Many of ŠKODA Customer Teams’ drivers look to follow in the footsteps of Esapekka Lappi who won the Rally Finland in the WRC2 category for the past two years. But he is now rallying in the WRC category and with no ŠKODA Motorsport cars in this round either, it will be down to one of our five customer teams to make it three wins in a row for the FABIA R5 here in Finland, as well as maintain the car’s 100% start to the WRC2 season. Another nine FABIA R5s will be competing, but are not entered in the WRC2 category.
Quentin Gilbert will be driving FABIA R5 in the WRC2 category. The Frenchman, who was the Junior WRC and WRC3 Champion in 2015, will be supported by regular Belgian co-driver Renaud Jamoul here in a FABIA R5 which has been prepared and run by Tagai Racing Technology from Hungary.
Gilbert finished third in the WRC2 standings in the previous round in Poland and also performed well at the Rally de Portugal before bad luck saw him roll out on the final leg. He will be looking to build on those performances in Finland.
The experienced Estonian driver Raul Jeets will also be driving in the WRC2 category, in a FABIA R5 prepared and run by Sports Racing Technologies. Jeets, alongside co-driver Kuldar Sikk, made his WRC2 debut in the last round in Poland at the age of 42 and performed well sitting in seventh place in the WRC2 after the second leg before an accident forced his retirement at the start of the final leg.
Finland will be the second of three WRC2 rallies this season for Jeets, who has focused on the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) for the previous two seasons.
The Italian Umberto Scandola will also be driving in Finland, in a FABIA R5 prepared and run by the Car Racing team, but under the banner of S.A. Motorsport Italia Srl. This is only Scandola’s second start in the World Rally Championship after the Rally Italia Sardegna last year, where he led the WRC2 standings after the first leg before crashing out.
The 32-year old, who will be supported by co-driver Michele Ferrara in Finland, was the Italian Rally Champion in 2013 (in a ŠKODA FABIA S2000) and comes into this event in good form after winning the recent Rally San Marino in dominant fashion.
The other two drivers competing in the WRC2 standings are both promising young Finnish drivers of whom much is expected.
Juuso Nordgren was the winner of last year’s Future Rally Star of Finland Award, a competition which aims to speed the progress of young Finnish rally drivers towards an international career. One of the prizes on offer is free entry into the Rally Finland, which he took part in with an RC3 car and finished third in his class. The 20-year old Nordgren will be driving for the TGS Worldwide OU team in a FABIA R5 alongside co-driver Mikael Korhonen. It will actually be his third WRC rally after last year’s Rally Finland and also the RallyRACC Catalunya - Costa Daurada, but his first in an R5 vehicle.
He impressed at the AutoGlym Rally in preparation for this event, sitting second in the R5 class before crashing heavily out in the final stage. As a result of that incident, Nordgren is expected to take part in the Rally Finland in the FABIA R5 which Kalle Rovanperä won the Rally Latvija in last weekend.
Jari Huttunen is the other young Finnish competitor. He is another former winner of the Future Rally Star of Finland Award and drove in the 2015 Rally Finland in an RC3 class car. Alongside co-driver Antti Linnaketo, he will be competing for the Printsport Oy team here.
Huttunen is a front-runner in both the ERC Junior U27 and ERC3 championships this season, but the Rally Finland will be just his second drive in a 4WD R5 car. His first was at the recent AutoGlym Ralli where he also impressed and actually led the R5 class going into the penultimate stage before he too crashed out.
A further nine FABIA R5s will also be taking part, but are not competing in the WRC2 championship.
The young Norwegian Ole Christian Veiby, who alongside co-driver Stig Rune Skjærmoen drives for the Printsport Oy team, comes into this event as the form driver after claiming his maiden WRC2 victory in the last round at the Rally Poland.
It has been a busy season for Veiby, who is also competing in the Norwegian and Asia-Pacific championships, but he has risen to the challenge and grown as a driver whilst remaining in contention for all three titles. This will be his first drive at the Rally Finland in an R5 car, but he won here in an RC3 class last year and having driven four WRC2 rounds already this season and yet to finish off the top 5, confidence will definitely be high.
Teemu Asunmaa / Jonne Halttunen will be driving for Hannu’s Rally Team. Asunmaa currently leads the Finnish Rally Championship after five of the seven events on that calendar.
Also driving for Hannu’s Rally Team are Mikko Lehessaari / Reeta Hämäläinen, whilst the many independent entrants include crews of Kees Burger / Mikko Lukka, Zoltán Szabó / Krisztián Szabó, Lars Stugemo / Kalle Lexe, Jukka Metsälä / Sari Ohra-Aho, Jukka Kasi / Ania Henri and Ari Saxberg / Pekka Leppälä.
ŠKODA Motorsport wishes all the FABIA R5 crews all the best for the Rally Finland and will be following their progress throughout the rally.