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• Much-awaited ninth round of the 2017 World Rally Championship
• Two-time World Champion Marcus Gronholm is guest reporter for Red Bull TV
• Kris Meeke returns to the scene of his record-breaking victory
• Can Sébastien Ogier cling onto his championship lead?
• Catch all the action for free on Red Bull TV

Rally Finland (27-30 July), the next stop for the FIA World Rally Championship contenders, is one of the most spectacular events on the calendar. It has an awesome reputation and, while a handful of ‘outsiders’ have stood on the top step of the podium, it continues to be dominated by Finnish drivers who have won 54 of the 66 editions.

The event dates back to 1951 when it was a qualifier for the Finnish entrants for Rallye Monte-Carlo. Known back then as the 1000 Lakes Rally, it was first included in the WRC in 1973 and is still affectionately referred to as the ‘Finnish Grand Prix’.

The smooth gravel roads are kind on cars but the high-speed nature of the fast and flowing stages see the cars fly from jump to jump and reward only the bravest crews.

The challenge is immense and pace notes have to be perfect in order to judge the speed and positioning of the car over blind crests that hide a following corner. Mastering the jumps, precision delivery of pace notes and fearlessness are key to success in Finland.

With the Championships closing up following Rally Poland, competition will be fierce at the head of the field. Sébastien Ogier still leads the title race in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta but Hyundai’s top gun, Thierry Neuville, is hot on his heels.

Others to watch include Ogier’s team-mate Ott Tänak, local hero Jari-Matti Latvala – one of three Finns in the Toyota squad – and last year’s winner Kris Meeke, who returns to Citroën’s line-up after being rested in Poland.

Two-time world champion Marcus Grönholm joins Red Bull TV as the guest reporter for this much-awaited ninth round of the season.

To follow Rally Finland with a true sporting legend, catch the highlights show every day of the rally on Red Bull TV, as well as the live show on Saturday: with all the action plus some unique features.

Facts & figures about Rally Finland: Why it’s so fast, and why it’s about to get even faster
•Citroen driver Kris Meeke set a new speed record when he won Finland at an average speed of 126.6kph last year. But with more powerful cars and better aerodynamics the average could be even faster this year. No wonder they call Rally Finland ‘the Finnish Grand Prix’.
•The most famous stage is Ouninpohja – broadcast live on Saturday on Red Bull TV – where the cars jump more than 50 times over the course of the 24 kilometres. The record for the longest jump dates back to 2003, when Markko Märtin (EST) flew for 57 metres at a speed of 171kph!
•Nine out of the 10 fastest rallies ever in the world have been held in Finland: the only exception being the Safari Rally in Kenya
•If you add up all the jumps on the rally route in Finland, cars can spend up to 30% of the competitive distance flying through the air.
•There are around 5.4 million people in Finland, which has produced more world rally champions than any other country: Ari Vatanen, Juha Kankkunen, Tommi Makinen and Marcus Gronholm, to name but a few. Oh, and there are more than two million saunas as well.

Inside line from Finland’s finest WRC expert, Marcus Gronholm, this weekend’s Red Bull TV reporter

Red Bull TV’s guest reporter is two-time world rally champion Marcus Grönholm – also, a six-time winner on Rally Finland. What ‘Bosse’ doesn’t know isn’t worth knowing. He’ll be your guide to Rally Finland on Red Bull TV this weekend, including the live Ouninpohja stage on Saturday at 14:50 UK time. Here’s what makes Finland special for him:
•Laukaa: “The Laukaa and Lankamaa stages on Friday afternoon are probably my favourite. But if you’re driving, you can’t have a favourite stage: you have to be quick on all of them, because the time gaps between drivers are normally really small.”
•Insider advice: “It’s a rally where it helps to have a bit of insider knowledge. My one big tip for newcomers? Don’t go crazy on the jumps. There are no points on offer for taking off!”
•Fried herring: “Since I stopped driving, I’ve been busy running my own rally team for young drivers but also my restaurant, Sagen – which is named after my favourite stage, actually in Sweden. I recommend the Hawaiian pizza, but you can also have traditional fried herring if you prefer!”
•Unpredictability: “It’s a crazy season this year with so many different winners. I have no idea who could win in Finland. Kris Meeke showed last year that there’s no such thing as a home advantage anymore for Finns, so the rally seems more open than ever!”

Watch Red Bull TV this week, with a mixture of live and highlights programmes from Finland, to catch all the action. One thing’s for sure: it’s going to be spectacular.

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