GRR

Super Six... Foreign Rally Finland Winners

16th August 2016
Henry Hope-Frost

Rally Finland: the World Rally Championship’s fastest, most-feared and most fabulous event. Every year bar one (1995), this ‘Grand Prix on gravel’ has featured on the World Rally Championship calendar and on 43 occasions since the WRC began in 1973 the world’s best rally drivers have tried to tame its top-gear, switchback swoops and blind-faith blind crests through the forests.

Home-grown drivers – many of whom grew up on the roads around host town Jyväskylä and happily hurled cars between the trees while still in short trousers – ruled the roost in the early years of an event originally dubbed the ‘1000 Lakes’ during the 1970s and ’80s. It wasn’t until 1990 that the Scandinavian stranglehold was broken. Up to that point, Finns Timo Mäkinen, Hannu Mikkola, Markku Alén, Kyösti Hämäläinen, Ari Vatanen, Timo Salonen and Swede Mikael Ericsson had done all the winning.

When Northern Irishman Kris Meeke took victory in the 2016 edition just a few weeks ago, he not only became the first British driver to win, he joined an elite band of only six non-Scandinavians to triumph in rallying’s ultimate white-knuckle ride. Here, we celebrate those occasions when foreign fever proved too much, even for the flying Finns.  

Carlos Sainz – 1990

The double World Champion tackled Rally Finland on 14 occasions, finishing on the podium in six of those aboard Toyota, Subaru and Citroën machinery. He became the first non-Scandinavian driver to triumph in the event, taking his Toyota Celica GT-4 to a 19-second win over the Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 of former winner Ari Vatanen in the 42-stage 1990 edition. It was that sort of performance that helped the Spaniard land his first World Title later that year.

Didier Auriol – 1992

Frenchman Auriol caused a stir on his first visit to Finland, guiding his two-wheel-drive Ford Sierra RS Cosworth to third, behind two all-wheel-drive factory Lancia Delta Integrales. He’d be in a Lancia the following year, although accidents spoiled his 1989 and ’90 events. He finally got his head round the event in 1991, finishing second to local hero Juha Kankkunen, and he went one better in ’92 to defeat the Finn by 40 seconds.

Markko Märtin – 2003

The mild-mannered and super-fast Estonian made his WRC debut in Finland in 1997. He spent four years learning the event, knocking on the door of the top-10 in privateer Toyotas. Once in a factory car, the results began to improve; he twice finished fifth for Subaru and Ford. He took his maiden win in Greece in 2003 and followed it up with victory over Petter Solberg in Finland. And he was on the podium again in his final two attempts at a rally he loved in 2004 and ’05.

Sébastien Loeb – 2008, 2011, 2012

Unsurprisingly, nine-time World Champion Loeb has the best record of any non-Scandinavian in Rally Finland. His first few attempts were made in 1,600cc Citroën Saxos, but once in a WRC-spec car he soon began to rack up top results. In fact, from 2005 to 2012 the Frenchman, rallying’s most successful driver by a considerable margin, was never off the Finnish podium, taking victory for Citroën in 2008, 2011 and 2012. He’d mastered Finland just like he mastered all the other specialist events that made up the WRC.

Sébastien Ogier – 2013

Second place in only his third visit to Finland in 2010 marked out Frenchman Ogier as someone to watch. Another podium finish – 3rd – in 2011 added to his kudos. Once his ‘learning year’ in a Super 2000-spec Skoda Fabia (a development mule run by the incoming Volkswagen superteam) was out of the way Ogier did what was expected and took the VW Polo R WRC to victory in Finland in year one. He’s since twice been runner-up to VW team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. 

Kris Meeke – 2016

The only British driver to win in Finland has done the event just five times in a WRC car – once in a Mini in 2011 and four times for current employer Citroën. First time on the flat-out Finnish gravel in a factory DS3 WRC in 2013, he set a blistering pace before crashing out. He copped some flak for daring to go beyond the limits, just as his mentor Colin McRae had done before him, but he’s now found that sweet spot. Having finished on the Rally Finland podium in 2014, he made history a few weeks ago – and his 78.6mph average speed across the 24 stages made it the fastest rally in World Championship history.      

  • WRC

  • Rally Finland

  • Carlos Sainz

  • Kris Meeke

  • Sebastien Loeb

  • Sebastien Ogier

  • Didier Auriol

  • Markko Martin

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