In the last meeting before the summer recess, the Abu Dhabi Total WRT team will have three cars competing in Rally Finland.
Just as in Sweden, the three crews will be Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle, Craig Breen/Scott Martin and Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson. All of them are impatient to return to the ultra-fast course and turbo-charged atmosphere of this iconic World Championship fixture.
Still known worldwide as the Rally of the Thousand Lakes, Rally Finland is one of the most famous WRC rallies. The legend was born in the Group B era, when the cars would be launched into the air by the course's famous jumps, spitting huge flames out of their exhausts in the process. Thirty years later, the magic is still there, and hundreds of thousands of spectators still line the routes to cheer on the world's best drivers.
With an average speed of 120 km/h, the Rally Finland course requires the utmost precision. Most of the bends and jumps have to be taken blind and there is no room for error in note-taking. Even after completing a flawless special stage, the gaps between drivers remain minute, making the race a three-day battle of nerve.
Having emerged victorious at Rally Portugal, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle will no doubt come under close scrutiny. Absent in Sardinia and Poland, the duo will have measured ambitions on their comeback. Once again, their aim will be to build up their experience and hone their turn of speed with the 2017 season in their sights. In eight appearances at Rally Finland, Kris's best result was a third place in 2014.
"Finland is a unique moment in the WRC season," Meeke says. "I have excellent memories here, such as my first race with Citroën Racing in 2013 and my podium finish the year after. Every year, I take pleasure, above all, in driving on the most amazing routes in the world. I'm not competing in every race this season, but I was determined that Finland should be part of my programme.
"It's a rally that often comes down to just a few tenths of a second and it will provide a good opportunity for me to work on my turn of speed. I won in Portugal, but I don't have any particular goals. I'll be doing my best to learn, understand and enjoy myself at the wheel.
"The weather forecast is for rain every day in Jyväskylä, which will no doubt have an influence on performances depending on the starting orders. But once again, it doesn't really matter to me, as I don't have any special aims this season. I think it's going to be a big challenge from reconnaissance on. There are a lot of new special stages, including Ouninpohja, which we are going to be taking on in the opposite direction from usual. We'll have to forget our usual markers and approach that sector as if it were totally new."
Having finished eighth in Sweden and seventh in Poland, Craig Breen and Scott Martin will continue their programme with Abu Dhabi Total WRT. This time, they can draw on their recent experience of a relatively similar rally. With six appearances in Finland under his belt already, Craig will also be able to count on his knowledge of the course.
Like Kris Meeke, Khalid Al Qassimi is returning to action for the first time since Portugal. In partnership with Chris Patterson, the Abu Dhabi driver has also competed in Finland six times, with his best result a ninth-place finish in 2009.