*Leading lights of the FIA World Rally Championship prepare for Rovaniemi adventure

*Home of Santa Claus to welcome top teams and drivers under strict COVID-19 protocols

*Fans urged to stay safe at home with YLE broadcasting all 10 stages live and loud

*Home-grown heroes aiming for WRC glory in their own winter wonderland

Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox takes centre stage from February 26-28 when the FIA World Rally Championship stops off in Rovaniemi for the first time.

The home of Joulupukki, or Santa Claus as he’s better known, in Finland’s northernmost Lapland region is gearing up to host motorsport’s ultimate adventure series on spectacular ice-coated stages. 

Strict measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic mean the event will run behind closed doors, but fans can follow the action through a number of outlets, including host broadcaster YLE and WRC.com’s All Live service, from the comfort and safety of their homes.

Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox counts as round two of the 2021 WRC season. It marks the first time that rallying’s spiritual home will welcome the world’s best rally drivers not once but twice in the same season with Jyväskylä’s high-speed gravel stages gearing up to host Rally Finland from July 29-August 1.

The importance and appeal of what has become the WRC’s winter rally for 2021 is underlined by a packed line-up consisting of 13 top-level World Rally Cars, plus 32 registrations from the supporting WRC2 and WRC3 categories.

Finland is one of 24 countries represented on the 56-strong entry and the country can count on 21 home-grown talents, including Kalle RovanperäTeemu SuninenEsapekka Lappi and last season’s WRC3 title winner Jari Huttunen. Reigning national champion Teemu Asunmaa and Lauri Joona, who can look forward to an FIA Junior WRC campaign later this season as his prize for winning the Flying Finn Future Star initiative, are also among the contenders.

THE ESSENTIALS

Starts: 13:30, Friday February 26

Finishes: 14:15 (approx.), Sunday February 28

Base: Santasport, Rovaniemi, Finland

Surface: Ice and snow

Eligibility: Round 2, 2021 FIA World Rally Championship (includes WRC2 and WRC3)

Special stages: 10

Special stage distance: 251.08 kilometres

Liaison distance: 604.97 kilometres

Total distance: 856.05 kilometres

Temperatures: Ambient temperatures are expected to be between minus 6 and minus 14 degrees centigrade during the week of the rally although they could dip as low as minus 20.

THE ROUTE

Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox is winter motorsport at its very best with crews tackling 251.08 competitive kilometres over 10 special stages from next Friday (February 26) to Sunday. 

Based in Rovaniemi just outside the Arctic Circle, the event is characterised by its high-speed ice- and snow-coated roads, a compact route, plus some stages run at night to further increase the challenge for drivers and co-drivers.  

Following shakedown on a 5.69-kilometre stage at Vennivaara west of Rovaniemi from 08:31 local time on Friday, crews head northeast of the host city towards the stunning landscape around Kemijärvi for two runs of the 31.05-kilometre Sarriojärvi stage at 15:08 and 18:38.

Saturday’s leg, the longest of the rally at 144.04 kilometres, is based around Vanttauskoski close to Rovaniemi, and features three stages used twice with the leg-ending test run at night. The 24.43 kilometres of Mustalampi (SS3), which runs over the top of a frozen swamp at one point, is first on the itinerary from 09:08. Also counting as SS6 from 15:38, Mustalampi, ends with a spectacular charge through a driver training area. 

Kaihuavaara is 19.91 kilometres long and big on speed, height variations and narrow sections. It counts as SS4 (10:38) and SS7 (17:08). Siikakämä, which is typical of the forest roads around Rovaniemi is 27.68 kilometres in length and takes place at 12:08 (SS5) and at 18:38 (SS8).

The inaugural Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox will be decided over two runs of the 22.47-kilometre Aittajärvi stage south of Rovaniemi at 10:08 and 13:12 on Sunday February 28. Featuring a section through the farmhouses at Niemelä, the second visit forms the Wolf Power Stage when WRC drivers’ and manufacturers’ bonus points will be up for grabs.

THE DRIVERS

Follow this link for details of the entry list and for more information on some of the crews in action. The top 15 crews according to their seeding appear below:

No       Driver (NAT)/Co-driver (NAT)                                 Car

1          Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA)         Toyota Yaris WRC

33        Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Scott Martin (GBR)                     Toyota Yaris WRC

11        Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL)      Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

69        Kalle Rovanperä (FIN)/Jonne Halttunen (FIN)          Toyota Yaris WRC

18        Takamoto Katsuta (JPN)/Daniel Barritt (GBR)          Toyota Yaris WRC

44        Gus Greensmith (GBR)/Elliott Edmondson (GBR)    Ford Fiesta WRC

8          Ott Tänak (EST)/Martin Järveoja (EST)                    Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

3          Teemu Suninen (FIN)/Mikko Markkula (FIN)            Ford Fiesta WRC

42        Craig Breen (IRL)/Paul Nagle (IRL)                           Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

2          Oliver Solberg (SWE)/Aaron Johnston (IRL)                Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

