Former Subaru World Rally Team driver Chris Atkinson expects the drivers to take a tactical approach to the opening loop of Rally Finland stages.
Finland is not normally an event where tactics play such an important role, but Atkinson said the new roads on Friday will clean more than the stages used in previous years.
Atkinson, the current FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship leader with Proton, has completed the recce for Rally Finland, an event where he finished on the podium in 2008.
“The stages around Lahti are quite different to the ones we’ve seen in Finland recently,” he said. “There’s a harder base down there and there is a lot of gravel on the surface, which will certainly clean. There’s going to be some tactics played tomorrow afternoon; ideally you’d be looking to run around fifth on the road or something like that.”
World championship leader Sebastien Loeb is the driver unable to do anything about the tactics, but Atkinson said the opening loop will favour him.
“The stages like Lankamaa and Laukaa which come first tomorrow are quite soft, so they will probably dig out a little bit, it’s better to be further up on those roads,” he said.
The Australian added that Saturday’s stages, closer to Jyvaskyla, were similarly soft, negating the need for tactics on Friday night.
There could be more good news for Loeb, with heavy rain showers forecast for tomorrow’s opening day. Rain is traditionally better news for the drivers at the front of the field in Finland.
Not competing in the event himself, Atkinson tipped last year’s winner Jari-Matti Latvala for back-to-back wins.
“I think he’s competed on the roads down around Lahti,” he said, “and they will suit him. I think he’s going to be the boy to watch this time.”
Rally Finland starts from Jyvaskyla on Thursday afternoon and finishes on Saturday evening.