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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bumper entry for Neste Oil Rally Finland

Bumper entry for Neste Oil Rally Finland - Image 1

A season record 124 crews are on the seeded entry list for the Neste Oil Rally Finland, round nine of the 2009 FIA World Rally Championship, which gets underway on Thursday 30 July.

The number of cars comfortably exceeds the 75 which took the start of Rally Portugal - the second most popular event of the season so far.

Rally Finland's bumper entry includes 18 World Rally cars, the complete Junior World Championship field, the five Pirelli Star drivers and nine Fiesta Sporting Trophy international entrants. Drivers representing 25 different nationalities are taking part.

In the WRC competition all four manufacturer teams have registered. Topping the seeded entry list is Finn Mikko Hirvonen of the BP Ford Abu Dhabi Team. He and his compatriot Jari-Matti Latvala are the team's two point's nominated drivers, while Khalid Al Qassimi will drive a third Ford Focus RS WRC for the squad.

The manufacturers' championship leading Citroen Total team will run C4 World Rally Cars for its two drivers Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo, while the French firm’s Junior team will run three more - two for nominated points scorers Sebastien Ogier and Evgeny Novikov and a third for Conrad Rautenbach.

The Ford powered Stobart VK M-Sport squad will run Focus RS WRCs for regular drivers Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg.

Two Finnish drivers have been drafted into the Munchi's Ford Team for the rally. Full time driver Federico Villagra and one of the stars of last year's event, Matti Rantanen, are points nominated, while Mattias Therman will drive a third car.

Norwegians Petter Solberg (Citroen Xsara) and Mads Ostberg (Subaru Impreza WRC) are the two highest seeded privateer drivers. Meanwhile a handful of local drivers are also contesting the WRC class in privately entered cars and could well surprise a few of the full time WRC stars. Watch out for Jari Ketomaa (Subaru Impreza) Jukka Ketomaki (Skoda Octavia) and Jouni Arolainen (Ford Focus).

Rally Finland counts as the seventh, and penultimate, round of the Junior World Rally Championship and is one of only two rounds this year (like Italy) to have attracted entries from all of the registered drivers. Ten drivers are chasing J-WRC points in Finland, including a "Wild Card" entry for Finn Kalle Pinomaki. There are also nine Ford Fiesta Sport Trophy International contestants and five FIA Pirelli Star Drivers, headed by local favourite Jarkko Nikara

The highest profile guest driver in Finland is Ferrari Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen who will make his make his debut at World Championship level.

Like on his earlier rally outings the Finn will be driving an Abarth Grande Punto Super 2000 and will be co-driven by Kaj Lindstrom. Further spice to the production category will be come from Anton Alen (son of Finnish WRC legend Markku) in another Abarth Super 2000 and last year's P-WRC class winner Juho Hanninen in a Skoda Fabia S2000.

Estonian Urmo Aava will make his WRC return after his last outing on Rally Norway in February. In Finland he will drive a privately entered two-wheel drive Honda Civic Type-R R3.

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