- The FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) returns from its summer break with one of the fastest and toughest events of the year – Rally Finland, round nine of the 2019 season
- Hyundai Motorsport currently leads the manufacturers’ championship by 44 points, with Thierry Neuville only seven points away from the lead of the drivers’ standings
- A new crew line-up for Finland sees Craig Breen/Paul Nagle join Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul and Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger-Amland in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars.
As the 2019 season heads to Rally Finland, round nine of the 14-event calendar, the team enjoyed a competitive result at Rally Italia Sardegna last month, taking victory and third place to extend its advantage in the classification. The aim is to pick up where it left off at one of the most exciting but demanding events of the year.
Rally Finland, the fifth consecutive gravel event, is notorious for being the fastest on the calendar. Even the smallest of mistakes can be costly with fractions of seconds making a big difference on the timesheets. Crews will have to trust in their pace notes and fully commit; the Rally Finland challenge includes blind crests and jumps moving immediately into fast corners, and wide-open roads giving way to narrower and technical sections.
Hyundai Motorsport will field a revised three-crew line-up for Finland with Irishmen Craig Breen and Paul Nagle stepping into the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC alongside Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul and Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger-Amland.
All three crews have had the opportunity to test on Finnish roads ahead of the rally in order to prepare as diligently as possible. Mikkelsen and Breen also participated in the Rally Estonia WRC promotional event earlier this month on fast and flowing roads similar to those which will be faced in Finland.
We return from the summer break, but we have been continuing to prepare ourselves for the challenges that await in this second part of the season. Finland will offer us a very stern test, one which we need to tackle head-on. We have made a slight change to our crew composition for this rally, bringing in the experience of Craig and Paul to support our championship efforts alongside Thierry/Nicolas and Andreas/Anders. Meanwhile, we have also been working hard on the i20 Coupe WRC to prepare it for Finland’s high-speed gravel roads. It is a rally like no other and we want to be in the mix from the start.
Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (#11 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Belgian crew maintaining pressure in the drivers’ championship, seven points from lead
- Crew aiming to make headway with a strong Finnish weekend
Finland is a challenging event, and one I enjoy driving. You have a lot of good sensations in the car and a lot of adrenaline, especially after the huge jumps. It’s what we drivers really love and I’m hoping it will be a good event for our team this year, as we aim to defend our manufacturers’ position. We are also only seven points from first place in the drivers’ championship, and our aim is to close that gap even further in Finland.
Crew Notes: Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jæger-Amland (#89 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Podium at Rally Italia Sardegna showed Norwegians’ competitive edge
- A strong second place in Estonia acted as perfect preparation for Finland
The road profiles in Finland are so different to any other rally: the surface is really hard. A lot of the roads are quite wide and it’s very fast with a lot of blind crests and jumps, so you have to be very committed and trust your pace notes. When you feel comfortable there, it’s the most beautiful rally in the world – but if you don’t, it’s the worst place on earth. We want to be back fighting at the front of the pack, just as we were in Sardinia.
Crew Notes: Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (#42 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Irish crew set for their debut with Hyundai Motorsport
- Breen took his maiden WRC podium at the 2016 edition of Rally Finland
Rally Finland is very close to my heart. It’s the event I’ve done the most and this year marks ten years since I first competed there. I have a lot of amazing memories from the start of my career and my first podium there in 2016. It’s a rally I always enjoy with fast roads and flying in the forests. I’m really looking forward to it this year in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.
Weekend at a glance
- 23 stages run over a competitive distance of 307.58km
- Action begins with 2.31km sprint Harju 1 in central Jyväskylä
- Friday covers ten stages totalling a distance of 126.55km in the west
- Saturday is the longest distance of the rally, with eight stages spanning 132.98km
- On Sunday crews will move east for two classic stages: Laukaa and the big jumps of Ruuhimäki are each repeated once.