The World Rally Championship will visit Finland twice in 2021 as the WRC Promoter announced the addition of Arctic Rally Finland to its now 12-round calendar.
The snow surface rally takes the place of the WRC’s usual winter event, Rally Sweden. It was cancelled in December because of increased Covid-19 restrictions.
Arctic Rally Finland is penciled in for the last week of February, sandwiched between Monte-Carlo and Croatia.
Of course, Finland is no stranger to hosting world rallies with the WRC due to return to Jyväskylä at the end of July after its 2020 event was cancelled.
However, the Arctic Rally will be a completely different test to Finland’s famous gravel event. Based in Rovaniemi, Arctic Rally Finland should exhibit perfect winter rally conditions. The temperature in Rovaniemi at the time of Thursday’s announcement was -29 degrees Celsius.
“Since it was confirmed in December that Rally Sweden would not take place,” explained WRC Promoter’s Jona Siebel, “we’ve been working hard with AKK Sports, the city of Rovaniemi, and the enthusiasts there to try to make this event happen.
“It’s been a tough race against time and my thanks go to all involved.
“Although the rally starts in just 44 days, we know AKK will leave no stone unturned to ensure it reaches the same high standards as the traditional summertime Rally Finland.”
The rally will start with shakedown on Friday morning (26 February) and a loop of stages that evening. Three stages repeated twice make up Saturday’s running. Arctic Rally Finland will finish on Sunday with a total of 10 stages providing 260 competitive kilometres.
AKK Sports CEO Riky Bitter described how Finland’s governing motorsport body managed to secure its second WRC round in 2021:
“We set out to look into the matter and explore our possibilities. Of the various different options, Rovaniemi with its solid culture in organising winter rallies, good reputation as an international event city, and large number of enthusiastic and experienced rally-makers stood out.
“I am very pleased about how quickly the City of Rovaniemi embraced the idea, and we were lucky to get the equally enthusiastic CapitalBox as the other main partner of Arctic Rally Finland. It’s fantastic to be able to provide something extraordinary like this – we are making history together.”
Rovaniemi will witness rallying much sooner than the WRC’s arrival in February. The city, which sits just outside the Arctic Circle, has already welcomed crews competing in the 56th Arctic Lapland Rally. The Finnish Rally Championship’s season-opener starts tomorrow (15 January) with entrants including Formula 1’s Valtteri Bottas.
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Cover photo courtesy of Arctic Rally Finland / Hannu Rainamo