The demanding Rally of Finland dishes up flat-out jumps, sixth-gear corners and blind crests, but few will bet against Marcus Gronholm winning his fourth home event on the trot this weekend.

The demanding Rally of Finland dishes up flat-out jumps, sixth-gear corners and blind crests, but few will bet against Marcus Gronholm winning his fourth home event on the trot this weekend.


The ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship kicks off in the forests around Jyvaskyla this weekend. Rally experts say the event's high-speed layout requires superhuman levels of bravery and pace notes have to be spot on, as even the smallest mistake can result in a massive collision with the scenery.


WRC cars regularly exceed 200 km/h on the Rally of Finland's undulating wide, smooth gravel roads. Last year, the average speed of the winning car was 120 km/h, making it the fastest rally in the championship, reported.


Peugeot team-mates Gronholm, Richard Burns and Harri Rovanpera will be closely matched on this event. The defending world rally champion is aiming for his fourth consecutive Rally of Finland victory, but Burns might claim the spoils this weekend if the Finn's luck finally runs out.


After setting the pace on the asphalt course of the Rally of Germany, Citroën could struggle on Finland's gravel. Team boss Guy Frequelin this week said he wanted to see three of his cars finish in the top five, with at least one of his drivers on the podium.


Sébastien Loeb doesn't rate his own chances too highly. Therefore, Colin McRae could best team-mates Loeb and Carlos Sainz - both of whom have won rallies so far this season.


Ford Rallye Sport are confident that Estonian Markko Martin can win this weekend. But to do that the new Focus needs to be on the pace from the very first stage to the last. If the team has solved earlier reliability issues, Martin will be a frontrunner.


Martin's team-mate, Francois Duval, will be under strict orders to finish the rally, so keep an eye on the team's Finnish youngsters Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala.


Subaru's Petter Solberg was the fastest of the non-Peugeot drivers last year and both the Norwegian and team-mate Makinen are hoping for a top three finish in Finland. The 2003-spec Impreza has had a few tweaks since its last time out on gravel - when Solberg won in Cyprus, but the team might need others to run in to trouble first to do that.