AUSTRALIAN Rally Champion Scott Pedder returns to Europe this week ready to face one of the biggest challenges of the year – the fearsome high-speed roads and enormous jumps of Neste Rally Finland, which starts on Thursday.
For more than four decades Rally Finland has attracted the very best of the best ready to put themselves and their vehicles to the test.
“It’s actually a dream come true. Growing up you always look at an event like Rally Finland and think ‘one day’, well this weekend I’ll finally get that chance and I can’t wait,” Pedder said.
To prepare himself for the challenge Pedder has been poring over stage videos and seeking advice from drivers who have tackled the event before, including former winner Jarri-Matti Latvala and Aussie young guns Brendan Reeves and Molly Taylor.
“I’ve been studying every in-car video I can get my hands on, but speaking to Jarri-Matti, as well as Brendan and Molly, has probably been the most helpful.
“I think the thing that has become clear is the importance of writing a great set of pace notes, because if you can’t rely on your notes then you’re going to have big problems over the jumps and blind crests.
“Lots of young drivers come to Finland for the first time and end up terrifying themselves. Even though I’ve never done the event before, and for sure it’s going to be a massive challenge, I’m confident that my years of pace-noting experience will give me a helping hand once the rally itself gets started.”
Pedder said the key piece of advice Volkswagen factory driver Latvala had given him was about positioning the car on the road in preparation for the next jump or corner ahead.
“He basically said if you don’t have the car exactly in the right position then you’ll get yourself into big trouble real quick. I think I’ll keep that in my mind every inch of every stage this weekend!,” Pedder said.
A full day test is planned for Monday, when Pedder and co-driver Dale Moscatt will fine tune the setup and handling of their Ford Fiesta R5, as well as their pace-noting system.
“That’ll be my first and last chance to practise these roads in Finland.
“It’s funny, we think in the Australian Rally Championship we have fast roads and big jumps, but I reckon I’ll do as many jumps on one stage in Finland as I’d do in two or three seasons in the ARC! So having a chance to test myself and the car before we get started is going to be pretty important.
“I was very happy with the handling of the Fiesta by the end of Rally Poland and that in itself was a great lead into Finland because the roads were so fast there too, just without the jumps. So I’ll start the test with a fair amount of confidence.”
Pedder admitted his first three events in the WRC2 category had been played out cautiously, both to help him get up to speed in an unfamiliar car and on events he had not experienced before, but also in case he got himself in trouble.
“We carried two spares in the car at all times and we had enough spare parts to try to fix anything that might go wrong. In total we probably had an extra 30 to 40 kilograms in the car. This weekend in Finland I’m going for a different approach – maximum attack!
“The WRC2 field has been ultra-competitive every round so far, but in Finland it’s going to be even more so. So we’re going to strip the car of all extra weight and really throw a bit of caution to the wind.
“If we can be setting any sort of time within the top eight of WRC2 then that would be incredible. The level of competition in WRC2 is going to be even fiercer than the outright guys this weekend.”
Round Eight of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship takes drivers to the ultra-fast and flowing gravel roads of the Finnish Lake District. Based out of the University town of Jyväskylä, the rally is flat-out from start to finish with smooth roads that invite high-speed but also require pinpoint accuracy.
The many high-flying jumps over blind crests leave little margin for error, with the unwary falling foul of the many roadside ditches or the pine forests that line the roads.
A street stage begins proceedings on Thursday night, before the event’s longest day on Friday, which includes the fearsome Ouninpohja stage run twice. Saturday and Sunday’s shorter legs will still prove a challenge before the finish line back in Jyväskylä on Sunday afternoon.
Follow Scott Pedder:
Websites: www.scottpedder.com.au and www.wrc.com
Twitter: @scottpeddercom or #scottpedder
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