Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm were victorious in this year’s Neste Rally Finland, with the rally strengthening its position as the country’s most important annual sporting event on the very first day, when over 16 000 spectators arrived to the centre of Jyväskylä to watch the Harju City Special Stage. Thursday morning’s Shakedown stage already gave us a foretaste of that, with the amount of rally fans flocking to Ruuhimäki clearly exceeding the numbers from previous years.
“Actually, all the signs for a successful rally were there in the spring already. Expectations were high on the sporting side throughout the first half of the season, when Finnish drivers began to be consistently successful in the WRC rallies, and naturally the interest of both the Finnish fans and the media began to grow. At the same time, Formula One driver Valtteri Bottas’ successful move to Mercedes gave Finnish motorsport another big boost. So, motorsport-wise, this spring and summer have been really supercharged. In addition to Jyväskylä, this could also be seen in the Finnish round of the CIK-FIA European Championship organised in Alahärmä, which as an event was a huge hit. Finnish motorsport is once again going strong at the very top of the world of motorsport”, the CEO of AKK-Motorsport and AKK Sports Ltd Tatu Lehmuskallio sums up.
Already the past winter saw the Finnish Rally Championship grow in popularity, which was a positive signal in view of Neste Rally Finland. Jari-Matti Latvala’s win in Rally Sweden, plus the success-story of Tommi Mäkinen’s Toyota team in general, have increased the interest even further. Pre-sale of Neste Rally Finland tickets indicated that it was genuinely to be expected there would be bigger crowds at this year’s rally than in the past.
“The pre-sale of tickets was significantly better than it has been in some years, and the number of spectators at the Harju special stage only strengthened this trend. According to the route team and special stage organisers, there was also more spectators out on the stages than there has been in many previous years. Our corporate packages were sold out before the start of the event. Unfortunately, we were unable to extend the VIP area due to the renovation of the Harju Stadium, and the renovation also caused some minor difficulties when moving around within the area itself. The more accurate spectator figures will be available after we get the summaries from all the different sales channels in August and September”, analyses Markus Häkkinen, the Financial and Administrative Director of AKK Sports.
“This year guests were really actively replying to rally invitations sent by the City of Jyväskylä, and it was easy to see that people were really and truly interested in the event. The general public also came out in droves – and according to the information we have received from the city’s restaurants and hotels, the number of rally-goers enjoying their services was extremely large. Overall, the feedback from people has been really positive and everything has been going smoothly. Even the result of the rally was favourable, and with the new three-year contract, I can see Neste Rally Finland having a very bright future here. A big thank you once more to everyone involved in the making of the event. This is a great place start the preparations for next year”, says Helinä Mäenpää, the City of Jyväskylä Communications Director.
Strong Growth also in Media
Information from the different media outfits in Finland confirm that motorsport has indeed grown in popularity. Neste Rally Finland was covered, reported and followed significantly more than before, regardless of the media channel. TV coverage of the event was wider than ever, with five special stages of “the Grand Prix on Gravel” – including the legendary Ouninpohja – shown live, which in turn caused a peak in the international interest too. The TV signal was distributed to over 100 countries and 35 broadcasting companies were actively covering the rally. The world-wide reach of social media during rally week was approximately 64 million. The Neste Rally Finland website collected about half a million sessions. And of the approximately 450 accredited media professionals 70% of the were foreign nationals.
“In addition to Nelonen Media’s online services ‘Ruutu’ and ‘Ruutu Urheilu’, our main TV channel ‘Nelonen’ aired daily Neste Rally Finland programmes and rally summaries, as well as five live special stages. According to market research company Finnpanel, the live rally broadcasts of the main channel ‘Nelonen’ alone reached more than 460 000 Finns at peak times”, says Kalle Takala, Sports Producer of Nelonen Media.
According to the estimates of the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle, their highly popular Rally Radio reached approximately 200 000 listeners, and the radio reached a wider-than-before audience also via internet – the growth being almost 100%. A sign of the popularity is e.g. the fact that a single Neste Rally Finland article on the Finnish language Yle Urheilu website was read over 100 000 times. Yle’s ‘Urheiluruutu’ sports news broadcasts on the Sunday reached altogether over one million viewers, who relished the weekend’s Finnish motorsport success one more time. The Formula One and motorsport-filled ‘Tulosruutu’ sports news broadcasts on the commercial TV channel MTV also reached well over one million viewers on Sunday alone (in a country with a population of less than 5.5 million).