Finland’s high-speed gravel stages, with their huge jumps and blind crests, are renowned as some of the most daunting in world rallying. They take years to master and only a select few drivers have triumphed on the event.
Pirelli, the official tyre supplier to the World Rally Championship under a three-year agreement with motorsport’s world governing body, the FIA, has enjoyed its fair share of success on the breathtaking roads around host town Jyvaskyla and celebrated its 14th outright win in Finland at WRC level when Jari-Matti Latvala swept to victory over Sebastien Ogier in a tense finish.
“This is something I’ve been dreaming of since I was a small boy and to win my home event is a fantastic feeling, really amazing,” said Latvala. “The Pirelli tyres have been perfect and my Ford team has done really hard work so this victory is for them.”
Markku Alen, who won in Finland on five occasions using Pirelli tyres, was quick to praise the flying Latvala following his second win of the 2010 season in his factory Focus World Rally Car. “For us Finns this is the Finnish Grand Prix and maybe it is difficult to understand how important it is to win it unless you are Finnish,” said the former Lancia legend. “It will be a very special feeling for Jari-Matti because my wins in Finland were always special. He drove very well.”
Hannu Mikkola secured Pirelli’s first Finland success when he won in 1975 at the wheel of a Toyota Corolla. He said: “We’ve seen a very good fight and I know for me this was the rally I always wanted to win. Jari-Matti has really grown up with this win and I am also very pleased to see Ford winning again.”
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s Motorsport Director, praised Latvala’s performance. He said: “Along with Monte Carlo this is the one rally every driver wants to win when they’re growing up. He’s had to deal with a lot of pressure and always kept a level head. The stages require an all or nothing approach and Latvala has shown he has the speed and the temperament.”
Rally Finland marked the first time this season that Pirelli has supplied its soft compound Scorpion tyre to the WRC field. It is designed to provide optimum grip in cooler and damp conditions. Although the ambient temperature rose to 37 degrees in the build up to the rally (the highest recorded in Finland since 1914) it began to dip with rain falling on Thursday and Friday night.
“We have been very pleased with the performance of our soft compound Scorpion tyre here,” said Matteo Braga, Pirelli’s senior WRC tyre engineer. “We’ve had no issues whatsoever and the tyres have remained consistent even though we had different conditions with wet and dry weather.”
There was more success for Pirelli in the Production Car World Rally Championship when Ott Tanak claimed his maiden win in the class for turbocharged production cars. The 22-year-old from Estonia was one of five Pirelli Star Drivers competing in Finland after being selected to contest six rounds of this year’s WRC in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. “It is a really, really good result for me,” said Tanak. “I was very happy for a clean run to the finish.”
Pirelli also supplied its soft compound Scorpion tyre to the competitors in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, where Juho Hanninen, another rising Finnish star, led home Swedes P-G Andersson and Patrik Sandell in a Skoda Fabia one-two-three.
Rally Finland celebrated its 60th anniversary this year by running a condensed two-day format, which effectively meant the 19 stages, covering 310 competitive kilometres, were squeezed into two days of high-speed competition.
“It’s more like the old days and the drivers had to be much more full attack all of the time,” added Alen. “The tyres were very good here as they’ve always been in Finland. There has been no punctures and congratulations to Pirelli because this is always a difficult rally.”
The World Rally Championship resumes with the all-asphalt ADAC Rallye Deutschland from August 19-22 when Pirelli will provide its PZero tyre in soft and hard compounds.
Pirelli’s Rally Finland victories
1975: Hannu Mikkola/Asto Aho (Toyota Corolla)
1976: Markku Alen/Ilkka Kivimaki (Fiat 131 Abarth)
1978: Markku Alen/Ilkka Kivimaki (Fiat 131 Abarth)
1979: Markku Alen/Ilkka Kivimaki (Fiat 131 Abarth)
1980: Markku Alen/Ilkka Kivimaki (Fiat 131 Abarth)
1981: Ari Vatanen/David Richards (Ford Escort RS1800)
1982: Hannu Mikkola/Arne Hertz (Audi Quattro)
1987: Markku Alen/Ilkka Kivimaki (Lancia Delta HF 4WD)
1990: Carlos Sainz/Luis Moya (Toyota Celica GT-Four)
1999: Juha Kankkunen/Juha Repo (Subaru Impreza WRC)
2005: Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen (Peugeot 307 WRC)
2008: Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Citroen C4 WRC)
2009: Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Focus RS WRC 09)
2010: Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Ford Focus RS WRC 09)