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At the height of the summer, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team enters the second half of the season in Finland. Based around the city of Jyväskylä, the team’s three DS 3 WRCs will be driven by Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson, Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle and Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team lies second in the Manufacturers’ World Rally Championship after the opening seven rounds.

The WRC calendar features several legendary events and its world tour covers three continents. The Finnish round is one of the most eagerly anticipated rounds of the year, for both the crews and WRC fans alike.

Sometimes known as the “Jyväskylä Grand Prix”, it is the fastest rally of the championship. When Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena won here in 2012, they set an all-time record with an eye-watering average speed of 122.89kph in their DS 3 WRC.

At that pace, the experience of the drivers and co-drivers and their commitment can make all the difference. In order for the crews to feel confident at these impressive speeds, the DS 3 WRCs undergo specific preparation.

Four days of testing are scheduled up until the day before the recce starts. To go faster, higher and harder, the drivers need raw speed. The chassis must be especially responsive, with less balance than at other rounds. The speeds reached are high, because the majority of the corners are taken in one of the top three gears. The type of ground also affects the set-up. Mads Østberg goes as far as to compare his options to a tarmac set-up adapted to a gravel configuration.

The only driver to finish in the top ten at every event this season, the Norwegian currently lies third in the championship standings. He will be starting his tenth Rally Finland this year with high hopes.

Drawing on his growing experience, Kris Meeke also regards this event as one of his favourites. The Northern Irishman finished on the podium last year in only his second appearance at Rally Finland in the DS 3 WRC.

The third driver entered by the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi returns to Finland for what will be his 60th World Championship rally. He hasn’t driven in Jyväskylä since 2011.

In the WRC2 championship, Stéphane Lefebvre and Stéphane Prévot will be competing in a DS 3 RRC. Their appearance in Finland will be followed three weeks later by Rally Deutschland, where they will be competing in a DS 3 WRC.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Rally Finland is a particularly important event on the calendar. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team prepares for this legendary rally in minute detail. Four days of testing will be used by our three crews to find the right feeling in the car and be competitive from the word go. We know the extent to which this rally is a sprint and that every second counts.
The entire team is really up for it.”

Mads Østberg: “I can’t wait to be there. Finland is rallying’s Grand Prix and it’s always a very exciting event. We are going to benefit from a good testing programme. It will help us to prepare and fine-tune the set-up of the DS 3 WRC, which showed it could be competitive in Finland last year. The recent aerodynamic developments and the 2015 parts are going to strengthen our position even further. We’ll need to concentrate on maximising our potential, because my aim is to fight at the front. And if everything goes well, we should be able to finish on the podium.”

Kris Meeke: “I have more experience on the events in the second half of the season. Finland is therefore a round that I am really looking forward to. The stages are fairly similar to the ones we saw last year. There’ll be plenty of excitement and everyone is delighted that the long version of Ouninpohja is back this year. We’ll be able to prepare for the rally with testing before recce. It’s essential to be effective starting with taking pace notes. Adopting the right pace makes the job of reading the lines easier. We’ll also be able to work on the set-up, which is very specific to the high speeds and the big jumps. One of the challenges will be adapting the car to the conditions if the roads become rutted on the second runs. In 2014, I kept up with the front two until the start of the final day. It would be perfect to maintain the same kind of pace, although I know there are quite a few of us who want to fight at the front.”

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi: “I’m pleased to be back in Finland after four years away. The roads are so fast that you have to be incredibly focused. The driver and co-driver must react quickly and with courage. Even the pace notes have to be taken in this mind-set. The main objective is to make it to the end in the best position possible. It would be fantastic to finish in the points. I wish the entire team the very best at this Finland Grand Prix.”

OUNINPOHJA IS BACK

Of the eleven different stages featured in 2015, three are identical to the route used in last season’s event. Only Sunday’s Myhinpää stage is completely new. The legendary Ouninpohja test returns in a long version that includes sections already used in 2002, 2013 and 2014.

On Thursday morning, the crews will have to complete a minimum of three runs on Ruuhimäki for the shakedown, which uses the route of the final stage in last year’s rally. The rally kicks off in the service park at the end of the day with the opening city-centre stage, Harju (2.27km), due to get underway at 19:00.

The cars are due to leave parc ferme at 07:30 on Friday. The running order will be based on the championship standings. The Pihlajakoski (14.51km), Päijälä (23.56km), Ouninpohja (34.39km) and Himos (5.62km) loop will be repeated in the afternoon without any service. The crews will be able to change tyres at midday, before heading back to Jyväskylä. The leg ends with a second run on Harju at 19:00, followed by a 45-minute flexi-service.

On Saturday morning, parc ferme will be open at 07:00 ahead of a succession of classic Finnish stages: Mökkiperä (13.84km), Jukojärvi (21.14km), Surkee (14.95km) and Horkka (15.59km). After a 30-minute service, the crews will set off for the second loop before finishing the day in Jyväskylä from 19:40 onwards.

For Sunday’s leg, the priority crews will start in reverse order of the overall rally standings, tackling two runs on Myhinpää (14.13km), the only completely new stage on the course. The second run on this test is the Power Stage and is due to get underway at 13:08. The rally is scheduled to finish in the Jyväskylä Paviljonki at 16:00.

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