Preparing for Finland Rally (Photo: Jakob Ebery)Following a successful performance in Sardinia five weeks ago, where he scored his first podium finish in the WRC3 series, Keith Cronin will face his toughest challenge yet as the FIA World Rally Championship heads to Finland next week.

The fast and furious Finnish forests have an enviable reputation for hosting one of the most revered rounds of the world series but it will be Cronin’s first competitive run on the event and an obvious challenge as he hunts down another top finish.
Buliding on Sardinian Success
After posting a series of fastest times on the first two WRC3 rounds in Portugal and Sardinia, 27-year-old Cronin’s championship chances received a boost when he finished runner-up in Sardinia despite battling with power steering problems on the final day. The result moved him up the points board in both WRC3 and the Citroen Top Driver series and another podium next weekend, coupled with the fact that series rival Bryan Bouffier could miss the next two rounds, would see Cork driver Cronin move up even further.

Rally Finland, however, is not an easy one to tackle for the first time. Famously dubbed the ‘Grand Prix of Finland’, it’s one of the fastest rallies on the WRC calendar. Its smooth, wide gravel roads induce some of the highest speeds in the series and, with blind crests and huge jumps which catapult cars into the air, it’s easy to see why it’s a tough one to master.
No Room For Error
Every inch of trust has to be put into the pace notes called by co-driver Marshall Clarke. There’s no room for error on these roads and triple British Champion Cronin will call on all his experience when the recce starts on Monday. The Motorsport Ireland-backed driver is keeping a steady head, however, and is determined to find a blend of speed and consistency to try and avoid the problems which have cost him dearly already this season.

Rally Finland, based in Jyvaskyla in central Finland, is a fan’s favourite with spectators expected to flock from countries around the world for this iconic event. And when Cronin lines up in his Charles Hurst Citroen DS3 to take the start on Thursday afternoon, he will see why the ultra-fast roads make the event a classic among drivers as well.

The three-day rally starts from Jyvaskyla on Thursday with the route taking Cronin and Clarke south to Lahti as part of a six-stage loop covering 45.51km of timed special stages.

Friday’s action sees a 73km loop of four classic Rally Finland stages to the west and north of rally HQ. It’s repeated in the afternoon and the action comes to a climax with the super-special stage at Killeri. But Saturday’s final action is sure to provide a sting in the tail. It includes two runs over the 33km Ouninpohja stage, possibly one of the best-known rally roads around the world, which features high-speed roads and infamous jumps. As the longest stage of the event, it’s probably the most difficult as well.

Overall there are 23 timed stages and 324.21km of frantic action in this year’s event.

‘My experience of Finland’s roads is pretty limited, says Keith, ‘but I did take part in a Pirelli Star Driver shoot-out there, and I’ve spectated a few times, so I have an idea of what the stages are like. But going there competitively for the first time will be a huge challenge. It’s one of the fastest rounds of the championship and there’s no margin for error. Because of that the recce is going to be crucial.’

‘I need to find a fast pace but I’ve been out of the car since Rally Sardinia so it’s going to take a few stages to get back up to speed. I’ve proved my speed on the first two events so now I need to aim for a trouble-free run and score a strong finish for the championship.’

WRC png copyWRC3 – Round Three – Finland
1st – 3rd August 2013

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