Learn the Fascinating History of the Rally Finland Race


This yearly competition is known as one of the swiftest and toughest rallies in the world with motorists traveling at a top speed of 200 km/h. Since 1951, this gathering has had a lengthy history. Top teams and drivers compete for the honor of winning one of the most prestigious rallies in the world as well as the title of rally champion.

What is Rally Finland?

Rally Finland is a rallying race held in the Finnish Lakeland in Central Finland. It was originally known as the Neste Rally Finland, Neste Oil Rally Finland, 1000 Lakes Rally, and Rally of the Thousand Lakes. Wide, smooth gravel roads with blind crests and large jumps are used for the rally’s driving conditions. It is known as the “Grand Prix of Rallying” and the “Grand Prix on Gravel” and is the World Rally Championship’s quickest competition. One of the major yearly public events in the Nordic nations, Rally Finland draws hundreds of thousands of spectators every year. Only seven drivers from nations other than Finland or Sweden have won the competition; in the 1980s and earlier, the field was virtually completely made up of Finnish and Swedish drivers. The rally has a reputation for being exceedingly challenging for non-Nordic drivers.


Citroën DS 19 driven in 1956

The history of Rally Finland dates to 1951. The Jyväskylän Suurajot, the event’s initial iteration, took place on July 1st, 1951. The Finnish Automobile Sports Federation (ASF) staged the competition, which only included six special stages. 

The rally gained popularity over the following several years and drew more attendees from all around the world. The competition was added to the European Rally Championship (ERC) schedule in 1955 and remained a constant until 1973.

The World Event Championship (WRC) originally added the rally to its schedule in 1973. The fast and smooth gravel roads of the rally immediately made it one of the most difficult and demanding rallies on the WRC schedule. 

Rally Finland has grown to be one of the most recognizable and adored rally competitions in the world. It is renowned for its quick and fluid stages as well as the fervent and enthusiastic Finnish rally fans. Over the years, several of the top rally drivers have participated in the competition.

Due to sponsorship from Neste, a Finnish oil refining and marketing corporation, the event has acquired the name Neste Rally Finland in recent years.


Colin McRae in a Focus RS WRC in 2001

Geographic Features

The smooth, wide gravel roads, multiple significant jumps (or “yumps”), and blind crests characterize Rally Finland.

With an average speed of 125.4 km/h in 2015, it was the World Rally Championship rally with the highest speed. Eight iterations of the Rally Finland are among the nine fastest WRC rallies in history, measured by average speed. As a result, it has earned the names “Gravel Grand Prix,” “Finnish Grand Prix,” and “Grand Prix of rallying.”

The rally was known as “The Rally of the Thousand Leaps” because of the large number of jumps. To survive the event, properly constructed pace notes and proper racing lines are required. Small mistakes can quickly result in catastrophic wrecks because high-speed turns are frequently bordered by trees.


François Duval jumps in 2004

Although Rally Finland has always been a challenging competition for non-Nordic participants, both drivers and fans enjoy it. Only the Monte Carlo Event and Wales Rally GB have ever attracted more participants in the rally, which annually draws hundreds of thousands of spectators. It is the only competition to have appeared in every WRC season save one, together with the Wales Rally GB.

Ouninpohja Stage

The rally’s Ouninpohja portion is its most well-known competitive segment. It is one of the most prominent special stages in the world and is well-recognized for its swift leaps and sweeping turns. Spectators estimate the length of the leaps and record the distance by the roadside at one jump that is about 6 kilometers (3.7 mi) from the starting line, next to a distinctive yellow home. 

Due to a 2004 violation of the FIA’s maximum average speed limit (130 km/h), the Ouninpohja stage was divided into two sections for the 2005 and 2006 competitions. Ouninpohja returned in 2007 with a 33 km (21 mi) version of the course, however, the organizers added three chicanes. The stage was not included on the 2008 itinerary, though.

Notable Competitors

Marcus Grönholm and Peugeot Sport celebrate 2004 win

Here are some prominent participants in Rally Finland over the years, including some of the greatest names in rallying:

  1. Tommi Mäkinen – A Finnish rally driver who competed in the WRC from 1991 until 2002. After winning the event a record four times in a row from 1996 to 1999, he is recognized as one of the best rally drivers in Rally Finland history.
  2. Marcus Grönholm – Rally driver from Finland who competed in the WRC from 2000 to 2007. He has won the Rally Finland twice in a row, in 2000 and 2001.
  3. Sébatien Loeb – A French rally driver who competed in the WRC from 1999 until 2012. between 2004 and 2006, won the competition three times in a row.
  4. Juha Kankkunen – A rally driver from Finland who participated in the WRC from 1981 through 2002. Won the competition three times in a row between 1985 and 1987. 
  5. Hannu Mikkola – A rally driver from Finland who participated in the WRC from 1973 to 1991. Won the competition three times in a row between 1973 and 1975.
  6. Jari-Matii Latvala – A rally driver from Finland who participated in the WRC from 2008 to 2021. He became one of the most renowned drivers in the history of the rally after taking home the victory twice, in 2010 and 2014.

Due to their expertise, accuracy, and dependability on the difficult hard stages of the competition, these drivers are regarded as some of the best in Rally Finland history.

Jari-Matti Latvala during the 2010 shakedown


One of the fastest and most challenging rallies in the world takes place in Central Finland’s Finnish Lakeland, and is known for its fast sections, winding, and twisting roads. Additionally, well-known racers had a big part in its history and its significance.