a very small forest road – new for last year – followed by a return onto the first road which is now a lot straighter. A series of junction turns and narrower roads at a farm area then concludes the stage, with a hairpin turn just before the last acceleration onto the finish line.
SS20+22 Ruuhimäki is the power stage for the fourth successive time, fifth in total (first being the prototype TV stage in 1999). The format of the stage has remained similar since 2018, with the new section at the start and new ending with the artificial jump.
The stage starts on a quite narrow fast-flowing road, turns onto a bit of tarmac, and then enters an angular and narrow section with many 90° turns. In 2019 Gus Greensmith reminded that brake points to these turns are crucial.
A twisty and narrow forest section leads into the wide main road of Ruuhimäki, which is well cambered and fast-flowing, ending at the infamous series of five big jumps. Finally the stage turns onto a narrow service road and joins the arena section built in 2018. It’s again narrow and technical, but straight while gathering speed for the final jump, modeled after the Ouninpohja yellow house jump. It will be interesting to see how the Rally1 cars with less aero and suspension travel will handle this huge jump.