In this post I’m going to review all the stages from this year’s Rally Finland and give my opinion on whether each stage should continue in the rally or not. I also give some of my own ideas for alternate versions or new stages that could and should be used in the future routes.
Cover image by HMSG Media
👍 Before we start I want to give full respect to the route team for the job they do. These are just my personal opinions on how to improve the route and partly just a rally route geek having fun.
Shakedown / Rannankylä
Rannankylä was used as a shakedown in 2010 and returned now for the same job. It was a very fast stage, reaching up to 138 km/h of average speed, much faster than the actual stages in the rally, due to no technical sections other than a junction turn. Furthermore, there were really no jumps on the stage. For spectators, there were four areas and rest of the route was forbidden dude to private areas (however, the best corners of the stage were covered).
In my opinion, this stage is not representative enough of the rally and it’s not good enough for spectators, although I’ve also heard reports that many parties were perfectly satisfied with the stage. If I have to say something positive about it, it’s very close to the service park, and there’s no problems with the road withstanding multiple runs.
Meanwhile, I would love to see Ruuhimäki return as a shakedown. The 2017 version would work, appended with the new arena serving the spectators. This stage would have more technical sections, and jumps, than Rannankylä or Vesala.
Harju was updated for this year and quite successfully! In general I don’t like loop stages but for a super special it’s a good idea to let everyone see the cars twice. Also, in my opinion the best corner of the stage was the fast left uphill when they started the second lap, from tarmac to gravel.
✍️ Modify / ❌ Discard
Laukaa has now been in the rally since 2017, and in this direction since 2018. I think the stage should change or be replaced with something else. Changing the direction could give it two more years of lifetime, since 2017 is already quite long ago.
However, a far more interesting solution would be to change the route itself. For the Southern section of the stage, there would be an alternative route going on the East side of the current one. We can see it on this Peurunka Ralli onboard from 2017. It starts with fast bends, proceeds via a junction turn onto two long straights, and then into a very sinuous technical section. Just before this video ends there’s a double junction at fields, which would be nice for spectators.
Where this onboard ends, we would continue straight and turn right onto a wide gravel road and almost instantly left from the next junction towards the 2022 stage finish – or 2017 stage start. That way, we could use the Northern section of the stage with the square bends on the fields and then have the finish line at “lossinmutka”. Curiously, the length of the stage wouldn’t even change, as it would be again 11 km.
Lankamaa was a great addition for the 2022 route. Even with the direction reversed, it is a great stage, but the usual direction would have still been quite new for some drivers, as it hasn’t been used since 2017. The speed of the stage was quite high but not too high, thanks to many technical sections within the stage. If something, I would include “Latomutka” or the farmyard where McRae crashed in 1998 to make a comeback. And that’s basically all that can be modified for this stage.
Ässämäki has been in the rally since 2016. The first two years were driven in a shorter format as Halinen, while the current longer route has been driven for two years in each direction. There aren’t much options to change the route, so I would say it’s time to switch to some other stage. If the same area needs to be used, how about returning to Mökkiperä? Urria could also make a pair with Moksi. Or maybe Humalamäki in some configuration, as it was intended for 2020?
The Moksi area has a vast network of great rally roads. This year’s Sahloinen – Moksi wasn’t probably the best combination, but it worked for the two-stage quick repeat loop. First of all, I would like Mäkelänkyläntie – the last small road section of the 2021 stage – to make a return. In this direction, it’s relatively new to the current drivers. The ending could be similar to the Surkee stages from 2007 to 2010 or then we could just use the 2018-2019 Moksi stage in the opposite direction.
Another interesting option would be to employ the Moksi – Leustu beginning into the Surkee finish. We can see the Moksi – Leustu beginning roads on this 2001 onboard until 8:07 where the stage would then turn left.
The rest of the route from the Surkee stage is seen here from 4:23 onwards. First wide, then smaller, and finally again wide for a while (also available on WRC+ from the 2021 rally)
Another start section for Moksi could be borrowed from a local rally driven in 2019. The stage starts on narrow forest roads and is quite angular with many tight turns or junctions but also long straights with frequent big crests. Combined with the two other small road sections it would make a very challenging and varying stage. The road from 2:17 onwards was actually used on the Surkee stage from 1988 to 1998 in the opposite direction. The route of Sahloinen – Moksi is joined where it goes very fast between the two lakes at 5:25 on this video.
