Rovaniemi is a city in the legendary Lapland region with a Santa Claus in the neighborhood. It is one of the few places where snowbanks are with a car roof at the moment. Thus, the Arctic Lapland Rally avoided the fate of Winter (Lithuania), Sarma (Latvia) or Finnskog (Norway) rallies due to lack of frost and snow. In addition, it is one of the most famous snow rallies in the world, which is only losing a place to WRC Sweden.
And that honor is well deserved. Also, it is quite a long rally, with around 250 kilometers of special stages. Roads require a lot of technique, and excellent grip results in high speeds. Quite a number of stages stretch through the woods, but the crews are protected from the trees by the gigantic snowbanks, which easily catch anyone who carelessly treats them. By the way, during the rally, it is usually snowy and some sections are held at night. So this rally is unique in its specificity and has a deep tradition since it has been going on since 1966. Being in the Finnish Championship, the event had a place on the European Rally Championship calendar for a long time.
And in half a century, the roads of Lapland saw everything. Five World Rally Champions have won here, though this stage has never been on the WRC calendar. But that’s Finnish talent on the rally tracks is to blame. Marcus Grönholm, Tommi Mäkinen, Hannu Mikkola, Timo Salonen, and Ari Vatanen raised the trophy on the roofs of cars. In addition to the rally stars, Finnish asphalt masters like Kimi Räikkönen, Mika Häkkinen, and Valtteri Bottas also tried to master another element. Hyundai’s current driver Dani Sordo also took the win in the run-up to the Swedish WRC event in 2010. And every year there are very interesting names in the start lists, both in terms of notoriety and geography.
This year was also marked by interesting things. Last weekend, Finnish star Kalle Rovanperä made his debut with a factory Toyota Yaris WRC. Then F-1 star Valtteri Bottas racing for the second time with a Citroen DS3 WRC. It was also the second time for the son of the legendary Marcus Grönholm. Niclas Grönholm was flying on these roads with Škoda Fabia R5. The Spanish crew tested the Kia Rio N5, the Finnish colleagues – the Mini Cooper S R4. Also, guests from Saudi Arabia and even Australia came to taste the snow. In addition to that, the Finnish Championship battle took place, with the fastest Finnish drivers ahead.
Although 4 WRCs started this year, only one was driven for a victory and was piloted by Kalle Rovanperä. Although the kid had some problems, the advantage of the car and the raw talent of Harri Rovanperä’s son left the rivals very far. Last year’s champion, Teemu Asunmaa, was the fastest with the R5 technique. Interestingly, the fastest five, with the exception of Kalle, followed the flag of TGS Worldwide, which is held by another Finnish legend, Toni Gardemeister.
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Photo – Jari Nurminen