7          Pierre-Louis Loubet (FRA)/Vincent Landais (FRA)   Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

12        Janne Tuohino (FIN)/Reeta Hämäläinen (FIN)          Ford Fiesta WRC

37        Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA)/Simone Scattolin (ITA)          Ford Fiesta WRC

20        Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ola Fløene (NOR)          Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo

21        Adrien Fourmaux (FRA)/Renaud Jamoul (BEL)        Ford Fiesta R5 MkII

Selected Finnish crews:

24        Jari Huttunen (FIN)/Mikko Lukka (FIN)                     Hyundai i20 R5

25        Esapekka Lappi (FIN)/Janne Ferm (FIN)                  Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

30        Teemu Asunmaa (FIN)/Markko Salminen (FIN)       Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo

31        Emil Lindholm (FIN)/Mikael Korhonen (FIN)            Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo

63        Lauri Joona (FIN)/Ari Koponen (FIN)                         Ford Fiesta Rally4

THE QUOTES

A selection of driver quotes appear below:

#3 Teemu Suninen (M-Sport Ford World Rally Team, Ford Fiesta WRC): “The rally is similar to Sweden but even faster and with more narrow roads. There are quite a lot of compressions and bumps because when the ground freezes it gets bumpy and that’s going to create a big challenge for the drivers but also for the teams with the set-up. My aim is to be as fast as possible in the first two stages where there is some chance to make some difference with the time. The Friday stage is the most challenging and the most technical, especially when we are doing it for the second time in the dark. My starting position is good, but if it’s not too cold the snow can get dusty. And the snow dust can stay in the air for minutes like on a gravel rally. If you can’t see you get slower.” 

#8 Ott Tänak (Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC): “Arctic Rally Finland will be a very interesting event. Rovaniemi is very far north in Finland so it is certain to be cold and snowy. I competed there about 10 years ago, so I have some experience of a few of the stages. It’s definitely a full snow event and I’m sure it has a rightful place on the WRC calendar. We will be aiming to get our championship off to a proper start after the disappointment and challenges of Monte, targeting a more representative result for ourselves and the team.”

#69 Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT, Toyota Yaris WRC): “It will be nice to be back competing in Lapland again. I did the rally there once before – last year, when it was my first event in the Yaris WRC. For sure, this experience will help a bit. But there will be some stages that I haven’t driven before or they will be in the opposite direction, so I don’t think it will be a big advantage. In our tests the biggest thing we needed to do was find the right set-up for the new tyre, as the style of the tyre is different from what we had before, but the feeling has been good. For me there is a bit more pressure than normally, but I would say it’s more excitement than pressure – especially from the Finnish people, as everybody is following me more than on other rallies.”

#25 Esapekka Lappi (Movisport, Volkswagen Polo GTI R5): “I have done the Arctic Lapland Rally three times and the last time was nine years ago so I can’t take a lot from back then although the stages are a bit different now, of course. I am sure most of the drivers will like this adventure with the snowbanks although the roads are a bit different to what they will find in Sweden, more bumpy and more straightforward in some places with long straights and tight corners. But the rhythm and characteristics will change a few times per stage so each stage is not going to be similar from start to finish. The target is to fight for the win in WRC2 but the challenge will be tough. The quality of the drivers is very good and the competition is very high and I don’t know the car.”

THE TYRES

All four-wheel-drive cars competing on Arctic Rally Finland Powered by Capital Box use Pirelli Sottozero Ice tyres as standard. Each tyre is 205mm in width and fitted with 384 tungsten-tipped studs 7mm long that bite into the thick ice layer that coats the stages and provide optimal grip. Each of the 13 World Rally Car drivers can use up to 20 tyres during the rally itself, with an additional allocation of four tyres for shakedown.

THE STANDINGS

WRC Drivers (after 1 of 12 rounds)

1 Sébastien Ogier (FRA) 30pts

2 Elfyn Evans (GBR) 21pts

3 Thierry Neuville (BEL) 17pts

4 Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) 16pts

5 Dani Sordo (ESP) 11pts

6 Takamoto Katsuta (JPN) 8pts

WRC Co-drivers (after 1 of 12 rounds)

1 Julien Ingrassia (FRA) 30pts

2 Scott Martin (GBR) 21pts

3 Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL) 17pts

4 Jonne Halttunen (FIN) 16pts

5 Carlos del Barrio (ESP) 11pts

6 Daniel Barritt (GBR) 8pts

WRC Manufacturers (after 1 of 12 rounds)

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 52pts

2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 30pts

3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 10pts

4 Hyundai 2C Competition 8pts

For WRC2, WRC3 and all other categories: 

USEFUL LINKS:

Event website (including news, itinerary, other documentation): https://arcticrallyfinland.fi/en/home/

FIA.com

WRC.com

Rally Radio: http://yle.fi/mmralli

Rovaniemi: https://www.visitrovaniemi.fi

DID YOU KNOW?

White gold is the name Laplanders have given snow. 

ENDS

More information and media activities:

Linda Hirvonen, National Press Officer, +358 (0) 45 3299696, linda.hirvonen@autourheilu.fi

www.arcticrallyfinland.fi