- Six-year-high 68-car entry to assemble for Finland’s FIA World Rally Championship round
- Four Flying Finns set for Rally1 action as three-time event winner Latvala returns to WRC
- Defending WRC2 champion Lindholm to drive Hyundai on home soil for first time
- Rising star Korhonen in line for Rally2 debut – providing he secures WRC3 crown first
The popularity of Secto Rally Finland has once again been underlined with the event’s highest entry number in five years.
Organisers of round nine of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship, which is based in Jyväskylä from August 3-6, have attracted a stellar 68-car entry, which represents a six-year high and is significantly larger than the 44 registrations in 2022.
Appearing on the entry list are nine hybrid-powered Rally1 cars, 36 Rally2 cars, 14 Rally3 cars, eight Rally4 cars, plus one car conforming to the Rally2 Kit regulations.
There are 23 nationalities represented with 26 Finnish drivers preparing to take on the WRC’s fastest rally, held on spectacular rollercoaster-style gravel stages.
The Finnish contingent includes world champion Kalle Rovanperä, 2017 Rally Finland winner Esapekka Lappi, Teemu Suninen, who is back in the sport’s top tier with the factory Hyundai team, plus Jari-Matti Latvala.
With three Rally Finland victories to his name, Latvala is switching from his Toyota team principal role to start his first WRC event since Rally Sweden in 2020. His return has already attracted significant interest.
Kai Tarkiainen, Secto Rally Finland Clerk of the Course, said: “We’ve made a big step in terms of entry numbers, which is very good news for the fans because it gives them even more entertainment on the stages, and this is really important. It’s also good for us, as organisers, that more competitors are coming to the event than before because it shows the popularity of our rally and the championship as a whole. While it’s great to have four former winners among the entry, we have a really strong line-up in WRC2 with drivers like Andreas Mikkelsen coming back after four years away and Yohan Rossel competing in Finland for the first time. Then we have all the top Finns, including Mikko Heikkilä, our national champion from last year, and Emil Lindholm, our WRC2 champion from 2022, who will drive a Hyundai in Finland for the first time. And we can’t forget Kimi Räikkönen’s nephew Justus, who was 17 when he made his Rally Finland debut last season and returns this year.”
LATVALA BACK BEHIND THE WHEEL FOR RALLY1 DEBUT
Three-time Rally Finland winner Jari-Matti Latvala is returning to the World Rally Championship for his Rally1 debut. The 38-year-old stopped driving to become Toyota’s team principal for the 2021 season but is now revving up to return to the sport’s top level in one of the four Toyota GR Yaris entered. Juho Hänninen, the 2012 European champion driver, will co-drive his fellow Finn.
“It’s great to see Jari-Matti coming back and that he’s still got that driver in him,” said Kai Tarkiainen, Secto Rally Finland Clerk of the Course. “For sure it won’t be easy for him, but he won’t be a tourist behind the wheel.”
Latvala will use number 97 for his WRC return, a nod to the year 1997 when the World Rally Car formula was introduced and his father, Jari, acquired a Ford Escort WRC.
NEW CARS FOR FINNISH STARS
Emil Lindholm is not the only top Finnish talent contesting his home round of the world championship in a new car. Jari Huttunen, the winner of the AKK Flying Finn Future Star competition in 2015, will use a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 in the WRC for the first time, having taken victory in the Czech machine on the recent Finnish championship Itäralli. Meanwhile, reigning WRC2 champion Emil Lindholm, who won the prestigious accolade two years later, will make his Finland-driving debut in a Hyundai i20 N Rally2 having been recruited to Hyundai Motorsport’s young driver development programme.
KORHONEN ON THE VERGE OF STEP-UP CHANCE
Roope Korhonen could be in contention for a career breakthrough on Secto Rally Finland. Providing he clinches the FIA WRC3 title on the upcoming Rally Estonia, in which he will drive a Ford Fiesta Rally3, the 24-year-old Finn is set to step up to a Rally2 car for the first time, which would be a huge opportunity for the young star.
HIRVONEN’S HOPEFULS AIMING TO SHINE
Japanese trio Hikaru Kogure, Nao Otake and Yuki Yamamoto will fly the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC Challenge Program flag on Secto Rally Finland under the watchful eye of chief instructor Mikko Hirvonen, the 2009 Rally Finland winner.
TÄNAK LEADS THE M-SPORT CHARGE
Last year’s Secto Rally Finland winner, Ott Tänak is armed with Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid power for 2023 as he aims for a repeat success, a result that would give M-Sport its first victory in Jyväskylä since Jari-Matti Latvala triumphed in 2010.
THE BIG NUMBER: 68
A total of 68 crews have entered Secto Rally Finland, a rise of 24 crews compared to 2022.
THE ENTRY LIST 2023
The Secto Rally Finland entry list for 2023 is available HERE.
Clerk of the Course
Photo: Toni Ollikainen/AKK