👍 Keep / ✍️ Modify
Päijälä has been on the rally since 2014 with more or less the same route, just driven twice in the opposite direction and once with slightly alternative ending. Basically I should say “time to change this stage” but I won’t say it, because of two reasons. First of all, the roads are so awesome – maybe the best of the 2022 rally – and secondly, the stage is always arranged superbly by the locals.
Of course, we could use again the alternate ending of 2018, or even change the very last section of it to go West instead of East. In any case that’s more of a question for suitable liaisons for the following stages. This format of the stage makes essentially a loop in terms of liaisons, whereas the linear format goes towards the Ouninpohja start.
If we go further into “dream roads”, we could maybe add a new section for the beginning of the stage, a road called Pirttikulmantie, which has been used for the WRC teams testing in the past ten years. It would provide jumps and technical sections.
After this two other bits of roads would be used, first wide and then narrow. These two roads can be seen on this winter rally onboard until 3:33 where it joins the current Päijälä route 4 km from its normal start.
One problem with this route is that the access to some the best spectator points like the big jump and the pine forest area would be compromised, but in turn new areas would be opened. Päijälä is a very popular stage, maybe some of the areas that would be left blocked inside the stage would still be crowded by people staying overnight in camper vans?
This is the most difficult stage to write about. Basically there’s endless options in the area, but you can’t have it all. Assuming Kakaristo junction and the new ending from Arvaja 2021 have to stay for spectator areas, it becomes a lot more limited.
Out of this year’s Rapsula stage, I love the Rapsula small road (where Mikko Heikkilä crashed) and the Ouninpohja small road (where Craig Breen crashed), but the wider roads weren’t that spectacular. I prefer the 2019 Kakaristo stage where the Hassi road was used in the other direction, or furthermore the 2018 version with the first small road replaced with another smaller road and a challenging part of the wide Ouninpohja road (with the “Amazon jump”).
And of course, it would be nice to get some of the actual Ouninpohja included on the rally after five years of being away. The only sensible solution I can come up with is using the Konivuori small road (last used on the 2011 Hassi stage). That would then require arranging two stages in the area, for example the 2022 Rapsula to serve those two big spectator areas, although that limits the rest of the route for the day.
✍️ Modify / ❌ Discard
Patajoki is a stage mostly made out of smaller forest roads, both fast and slow. There’s only short bits of the great Vaheri state-maintained road used, but maybe there would be an option to use more of that? In the simplest way, take the 2002 Vaheri – Himos stage and cut it shorter, until 8:07 on this video, just before a very fast section.
This stage – now called Vaheri – would have nothing in common with the 2022 Patajoki stage but a section shared with the 2021 one. It would be 15 km long with 5 km of small road. And if we would want to make it longer with more small roads and junctions, we could prepend it with the 2021 Patajoki beginning, making it 18.6 km long.
Vekkula was a nice addition for the rally, although I wasn’t that fond of the beginning of the stage – just straights and small roads until the Ehikki roads. In fact, my idea of the stage would comprise only of the latter, a bit like in 1994 and 1995. The direction would be reversed and the ending at “Sainz’s corner” from the local Mänttä rally in 1999. The ending I propose can be seen on this video from 5:15 to 6:55. It’s quite fast but there’s tight corners from time to time, and especially the final downhill corner is very deceptive.
This stage would be 16 km long. The average speeds on the Vekkula wide roads at the end in 2022 were 131.7 km/h, which is not that much. The road sides were quite bushy, making the road appear narrower than it actually is. I presume the new ending would be similar, with the average speed of the whole stage remaining below 130 km/h.
The direction change is crucial to get that aforementioned Sainz’s corner but also Wilson’s 1993 corner. But I understand the Saturday itinerary has often been designed so that the stage furthest away from Jyväskylä (Päijälä) is driven first to tighten up the day and make the first stage of the day start as late as possible. But maybe some traditions could be broken, maybe the stage could be driven on some other day?
