Meeke, Breen and Al Qassimi gear up for high-speed Rally Finland

The Rally Finland course requires the utmost precision

By Franck Drui

23 July 2016 - 12:16
Meeke, Breen and Al Qassimi gear up (…)

In the last meeting before the summer recess, the Abu Dhabi Total WRT team will have three cars competing in Rally Finland. Just as in Sweden, the three crews will be Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle, Craig Breen/Scott Martin and Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson. All of them are impatient to return to the ultra-fast course and turbo-charged atmosphere of this iconic World Championship fixture!

Still known worldwide as the Rally of the Thousand Lakes, Rally Finland is one of the most famous WRC rallies. The legend was born in the Group B era, when the cars would be launched into the air by the course’s famous jumps, spitting huge flames out of their exhausts in the process! Thirty years later, the magic is still there, and hundreds of thousands of spectators still line the routes to cheer on the world’s best drivers.

With an average speed of 120 km/h, the Rally Finland course requires the utmost precision. Most of the bends and jumps have to be taken blind and there is no room for error in note-taking. Even after completing a flawless special stage, the gaps between drivers remain minute, making the race a three-day battle of nerve…

Having emerged victorious at Rally Portugal, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle will no doubt come under close scrutiny. Absent in Sardinia and Poland, the duo will have measured ambitions on their comeback. Once again, their aim will be to build up their experience and hone their turn of speed with the 2017 season in their sights. In eight appearances at Rally Finland, Kris’s best result was a third place in 2014.

Having finished 8th in Sweden and 7th in Poland, Craig Breen and Scott Martin will continue their programme with Abu Dhabi Total WRT. This time, they can draw on their recent experience of a relatively similar rally. With six appearances in Finland under his belt already, Craig will also be able to count on his knowledge of the course.

Like Kris Meeke, Khalid Al Qassimi is returning to action for the first time since Portugal. In partnership with Chris Patterson, the Abu Dhabi driver has also competed in Finland six times, with his best result a 9th-place finish in 2009.


Kris Meeke (#7): “Finland is a unique moment in the WRC season. I have excellent memories here, such as my first race with Citroën Racing in 2013 and my podium finish the year after. Every year, I take pleasure, above all, in driving on the most amazing routes in the world. I’m not competing in every race this season, but I was determined that Finland should be part of my programme. It’s a rally that often comes down to just a few tenths of a second and it will provide a good opportunity for me to work on my turn of speed. I won in Portugal, but I don’t have any particular goals. I’ll be doing my best to learn, understand and enjoy myself at the wheel. The weather forecast is for rain every day in Jyväskylä, which will no doubt have an influence on performances depending on the starting orders. But once again, it doesn’t really matter to me, as I don’t have any special aims this season. I think it’s going to be a big challenge from reconnaissance on. There are a lot of new special stages, including Ouninpohja, which we are going to be taking on in the opposite direction from usual. We’ll have to forget our usual markers and approach that sector as if it were totally new.”

Craig Breen (#8): “Obviously, I feel much better prepared for this race than for my first two rallies with Abu Dhabi Total WRT! I’m going to be able to draw on my experience from a month ago and my aim will be to pick up where I left off at the end of Rally Poland. For this rally to be a success for me, I’ll have to produce a consistent race, without making any mistakes, and attacking a little harder when I feel able. I’m familiar with Rally Finland as I’ve already taken part six times. Two years ago, I was at the wheel of a WRC, but in a totally different context, with my dad working on the car and my mum doing the catering! That family effort has got me here and I fully intend to take this new opportunity.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (#24): “I can’t wait to be back in Finland. It’s a really special event for the WRC. The course is known for being fast and for its high-speed jumps. We will be able to draw on our experience from last year, but more than half of the special stages are new and we will have to be focused from reconnaissance on to make sure we take good notes. It will be important to feel good at the wheel again, particularly after such a long break since Portugal. You need a lot of commitment for this rally and we will be working hard to gradually get to grips with the car. I hope we will enjoy ourselves and that Kris and Craig will do the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team proud.”


Thursday 28 July: Shakedown in Ruuhimäki from 8 a.m. Start from Jyväskylä at 6.42 p.m.
Parc fermé at 7.25 p.m. after a 2.31 km special stage.

Friday 29 July: Start from Jyväskylä at 6.05 a.m.
Arrival in Jyväskylä from 8.43 p.m. after 11 special stages totalling 146.85 km.

Saturday 30 July: Start from Jyväskylä at 6.30 a.m.
Arrival in Jyväskylä from 8.17 p.m. after 8 special stages totalling 150.48 km.

Sunday 31 July: Start from Jyväskylä at 7.00 a.m.
Final arrival in Jyväskylä from 3 p.m. after 4 special stages totalling 33.96 km.



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