The 2018 FIA World Rally Championship returns this weekend with Neste Rally Finland where Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville will be aiming to make it three wins in a row in his pursuit of a first WRC title.
The championship returns this weekend after a mid-season summer break with the Belgian driver leading defending champion Sébastien Ogier by 27 points ahead of the 23 stages and over 300km of stage miles this weekend.
The seven-week gap has enabled the teams to complete a series of upgrades to their vehicles. M-Sport bring a modified rear diffuser and bumper to Finland in a pursuit of better downforce on their Fiesta WRC for Ogier, while Toyota pair Jari-Matti Latvala and Ott Tänak have been testing in the nearby forests to the rally base in Jyväskylä. Citroen also bring front suspension changes to its C3 WRC for the event this weekend.
Third in the title standings Tänak won Rally Estonia a fortnight ago when using the event as a warmup to this weekend. He beat both Craig Breen and Hayden Paddon across the 15 stage event. Winner here 12 months ago and fourth in the championship, Easpekka Lappi completes the three car lineup for Toyota.
Driving alongside Neuville at Hyundai this weekend is Australian driver Paddon rather than Dani Sordo as the pair continue to share the team’s i20 WRC. Andreas Mikkelsen completes the trio of drivers in Finland as he aims to build on his strong second place on Rally Italia Sardegna last time out.
Elfyn Evans in the second M-Sport Fiesta will be looking to make amends after a poor result before the summer break, while the third M-Sport driver, Teemu Suninen will be aiming to continue to improve in his first season aboard a new-generation WRC machine.
After Kris Meeke’s dismissal from Citroen before the summer break, Mads Østberg has now been confirmed to complete the remainder of the season after selected drives so far in 2018. The experienced Norwegian driver will drive alongside Breen and Khalid Al-Qassimi who makes only his second appearance in the 2018 WRC this weekend after competing in Argentina earlier this year.
WRC2 sees a very strong 18 car entry list, although both championship leader Pontus Tidemand or Jan Kopecký are not appearing this weekend. The non-entry of the top two in the class sees several other drivers such as Kalle Rovanperä, who originates from the event’s base town of Jyväskylä and Ole Christian Veiby possibly being able to show what they are capable of in Finland.
Just five points behind third placed Veiby in the standings is British driver Gus Greensmith who again enters the category in an M-Sport Fiesta R5, while Citroen continue their development of the new C3 R5 with a pair of cars entered for Stéphane Lefebvre and Simone Tempestini.
Several Hyundai i20 R5’s also appear, with winner here 12 months ago Jari Huttunen, Pierre-Louis Loubet and Nicolas Ciamin all entered this weekend. Rally Sweden WRC2 winner Takamoto Katsuta is another driver to watch in Finland as he chases his second win of the season.
The fourth round of the 2018 FIA Junior World Rally Championship takes place on Rally Finland this weekend with Dennis Rådström aiming for this third win of the season after taking victories in Sweden and Portugal.
Fellow Swede Emil Bergkvist lies second in the standings and will be looking to cut Rådström’s 16-point advantage. Round two winner Jean-Baptiste Franceschi sits third in class ahead of Terry Folb and Luca Bottarelli.
2018 Neste Rally Finland takes place this weekend between July 26-29.