Based in the city of Jyväskylä, Secto Automotive Rally Finland features three days of high-speed action on roller-coaster roads, it is the ninth round of the World Rally Championship.
Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy crew Josh McErlean and James Fulton will make their second Rally Finland appearance driving a PCRS Rallysport-prepared Hyundai i20 Rally 2.
They made their Rally Finnish debut last season and will carry that experience into the 2023 rally.
“It is the one event at the start of the year that everyone looks forward to,” said McErlean.
“The stages are about 50 per cent the same as last year. That will make the recce easier.”
Rally Finland traditionally attracts a large group of travelling Irish fans given that it coincides with the August Bank Holiday weekend and this year is expected to be no different.
“The whole team Is looking forward to the event,” added the Kilrea-based driver. “There are always a lot of Irish flags out on the stages.”
A second car will be fielded by PCRS Rallysport and Motorsport Ireland for the Academy’s founder and patron John Coyne.
He will give Eoin Treacy his second WRC start. The Cork man, another member of the Rally Academy partnered Coyne in Mexico earlier this year.
“In March we finished 24th overall in WRC Rally Mexico. I enjoyed it so much I had to tick another WRC rally off my bucket list, so off we go to the legendary stages of WRC Rally Finland. Can’t wait for my first taste of this famous event,” said Coyne.
“Young Rally Academy co-driver, Eoin Treacy, did a great job on his first ever WRC rally in Mexico and I’m delighted to give him the opportunity to experience another event at World Championship level, this time in a PCRS run Hyundai i20N Rally2.”
Both crews had a pre-event test in the Keerru area of Finland on Sunday ahead of the rally’s recce on Tuesday morning.
Joining them in the WRC 2 category is fellow Rally Academy crew and Junior World Rally Championship contenders Eamonn Kelly and Conor Mohan. Eamonn is also the current Billy Coleman award winner.
They will get their second taste of Rally 2 machinery on the World stage – this time with the Red Grey Team as part of their prize for winning the Junior British title last season.
They previously drove the Rally Academy’s Hyundai i20 Rally 2 in Portugal.
“It is a fantastic prize, we know from Portugal what a challenge it is to drive these cars but to be able to do so on one of the most iconic rallies in the world is a boyhood dream,” said the Donegal man.
“There is no pressure, we are up against boys who know the terrain and the stages, we are just going to go and enjoy it.”
Rally Finland at a glance
After shakedown on Thursday morning, Rally Finland begins with the fan-favourite 3.48km Harju 1 Super Special Stage.
Friday’s nine-stage itinerary opens with the 11.78km Laukaa stage and closes with the second attempt at the Harju super special stage.
Saturday features fewer stages yet the longest competitive distance, totalling 160.68km across two loops of Västilä, Päijälä, Rapsula and Vekkula
Sunday will round up the rally with 54.61km and four stages, with the second run of Himos-Jämsä acting as the event’s Power Stage.
Text by Sean Moriarty