The all-new snow and ice event will be based in Rovaniemi on 26 – 28 February and replaces the cancelled Rally Sweden as the WRC’s only pure winter encounter. It forms round two of the 12-event fixture list.
The announcement means the Nordic country will host two WRC rounds this year. Rally Finland, held on iconic rollercoaster gravel roads around Jyväskylä, will take place on 29 July – 1 August.
Rovaniemi, the capital of Finland’s northernmost Lapland province, lies just outside the Arctic Circle. The competition will take place inside the region, where temperatures can plunge below -30°C in February.
The city is famously known as the home of Santa Claus (or Joulupukki as he is called in Finland) and also attracts high tourist numbers to view the stunning Aurora Borealis displays – better known as the Northern Lights.
The rally starts on Friday 26 February with a morning shakedown, ahead of the opening special stages that evening. Saturday features three tests driven twice ahead of Sunday’s final leg, which closes with the Wolf Power Stage. The 10 stages cover 260km.
The rally will run under strict national, local and FIA Covid-19 procedures and organisers will follow all protocols on whether fans will be allowed.
WRC Promoter managing director Jona Siebel was impressed by promoter AKK Sports’ determination to organise the rally at short notice.
“Since it was confirmed in December that Rally Sweden would not take place, we’ve been working hard with AKK Sports, the city of Rovaniemi and the enthusiasts there to try to make this event happen. It’s been a tough race against time and my thanks go to all involved,” he said.
“Although the rally starts in just 44 days, we know AKK will leave no stone unturned to ensure it reaches the same high standards as the traditional summertime Rally Finland.
“Winter rallies provide some of the sport’s most spectacular action. A winter wonderland of full snow and big snow banks lining the roads are a driver’s dream, so I think the WRC is in for a great time!”
AKK Sports CEO Riku Bitter is delighted at how quickly Rovaniemi embraced the idea of a WRC round at such short notice.
“We set out to look into the matter and explore our possibilities. Of the various different options, Rovaniemi, with its solid culture in organising winter rallies, good reputation as an international event city and large number of enthusiastic and experienced rally-makers stood out,” he said.
FIA rally director Yves Matton said: “With Arctic Rally Finland joining the WRC calendar, we will experience a rally in a region that has always made us dream and where conditions promise to be optimal for a snow event.
“Following the unfortunate cancellation of Rally Sweden in December, this is proof that with challenges can come opportunities.
“I would like to thank AKK and the organising team for their commitment, professionalism and determination, which enables them to make a second round in Finland a reality within a short time window. We will give all our help and support to ensure a great success for this new round.”
The revised calendar is subject to FIA approval.