The “land of a thousand lakes” is truly picturesque. The dark forests that stretch to the horizon and the countless lakes that splotch the wooded terrain are a sight to behold. It might even be more of a sight to behold, as this weekend, the FIA World Rally Championship continues its 50th season through central Finland.
This weekend’s rally could be slated to be the fastest-ever rally held in the championship’s history. The WRC will take the category’s new hybrid Rally1 cars out for the first time. Rally1 cars will fully utilize the 134-hp boost provided by an electric motor to create absurd moments of acceleration on the only thing more ideal than Finland’s landscape — its gravel roads.
The gravel roads featured in Rally Finland’s stages have been described as ideal and the best in the championship by WRC drivers for generations. They’re wider roads relative to other rounds, and the gravel is fairly well packed. Not to mention, most corners are quite gradual and sweeping. This allows car crews to maintain speeds rarely seen the rest of the season.
Those high speeds lend to this rally being referred to as the Gravel Grand Prix. How fast is Rally Finland? Nine of the ten fastest-ever WRC rallies are editions of Rally Finland.
Fastest WRC Rallies by the Winner’s Average Speed
- 2016 Rally Finland – 78.68 mph
- 2017 Rally Finland – 78.39 mph
- 2015 Rally Finland – 77.94 mph
- 2020 Rally Sweden* – 77.22 mph
- 2021 Rally Finland – 76.88 mph
- 2012 Rally Finland – 76.36 mph
- 2010 Rally Finland – 76.30 mph
- 2018 Rally Finland – 76.16 mph
- 2005 Rally Finland – 76.11 mph
- 2019 Rally Finland – 76.11 mph
I have to note that the only reason why Rally Sweden encroached on Finland’s exclusive realm of speed was due to the distance of the 2020 race being shortened by almost half because of a lack of snow.
With this demand for both precision and familiarity, Finland has proven to be a fortress for Nordic rally drivers. Starting with Spain’s two-time World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz in 1990, non-Nordic drivers have only won Rally Finland nine times. Understandably, the favorite this weekend is Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä. He is not only a Finn but the only one from Jyväskylä, the host city of the rally’s base. Rovanperä has been near unstoppable this season. He has won five of the seven rallies run so far.