✍️ Modify / ❌ Discard
Oittila has the same lifespan as Ässämäki: six years with direction changed every two years and length increased after the first two years – although in this case the latest version was also shorter. I would keep the stage in the longer format with the challenging long small road, but not without it. In fact, reversing the 2021 stage would include the new small road loop not yet driven in this direction. But other than that there’s no options for modifications and I think this stage could be exchanged for something else. Maybe Vartiamäki, which is quite near?
❌ Discard / ✍️ Modify / 🥳 Super special / 🛠 Shakedown
Ruuhimäki has now been the power stage for four last Rally Finlands, always in the exact same configuration. While it’s a classic stage and the ending arena is neat, I think it’s time for a change.
Ruuhimäki itself cannot change much in case we want to keep the arena ending. There’s one alternate route through a new small road to commence the stage, but still most of the old route would remain. The aforementioned section can be seen on this local rally video until 3:13 where the WRC stage turns right from the tarmac. It’s first very narrow and technical with a few jumps, then a bit wider and faster with no ditches. Maybe not the most fascinating piece of road but still something new.
Like I said earlier, Ruuhimäki would make a great shakedown. In addition they could arrange a “Ruuhimäki Sprint” super special with just service roads and the final jump, as a fifth stage of a loop (since only four forest stages is allowed within a loop).
What else could then be the power stage?
In addition to finding a good 10-15 km stage, we need to think what makes a spectacular ending for a stage and a good location for podiums.
Kakaristo? There would be good roads for sure and the ending would be on an iconic area, but it would change the Saturday route dramatically. Could they sacrifice this spectator magnet for Sunday only? Maybe, if some other stage was arranged in the area on Saturday, like Ouninpohja/Konivuori and/or Arvaja.
Himos? A forest stage ending on a semi-super special with good facilities for podium. Jämsä is also a partner of the rally so it would fit that co-operation.
Moksi? Again, many choices of roads in the area and the Moksi/Parkkola junction would serve as the podium nicely. Closer to Jyväskylä than Kakaristo.
Vartiamäki? A bit of an oddball, but this used to be the final stage of the rally from 1989 to 1993 and the podium and stage ending could be arranged on the Josemora racing circuit, which the stage visited in 1991, 1992 and 1997.
Laajavuori? It was planned for 2020. Nostalgic, close to Jyväskylä and easy for spectators – but I would still prefer a proper forest stage.
Maybe we need to think outside the box and go elsewhere? Here’s actually a couple of examples of new areas the rally could go into.
Friday East of Lake Päijänne
Going South-East from Jyväskylä, into the Hartola-Sysmä area, would open up some new stages not used in years or even decades. In this loop I have only three stages but Oittila could be the fourth stage of the loop, in the 2021 reversed format.
First of all, there would be Murakka, a slow, narrow and technical stage with a fast blast in the middle. It was used in the rally from 1979 to 1991 and took drivers such as Henri Toivonen and Marcus Grönholm as its victims.
Lahdenpohja has been a 1000 Lakes stage all the way from the 60’s with the last appearance in 1991. It’s mostly quite wide but still quite sinuous. This version here is driven in the opposite direction than always in 1000 Lakes. There’s also two sections never driven in the WRC event, first a loop of small roads near the beginning, and a medium wide road at the end. Both sections alternate between fast-flowing and technical. The stage was driven in the Lahti Historic / Finnish Championship event in 2021 in a similar format (opposite direction, without the small road loop) and the top Rally2 cars clocked in average speeds of 116 km/h which is similar to Päijälä or Ruuhimäki for WRC2 cars. This 18 km version proposed here meanwhile was run in a local event in 2010, yielding this onboard video.
Finally another 1000 Lakes classic, Mynnilä, which was last run in the rally in 2012. However, that version was quite fast with almost 130 km/h of average speed for the old WRC, faster than Ouninpohja! And no wonder, it was just all wide and firm road with just two junction turns.
