The 2019 Neste Rally Finland on August 1-4 will be contested by a quality 65-car field with exciting entries across all four of the main classes in the FIA World Rally Championship.
The novelties begin among the World Rally Cars with the first appearances of 2019 for popular pair Craig Breen and Hayden Paddon. Breen, a podium finisher on Rally Finland in 2016, has been called up by Hyundai to join Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen.
Having missed out on that opportunity with the team with which he finished fourth in Finland 12 months ago, Paddon concluded a last-minute deal to join M-Sport for Finland. The team will field a third factory Fiesta WRCs for just the fourth time this season, alongside regulars Elfyn Evans and Finland’s own Teemu Suninen.
Toyota brings a trio of previous Rally Finland winners in championship leader Ott Tänak, Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala, while Citroën continues with its pairing of six-time champion Sébastien Ogier and 2017 Rally Finland victor Esapekka Lappi.
A 12th World Rally Car will be in action with Finnish privateer Jouni Virtanen driving a Ford Fiesta for the Janpro team, as handled by team owner Janne Tuohino on Rally Sweden earlier this year.
The new-for-2019 WRC2 Pro class features two entries each from Skoda and M-Sport. Skoda fields an all-Finnish line-up, led by the championship leader Kalle Rovanperä, the 18-year-old sensation who’s won each of the last three rounds.
He’s joined by Eerik Pietarinen, last year’s WRC2 winner on Rally Finland and the Finnish national champion, who drives Skoda’s latest Fabia R5 Evo for the first time. M-Sport meanwhile gives a WRC debut to its newest Fiesta R5, with Gus Greensmith and Eric Camilli behind the wheel.
There are 10 additional R5 cars entered in WRC2. Pierre-Louis Loubet will head to Finland fresh from wins in Portugal and Sardinia, while Takamoto Katsuta was victorious in Chile. Nikolay Gryazin has also threatened the frontrunners this season.
They will face young Finns, Emil Lindholm and Jari Huttunen, winners of the Future Rally Star of Finland in 2017 and 2016 respectively – Huttunen went on to win on his WRC2 debut in Finland in 2017. Other standout names in WRC2 include Norwegian veteran Henning Solberg and Sweden’s double world rallycross champion Johan Kristoffersson.
There are 14 entries – all in identical two-wheel drive Ford Fiestas – in Junior WRC, where Spaniard Jan Solan sis leading the championship standings after winning round three in Sardinia. Sami Pajari joins the class for his WRC debut as this year’s Flying Finn Future Rally Star of Finland. Fellow Finn Aleksi Röyhkiö also makes the step up from the Finnish championship for his home round.
Teemu Asunmaa is the first of an additional 25 entries outside of the WRC classes for Rally Finland.
Photo: M-Sport WRT