WHAT IS WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP?
It is erratic, tricky, and unpredictable – these are but few accurate words to describe what the World Rally Championship (WRC) is. WRC really is the ultimate test of man and his machine with its 12 two to three-day rally events held on quite unforgiving surfaces ranging from gravel, mud, and asphalt to snow and frozen ice tracks. Drivers would race against time, all the while dealing with random environmental conditions that each rally location presents. Rallies are usually divided into 15-25 special stages, each with a given amount of time to conquer.
WRC is the highest form of global competition in the motorsports discipline, rallying, organized by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). It was established based on well-known international rallies particularly, the European Rally Championship or the International Championship for Manufacturers. It first took place in 1973.
WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP: ARCTIC RALLY FINLAND
This year, after racing through the challenging circuits of Monte Carlo, WRC competitors once again raced through the deep, treacherous roads of Rovaniemi, Finland. For the second round of the WRC, rally drivers headed straight to the snowy and frozen surfaces in one of Finland’s northernmost provinces – overcoming temperatures that dropped down to -20°C.
February 26 – 28, 2021, was a remarkable date for the WRC fandom as it is the second event in the WRC calendar and the only event where rally competitors would race through snow and ice. Paradoxically though, WRC Rally Finland is one of the season’s fastest rounds.
Situated 6 kilometers (4 miles) south of the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi in Lapland, Finland, served as the perfect location for the round, hence the name Arctic Rally Finland. It is the first winter WRC fixture for the country. The second round of FIA WRC featured 10 stages that covered 251.08 kilometers in total.
One of the Arctic Rally highlights was what Lapland locals called the ‘white gold,’ which happens when the snow falls plenty enough to cover the roads, blanketing the countryside and creating an almost magical ambiance, especially at night where stages were still held. The heated competition is somehow dissipated by the calm and chilly atmosphere as drivers, and their co-drivers zoom through the dangerous trails. These, in every aspect, make the place perfect for the winter rally.
ARCTIC RALLY FINLAND: THE STAGES
Following the shakedown in the first morning of the event (Friday, February 26th), the rally started in the early afternoon before a double blast through the Sarriojärvi (31.05 km) speed test situated north-east of the city.
The stage was an absolute stunner as it winds through one of the most beautiful terrains on the Arctic Circle fringes. The stage was the longest in the rally, where some extremely narrow sections and a handful of corners over the crests await the drivers. This meant that crews needed to be extra ready whenever things go unexpectedly.
On the second day of the rally (Saturday, February 27th), drivers race through the compact routes in Vanttauskoski.
The first one is Mustalampi (24.43km) which stretches over an iced swamp before ending with a mighty charge through a driver training area, the next is Kaihuavaara (19.91km), whose surface might be fast but kind of troublesome with its narrow sections as well, and the last, Siikakämä (27.68km), a typical forest track. Rally drivers drove twice following these routes.
During the finale on Sunday, February 28th, the event featured two runs of the Aittajärvi (22.47km) speed test in Rovaniemi’s southern part. The second visit, known as the Wolf Power Stage, granted bonus points in all categories.
Kari Nuutinen, the deputy clerk of the course, described the stage as “hard to compare to anything else and needs to be seen to be believed.” In this final stage, the conditions are too extreme that each car was obliged to carry a winter survival kit (including shovels) and other winter garments to protect the crew from the cold should they stop at a stage.
ARCTIC RALLY FINLAND: CONCLUSION
The winter rally, powered by CapitalBox, concluded with the Estonian tag team, rally driver Ott Tänak and co-driver Martin Jarveoja proving dominance during the event’s start-to-finish behind the wheels of a No. 8 Hyundai i20. On the other hand, Finnish rally driver Kalle Rovanperä clinched the lead in the WRC, securing a current total of 39 points as of the second round.
The third round of the WRC is set to happen in the asphalt Croatia Rally, located in Zagreb, on April 22 – 25 of this year.