My proposal of the stage would start with a small road (possibly never rallied before) and two wider roads used in local rallies. The small road would end at 1:27 into this local rally video. The wide road is fast but there’s a couple of surprising tight corners. At 2:37 it would turn tightly left.
The next road can only be seen on this 2015 winter onboard, and in the opposite direction from 3:40 to 5:07. Again it’s wide and fast but now there’s a lot of big crests that could be jumps on Rally1 and even Rally2.
What we would reuse from the 2012 stage is the last 6 km where the road becomes more sinuous, shown on this local rally onboard from 3:52 onwards.
What’s missing from the above onboard is the Mynnilä signature corner, the final hairpin left which has often been filmed.
It could also be sensible to do just two stages twice in this area since the liaison is relatively long, and then do a double run of another pair of stages closer to Jyväskylä (like Laukaa+Lankamaa or Mökkiperä+Moksi)
Saturday West of Jämsä
Usually the Saturday leg is South from Jämsä, but what if we went more West instead? I have chosen here stages that were last used in the WRC event between 2007 and 2010, so they are basically new for the current drivers. It’s again a three-stage leg that could be completed with a fourth one, for example the 2022 Rapsula.
Kolonkulma was run only in 2010 but the 2009 Kavala was already the same stage, sharing nothing with the Kavala stage of the 80’s. Kolonkulma can be seen here, starting narrow and technical, proceeding wide and fast with some cool jumps and ending onto a motor track.
Väärinmaja can be considered a classic stage. In the mid 80’s the stage was short, consisting only of the sinuous wide road starting at 4:14 into this video, with two narrow bridges on the way. However, it’s definitely the best part of the stage. Meanwhile, the forest roads at the beginning of this 2008 version are narrow, but mostly just straightforward and not that technical.
A better version of Väärinmaja would use the 2009-2010 29 km version but shortened (since stages are nowadays not much longer than 20 km), omitting the aforementioned forest roads at the beginning of the 2008 version. The Northern wide-sinuous part would be the same, but it would be approached from a different direction, using a medium wide road, a fast wide link, a very small road and another fast wide link. The three first roads can be seen on this video from 2009 until 5:32 where our stage would turn right for the second wide and fast link and join the route of the 2008 video at 4:00.
For my proposed three-stage leg, Väärinmaja would be driven in the opposite direction to how it has usually been (although the two other stages could be reversed as well). In fact, the second shortened version could be seen in reverse direction on this local rally onboard from 2017 .
Finally, Juupajoki would be the third stage of the loop, a mix of wide and narrow roads. This version is from 2007, but the opposite direction was used the following year. Sadly some nice tight corners on the wide road from the beginning of the stage are missing from the video.
Also, using just one of Väärinmaja or Kolonkulma is also an option if we want to include two stages closer to Jyväskylä. In terms of the 2022 stages, we could do Rapsula and Patajoki or Rapsula and Vekkula.
In any case, one downside of this loop would ditching the Päijälä stage, but there’s always compromises to be made. Kolonkulma-Väärinmaja-Päijälä-Rapsula could be possible, but the liaisons would be hefty.
Bonus: Tampere leg
It’s almost a running joke for the Finnish Rally radio rally week preview broadcast that someone calls in and asks for “Tampere leg”, like in the old days. Well, here’s how it could be done!
First we drive to the Juupajoki stage from East to West. Then a liaison to Tampere to complete the Savo-Pyörönmaa stage, a combination of the classic Savo stages, some forestry roads and the Pyörönmaa stage used in local rallies. The Valkeakoski super special could also feature in the loop, which in turn would be completed by shortened versions of Uskila and Sahalahti, both with added small road sections. After first run of Sahalahti, a remote tyre zone in Tampere, then second runs of Savo-Pyörönmaa, Uskila and Sahalahti, while a liaison through the other side of the lake Längelmävesi would take the route back to the start of Juupajoki to complete the day.
The liaison mileage wouldn’t be much more than on a normal Rally Finland Saturday. However, obviously there wouldn’t be a midday service in Paviljonki, or anywhere else. The cars would have to do 135 km with just a tyre change, and the teams wouldn’t have anyone at their fancy service park buildings.
The Tampere leg might not be realism, but you need to have dreams!