Rollercoaster Race For Junior Prize Drives In Finland

Rollercoaster Race For Junior Prize Drives In Finland

Marking the half-way point in the 2017 FIA Junior World Rally Championship race, the battle for the biggest prize in rallying moves to the fastest and most exciting round of the series at Neste Rally Finland next week.

The challenge intensified at the previous round in Poland when four different drivers held the overall lead and, as competitors become more experienced behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta R2T rally cars, we can expect a weekend-long tussle to take victory on the one event everyone wants to win.

Another two prize drives, provided by championship partner DMACK, will also be presented to the driver who has collected the most points during Poland and Finland.

While Nil Solans and Miki Ibanez from Spain hold a 39-point championship advantage after winning all three rounds this year, the pair came under attack from a number of drivers on the slippery Polish stages three weeks ago.

Rookie Swedes Dennis Rådström and John Johansson surprised everyone with their speed in Poland. They finished second, their best result so far, and the flat-out gravel stages around Jyväskylä will be a familiar surface for them. Nicolas Ciamin and Tibo de la Haye from France have been on the podium on every round this season and will be aiming to maintain that record in Finland.

They will be challenged by local driver Emil Lindholm, recent winner of the 2017 Future Rally Star of Finland talent competition. The young Finn, with experienced co-driver Tomi Tuominen, was an early leader in Poland and could have a definite home advantage after taking a class victory on a recent round of the Finnish championship.

Terry Folb will be searching for some better luck after final day problems dropped him down the order on the last event while German pilot Julius Tannert is also aiming for a podium after useful fast-gravel experience in Poland has helped boost his confidence.

American Dillon Van Way and Sebastian Careaga from Bolivia have both been building their experience and pace, and next week’s event with its difficult roads and high-speed crests will be another step forward in their careers.

Rally Finland is an iconic event, famed for its rollercoaster crests, high-speed jumps and flat-out gravel roads. Experience is essential as pin-point accuracy and precise pacenotes are required to battle the famous stages. Attracting huge numbers of fans from across the world and a party atmosphere, it’s the one rally where every driver wants to be on the top step of the podium.

Based in the university city of Jyväskylä, Friday’s action offers a huge 16 hours of rallying taking in 145km of stages to the north and east of the service park. Competitors tackle the infamous Ouninpohja stage, the longest of the rally at 24.38km, twice on Saturday before finishing at 3pm on Sunday.

M-Sport’s identical Ford Fiesta R2T cars will again be equipped with DMACK’s DMG+22 GH43 medium compound tyres and crews will have a final chance to optimise their set-up with a private test on Thursday morning.

Maciek Woda, M-Sport’s Junior WRC manager, said: “Following the strong competition in Poland we are now heading to the next high-speed, gravel event which will prove to be one of the biggest challenges in the WRC calendar. We have seen four different stage point scorers last time and I hope we will now have even more drivers joining this list in Finland. So far Nil Solans proved to be difficult to beat, so let’s see if someone can break this domination.”

Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said: “Rally Finland will be a fantastic challenge for the Junior drivers and our 2017 specification R2 tyres are a little wider and have a new tread pattern, so they will be ideal for the fast roads. Like normal, I expect another close battle over the weekend.”

Rally Finland Junior WRC entry list
61 Nil Solans (Spain) / Miguel Ibanez (Spain)
62 Nicolas Ciamin (France) / Thibault de la Haye (France)
63 Terry Folb (France) / Christopher Guieu (France)
64 Dennis Rådström (Sweden) / Johan Johansson (Sweden)
65 Dillon Van Way (USA) / Dai Roberts (UK)
66 Sebastian Careaga (Bolivia) / Rodrigo Sanjuan (Spain)
67 Julius Tannert (Germany) / Jurgen Heigl (Austria)
69 Emil Lindholm (Finland) / Tomi Tuominen (Finland)

Driver Comments
Nicolas Ciamin from France: “I was a little disappointed in Poland after not being able to fight for the lead and again we will be aiming for at least another podium, and some more fastest times, in Finland. The recce will be very important to get good pacenotes for the crests and blind corners and we’ve been watching videos from previous years to try and get as much information as possible.”

Terry Folb from France: “We haven’t had the best of seasons so far as bad luck seems to be following us, but hopefully that will finally change in Finland. We are really looking forward to the rally and it’s very enjoyable because of the speed and the atmosphere with the fans. Many drivers will be fighting for the podium and I intend to be one of them.”

Emil Lindholm from Finland: “Poland was great practice for Finland and my aim next week is to finish the rally, be competitive and hopefully take some more stage wins. Either way it will be awesome to drive in front of my home crowd and we want to put on a good show. Pacenotes are so important here with many crests and jumps and we had a good practice by winning the class on the AutoGlym Rally last weekend.”

Dennis Rådström from Sweden: “Scoring our first Junior WRC podium was a big boost in the development for me and Johan. Our aim in Finland is to go fast but with respect to the roads and the speeds – having correct pacenotes is absolutely important here. We still want to keep our position as the top Rookies so it will be important to make no mistakes and also to have a lot of fun.”

Nil Solans from Spain: “Finland is likely to be the most difficult event of the season and we need to consider our championship position, so the aim is to try and stay within the top-three. The speeds are fast, everything is faster than you think so definitely the pacenotes will play an important part. We had planned to compete on a rally as a test but my car broke on the shakedown so that didn’t work out.”

Julius Tannert from Germany: “Poland was not easy but I was happy with my driving and it was only my sixth gravel rally. I expect Finland to also be difficult but I want to learn as much as possible. I’m really looking forward to competing on this famous rally and I’d like to be able to aim for the podium. The biggest challenge will be to find the right lines over the big jumps and crests.”

Championship Points after round 3
1. Nil Solans / Miguel Ibanez 96
2. Nicolas Ciamin / Thibault de la Haye 57
3. Terry Folb / Christopher Guieu 50
4. Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson 45
5. Julius Tannert / Jurgen Heigl 37
6. Robert Duggan / Tom Woodburn 20
7. Dillon Van Way / Dai Roberts 18
8. Sebastian Careaga / Rodrigo Sanjuan 16
9. Emil Lindholm / Tomi Tuominen 5
10. Miko Niinemäe / Martin Valter 2
11. William Wagner / Kevin Parent 0


Rollercoaster Race For Junior Prize Drives In Finland
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