Official FIA Press Release
CHARACTER OF THE EVENT
The fastest special stage rally in the series, held on wide, hard
packed, undulating sandy roads. Categorised by teams as a smooth
gravel rally. No fewer than 165 cars will be allowed to start, the
final time so many can contest a World championship rally because
of impending limits on entry numbers. This event does not qualify
for the Teams' Cup.
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP NEWS
Following Makinen's win on the Safari Rally, Juha Kankkunen, Carlos
Sainz, Colin McRae and Tommi Makinen himself all start this event
having won 23 World championship rallies in their careers. This is
the first World rally event in which six registered manufacturers'
teams have each entered three cars, although Citroen is not participating in Finland.There have been three mid-summer developments in Super 1600. Firstly the Swiss driver Cyril Henny has withdrawn from the series. Secondly the British driver Niall McShea has moved from Ford to Citroen, the first driver in the series to change car allegiance.
Thirdly, as from Sanremo, Citroen will no longer be allowed to run
their four-port (34mm restrictor) induction system.
NEWS FROM THE TEAMS
MARLBORO MITSUBISHI RALLIART (1st - 66 points)
Tommi Makinen (Car 7), Toni Gardemeister (Car 16), Freddy Loix (Car 8)
This event will be the Mitsubishi debut for ex-SEAT and Peugeot
driver Toni Gardemeister, who is due also to drive for Mitsubishi
in New Zealand. Ralliart manager George Donaldson: "I am getting butterflies in the stomach just thinking about the close battles to come during the rest of the year. Seven or eight different drivers could easily expect to get a podium finish here."
FORD MOTOR COMPANY (2nd - 60 points)
Carlos Sainz (Car 3), Colin McRae (Car 4), Francois Delecour Car 17)
Priority development work has centred on steering problems experienced by McRae in Kenya. Team director Malcolm Wilson said "We have never had a failure like this before. We have solved the problem, using a locking device to retain the steering arm in the rack." The team still do not know why Sainz's piston failed in Kenya. The Czech Jolly Club Focus entry for Roman Kresta is not likely not to start because of team's internal problems.
SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM (3rd - 28 points)
Richard Burns (Car 5), Petter Solberg (Car 6), Markko Martin (Car 18)
Burns: "This is one of my three favourite rallies. I've often been
close to winning but haven't won it yet. I am keeping up my efforts to win the title while its still mathematically possible to be champion!"Markko recently won the EOS Rally in his native Estonia, run on similar roads to Finland. Subaru has decided not to enter the world championship candidate event Hokkaido Rally in Japan.
TEAM PEUGEOT TOTAL (4th - 26 points)
Marcus Gronholm (Car 1), Harri Rovanpera (Car 16), Didier Auriol (Car 2)
This will be Harri Rovanpera's 50th entry on a World rally. The two Finns have been registered for Makes' points, so once again Auriol is de-nominated. Team Director Jean-Pierre Nicolas "We are really focussed. We had such a bad start to the season we want to have as good a run of success as last year in the second part!" Of the six remaining events this year, Peugeot won five last year. No decision yet whether to run five- or six-speed gearboxes.
SKODA MOTORSPORT (5th - 15 points)
Armin Schwarz (Car 11), Bruno Thiry (Car 12), Stig Blomqvist (Car 21)
Stig Blomqvist has his first rally in a WRCar. "When I heard that
Markku had a Focus to drive on the rally I knew I had to have a World Rally Car as well!" Georges Biar has been selected as his codriver for Thiry, replacing Stephane Prevot who was injured during the Safari Rally. Biar has been Thiry's regular gravel note crew but has not contested an actual event since 1995. Prevot is still under orders not to move much but at least the pain in his back injury has eased.
HYUNDAI CASTROL WORLD RALLY TEAM (6th - 10 points)
Kenneth Eriksson (Car 9), Juha Kankkunen (Car 20),Alister McRae (Car 10)
This is the 50th World rally for Colin's younger brother Alister McRae and also guest driver Kankkunen's tenth anniversary of his first '1000 Lakes' win. McRae, nicknamed the 'Ralf Schumacher' of rallying, said "I am still in line for my first big win. It took Ralf 70 Grands Prix before his first victory!" Senior event engineer Graeme Garvin: "It was interesting to see how Juha focussed our attention in car set-up during testing. It is exactly how someone with such experience can help."
AUTOMOBILES CITROEN (not competing here, not eligible for points)
Team driver Philippe Bugalski has been gaining valuable winter rally driving experience! He was invited to Argentina to drive the zero car at the Rally del Fin del Mundo based at Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, the world's most southerly motor sport event.
OTHER TOP RUNNERS IN FINLAND
There was a last minute decision to enter the Argentine drivers Gabriel Pozzo and Marcos Ligato. Top Run preparation chief Michele Agnello: "It was a surprise gift from our team! This event was never originally in their programme. It was to thank them for their business over the past two years." When he heard this, four times Group N champion Gustavo Trelles immediately changed his plans and entered as well! Last minute uncertainty for reigning Group N champion Manfred Stohl entered on this event in the Super 1600 category with codriver Ilka Petrasko, still recovering from her broken leg suffered during the
No fewer than 63 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution cars have been entered in world championship, Group A or Group N form - but only one of them will be the latest Evo VII model! This is from the Japanese privateer Wakujiro Kobayashi. "I nearly had to withdraw because I had a crash in my car. But I bought another Evo VII so I could take part."
Hail the returning veterans! Markku Alen (winner of 20 world championship rallies) makes his first World rally entry for seven years, at the wheel of a private Ford Focus WRC. Stig Blomqvist, World champion in 1984, is guest driver for Skoda who celebrate their 100th year in motorsport. And four times champion Juha Kankkunen (world rallying's most experienced
driver) drives a Hyundai on his first World rally this season.
This is the first event in which non-registered drivers will also take part with Super 1600 cars, in this case the British championship leader Martin Rowe. While registered FIA contenders must run Michelin control tyres, Rowe is able to run Pirellis but he cannot use the collective FIA Super 1600 on-event areas.