Eight Ford Fiesta Super 2000 crews will next week contest the most hotly anticipated event on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar – Rally Finland.
The Ford Fiesta S2000 has claimed podium finishes in every Super 2000 World Rally Championship (S-WRC) round so far in 2010, and the Neste Oil Rally Finland will be the sixth round where four of the eight Fiesta S2000 drivers will be competing for class honours.
Jari Ketomaa is currently second in the S-WRC standings and will be aiming for a strong result in Finland to close the gap on current series leader, Xevi Pons, who has chosen to skip this S-WRC round. Ketomaa has won the previous two S-WRC rounds, in Portugal and New Zealand, and the three-time Finnish Rally Champion is one of the favourites to take victory on home soil.
Czech driver Martin Prokop has already racked up two podium finishes in the S-WRC class and is currently just two points from snatching third position in the championship from P-G Andersson. Last year Prokop finished the Neste Oil Rally Finland in fourteenth position overall and took victory in the J-WRC class. This year, the driver will be keen to see if he can up the pace and improve on that result to consolidate his top-three spot in the S-WRC standings.
Six-time Middle East Rally Champion Nasser Al-Attiyah has contested four S-WRC rounds and in his opening round at Rally Mexico Al-Attiyah was running third in the class, but was forced to retire on the second day. His best result was in Jordan when he finished fourth in the S-WRC class. The Qatari driver will be aiming to emulate his win at the Qtel Qatar International Rally in a Ford Fiesta S2000 earlier in the season and take his first S-WRC podium finish in Finland to help him move him up from eighth place in the S-WRC standings.
Janne Tuohino got off to a flying start at the start of the season, finishing second at the opening S-WRC round in Sweden. The Finn was less fortunate in recent S-WRC rounds and suffered retirements at Rally Jordan and Rally New Zealand. Then in the recent Vodafone Rally de Portugal Tuohino reported steering problems, and finished the S-WRC class eighth overall. The experienced driver will be looking to bounce back and try to claim a podium finish in Finland to get his championship challenge back on track.
Dennis Kuipers is an M-Sport entry who made the transition to the Ford Fiesta S2000 this year after previously contesting several European and WRC events in a Ford Focus RS WRC in 2008 and 2009. The 24-year-old Dutch driver is not registered to score points in the S-WRC class, but has built up his experience and pace in the S2000 car in previous WRC rounds this year and will be looking forward to testing himself at one of the toughest events on the calendar.
Craig Breen finished first in the Fiesta SportTrophy International (FSTi) series at last year’s Rally Finland and for 2010 the young Irishman has stepped up to compete in the British Rally Championship in a Ford Fiesta S2000. He has not contested in a rally since his accident at the Donegal Rally but is hopeful that his experience of last year’s Rally Finland will give him the confidence to make a smooth transition to the S2000 for this year’s event.
Toni Gardemeister, a former official Ford team driver, is fresh from the Estonian Mad-Croc Rally last weekend where he finished third overall in his Ford Fiesta S2000. In 2008 the Finn finished eighth overall at his home rally, and will look to use his WRC experience and local knowledge to give him the edge over his S-WRC rivals.
Marko Kakko is another native Finn who will be driving a Ford Fiesta S2000. It is only Kakko’s second outing in the S2000 car, after his debut at the Mad-Croc Rally in Estonia last weekend where he finished ninth overall in a very competitive field using it as preparation or Rally Finland.
Jari Ketomaa said:
“We’ve had two fantastic weeks of weather in Finland recently so I’m hoping the weather will stay good for the rally in two weeks time. I’d say Rally Finland is one of the hardest and fastest rallies of the season, and it will be very tough this year with so many Scandinavian entries that are familiar with the stages. The route is more or less the same as last year, and although it is a shame that it has been changed to two days this year I think the organisers have done a great job of including the best stages and it will continue to be a fantastic rally for the spectators.”
Martin Prokop said:
“Rally Finland is a very fast event and definitely one of the best rallies in the championship. There was a fantastic atmosphere last year too and I know that this year will be just the same. The stages require a lot of concentration and they are very technical in parts with many blind crests and fast jumps. I was happy with my overall result in 2009 but I will be pushing to try and do better this year.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah said:
“This is only my second outing in the Ford Fiesta S2000 but I am confident that I can do well at this rally. I know that stages in Finland can be very fast so I hope that I encounter no major problems and make it safely to the end. There is going to be some really tough competition over there but I’m trying not to think about that and I will just aim to push as hard as I can for a good end result.”
Janne Tuohino said:
“I had a great start to the season in Sweden but was really disappointed when I had to retire in both Jordan and New Zealand. It has knocked my confidence but I know what to expect from the stages in Finland as it’s my home country. I am hoping this will give me an advantage and I’m aiming for a top three finish.”
Dennis Kuipers said:
“Everyone tells me that you have to prepare a lot for Finland as it us such a fast rally – it’s made me slightly nervous. We are planning to do a test on Monday though so if this goes ahead it will help me to prepare and to build my confidence. I’ve watched some videos of last year’s rally on YouTube and it does look like it’s very fast and has a lot of jumps. It certainly won’t be easy but I really enjoy a challenge and, as always, my main aim will be to get to the finish.”
Craig Breen said:
“I had a bad accident at Donegal Rally the other week when my car got a puncture, so I’m a little more nervous than I would usually feel before a rally. I competed in this event last year and it was very fast, but I think this year will be even faster. The rally organisers sent me a DVD with some footage and I’ve been studying that to prepare myself for next week. With so much competition in the Fiesta class for Finland, I think this will be a very tough rally for me.”
Toni Gardemeister said:
“To compete in Rally Finland has been my primary goal for this season. My intention is to drive and get an excellent result which will help my future plans. I want to keep my name on the surface of the world’s rally scene and demonstrate that I’m an option in the drivers market for the 2011 season. The Mad-Croc Rally Estonia was a perfect test round for me as there was 180kms of special stages and the stages in southern Estonia are very similar to Finland.”
Marko Kakko said:
“I’m feeling good about Rally Finland. My expectations for the rally are quite high and I think it is possible for me to do very well at this event. I am aiming to finish in the top five in the S2000 class and I have high hopes this will happen. The car is good and I have had a lot of experience in it testing over hundreds of kilometres. I’m very excited about the rally.”