The most eagerly awaited round of the World Rally Championship, the Neste Oil Rally Finland kicks off now. This iconic rally, regarded by the author of this article and many millions more, to be the spiritual home of the sport we so love.
Serving as Round Eight of the calendar, this event continues to evolve and remains the only rally on the calendar that is condensed into two and half days of intense competition. As such, the event starts in earnest on this evening with three stages near Lahti running late afternoon and early evening. Friday and Saturday are both long days and the event concludes with the legendary Ouninpohja stage. Renowned the world over as a roller-coaster ride, Ouninpohja returns to the itinerary in its full and original 33km length for the first time since 2004, and will be the undoubted highlight of this event.
Fast flowing gravel roads with stomach-churning jumps snake their way through beautiful forests and past hundreds of scenic lakes; hence it previously being known as the 1000 Lakes Rally. The Neste Oil Rally Finland provides a weekend of all-round entertainment for the family, both out on the stages and in the newly-refurbished Jyväskylä Service Park area. One of its leading themes this year focuses on safety and there will be a number of different initiatives in support of the FIA’s Action for Road Safety campaign.
The event is the fifth round of the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship and the third outing for the FIA WRC Academy Cup crews.
The 14.22km Mynnilä test which will run as the closing stage on Thursday evening was used in 2011, but runs in reverse this year and returns to its more familiar format of the 1980s and 1990s. The Leustu stage (SS14/16) has also changed direction, having never run from south to north previously. Just three stages used back in 2009 are run in the same configuration (Mőkkiperä, Palsankylä and the Killeri Super Special Stage) and all remaining stages run with some modifications to previous years. The 2012 edition features 303.52km of special stage distance divided into stages over 1,625.69km total distance.