Sébastien Ogier (VW): “I would obviously like to hold onto my lead in the World Championship until the end of the season. The comfortable position we find ourselves in allowed us to enjoy the summer break. I want to go on the attack again in Finland, primarily to score important points, but also to put myself in contention for my first win there. I love this rally. However, the Finnish drivers will represent a very stern challenge, particularly my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.”
“It is the fastest rally on the calendar. The environment is beautiful and the route very smooth. There are also an awful lot of quick crests and blind corners in Finland. The Finnish drivers are used to this type of route. This year, we will take on the ‘Ouninpohja’ special stage again – a very famous place in Finland. I will be driving a World Rally Car there for the first time, and am really looking forward to it.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (VW): “As far as the atmosphere is concerned, the Rally Finland is the best in the entire championship. It is a prestigious rally – like the one in Monte Carlo – and one that every driver wants to win at least once. It is quite simply ‘Formula 1 in the Forest’. The gaps between the drivers are very small and it is an exciting battle from the word go. You have to hit the ideal line in order to achieve the perfect jump or drift.”
“The Recce is very important in order to be able to correctly assess the jumps. The braking points before and after the jumps are also very important. You have to hit the majority of jumps at full throttle. And if you want to win, you sometimes have to give 105 per cent.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (VW): “I have already taken part in the Rally Finland four times, but it is a while since I drove a World Rally Car there. The speeds there are higher than at any other rally. I really like this kind of route, with its hard subsurface, and am very much looking forward to it. As a Finn, my co-driver Mikko Markkula knows the rally’s special stages very well. He knows where you can drive fast and how to take the different corners. That is an advantage, as the rally really is out of the ordinary.
“‘Ouninpohja’, for example, is a very special stage. There are so many fast crests and corners that you cannot see coming. For this reason, it is essential to get the pace notes spot on – if not, you will not be on the right line. If you don’t get the entry correct, then you can find yourself flying off the road on the way out of the corner. You have to show a lot of courage.”
Qatar M-Sport Team:
Thierry Neuville (Qatar WRT): “We had a really good test this week – two full days working alongside Mads and the car feels great. We were able to really work as a team – sharing our thoughts and experiences – so I am really looking forward to this rally. It is always a special event. There are always a lot of spectators and a lot of WRC entries, which makes for a good competition.
“It’s a very fast rally with the best jumps of the year. Depending on the weather, start position can be really important. The grip can be good running first on the road so it is important to have a good run in Qualifying with a car that is well set-up from the very beginning.
“Good pacenotes are also essential. We have a new system this year so although we will take the time to check the notes at high-speed on the first loop – inevitably losing time to the front-runners – I’m confident that we will be able to show our true pace over the second pass.”
Mads Østberg (Qatar M-Sport): “Finland is a very special event and there is nothing else like it on the calendar. For a driver, it’s the speed and the jumps that make it. Whereas the other gravel rallies are quite tight and twisty with narrow roads, Finland has wide, open roads where you can really push the top-speeds. We have quite a few rallies in Norway with similar characteristics, so hopefully that will be a bit of an advantage for us next week.
“We had a really good test this week and both Jonas and I are feeling well prepared. I think we’ve made some big steps forward with the set-up and the car feels great. The most important thing in Finland is to be on the pace from the beginning, so this test should certainly have helped with that. Of course it’s not just the set-up that you need to be on top of. As a driver you need to be used to the speed, the jumps, the placing of the car, everything from the very first corner.”
Evgeny Novikov (Qatar M-Sport): “It has been a good summer break – I navigated for my manager Mikhail [Lepekhov] in the Russian Rally Cup which was a lot of fun – but now I am ready to get back behind the wheel myself.
“Rally Finland is an event I really enjoy. There are always a lot of spectators and a lot of support for all the drivers. It’s also a really challenging event, but I think that that’s part of the enjoyment.
“Knowledge of the stages is very important. The stages are extremely fast so you need to know how to enter the corners and how to use the exits. Of course a good set-up is important from the start – if you are struggling in the beginning it is very difficult to make the time back.
“A good pacenote system and complete trust in your co-driver is also really important. Although this will be my first Rally Finland with Ilka, I have no worries about that! We work really well together and there is a lot of trust between us when we’re in the car.”
Elfyn Evans (Qatar M-Sport): “So far, the car feels fantastic. It’s been a bit of a break since Portugal, but I can’t wait to get back competing in WRC 2 with the new car. Again, it won’t be an easy event. There will be a lot of very quick Scandinavians looking for the win, but we’ll try our best and see what happens. This is an event I really enjoy and we won here last year [as part of the FIA WRC Academy], so hopefully we won’t be too far away.
“It’s a very fast event – the fastest of the year in fact – and you need to have total confidence in yourself, your co-driver and your car. To prepare we have been testing on similar roads in Estonia with Markko Märtin and the MM-Motorsport team. Markko in particular was really helpful. He knows what it takes to win in Finland, so it was a great opportunity for me to get some advice from someone like him.”
Mikko Hirvonen (Citroën): “There are several reasons why I would like to win my home rally. First of all, it would be the best way of thanking the fans who have supported me throughout the year. It would also be just rewards for the team, which has made every effort possible since the start of the championship.”
“And it would also give us a bit of momentum going into the final part of the season…”
Dani Sordo (Citroën): “I’m really motivated for the second part of the championship, because we are about to start the series of rallies at which I feel most comfortable. In Finland, I like the fast roads and the fact that the grip is fairly consistent. The difficulty lies in the difference in speed between the runs in recce and the actual race.”
“Contrary to popular belief, there are almost no huge jumps here. It’s rather that there is a succession of small crests, which lift the car off the ground to a greater or lesser extent and which are often followed by blind corners! I hope to set times that are on the pace of the leading guys. A podium finish would be a good result for Carlos and me.”
Kris Meeke (Citroën): “My main goal has always been to get back in the World Championship. Citroën Racing and Abu Dhabi Racing have undoubtedly given me the greatest opportunity of my career!”
“This rally is exhilarating for drivers, but it’s also one of the most difficult. I’ll be looking to improve throughout the three days and finish in a strong position.”