This year, Neste Rally Finland was driven at the end of July and the manuscript for the event could not have been any more exciting. Also, it was the best result for Finnish drivers in quite some years, and it all culminated in the prize-giving ceremony at the Jyväskylä Paviljonki, with the blue-and-white sea of fans cheering for the victory of Esapekka Lappi and the 3rd place of Juho Hänninen. With both the increased spectator and media attendance as well as the positive visitor feedback, Neste Rally Finland has strengthened its status as the most significant annual sports event in Finland. Therefore, it is easy to see the so called Grand Prix on Gravel as a perfect illustration of the new revival of Finnish motorsport.
At this year's event, the number of spectator experiences was approximately 265 000, which means as much as 13% of growth from last year. The Jyväskylä Paviljonki Rally HQ and service park also catered for more rally-goers than in 2016, a total of 61 000 visitors during four days. The biggest spectator magnet, with its 35 000 spectators, was once again the Harju city special stage driven in the heart of Jyväskylä. According to the spectator survey conducted by JAMK, the Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences, another hit with the crowds was the world-famous Ouninpohja stage that has also become a favourite amongst rally-goers. Under one day, the special stage attracted approximately 20 000 rally fans to the section driven around the Jämsä area.
According to the spectator survey, this year too, the overwhelmingly biggest motivation and satisfaction factor was the atmosphere. This was also reflected in the competitor, team and media surveys conducted by the governing body of world motorsport, the FIA. In addition to atmosphere, the first-rate safety aspects, high-quality organisation and strong traditions of the event were also prominent factors in both the JAMK and FIA surveys.
Proportion of female spectators on the up, international coverage wider than ever before
According to the spectator survey material, Rally Finland is seen as a sports festival for the whole nation that brings together families, groups of friends, sports fans and corporate guests. Each year, the proportion of international spectators is approximately 8 - 12%. Compared to last year, the proportion of women and first-time rally-goers has increased - of all the spectators, about 33% are now female. Of the more than 1 400 rally guests who answered the survey, as many as 95.2% would recommend the event to their family and friends and 88.2% are planning to attend again next year.
Indications of the ever-growing popularity of Neste Rally Finland can also be seen in the reports from different media outlets. 448 accredited journalists attended the event, which is 12.5% more than last year. TV coverage was more wide-spread that ever before, as five special stages - including the iconic Ouninpohja - were broadcast of the event. This also caused a peak in the international interest. TV signal from Neste Rally Finland was distributed to over 100 countries and 35 TV companies were actively following the rally.
During rally week, the social media reach surged to approximately 97 million, and in July the rally was followed on the Neste Rally Finland and WRC websites with a total of 2.5 million visits. The number of people following the Finnish broadcaster YLE's Rally Radio on the internet increased by nearly 100%. Social media reports especially, show the interest of young adults in the event - and the same observation is supported by the research published by Sponsor Insight in the beginning of summer. According to the research, Neste Rally Finland is the most followed sports event among men in the age group of 18 - 29 years and in the fourth place among women in the same age group.
"This year's positive feedback and our growing key figures, indicate that we are on the right development path. I would like to extend my warmest thanks to all those people who have worked with us and made this possible: the over 4 500 rally-makers and more than 100 clubs, our committed partners - and of course our fantastic spectators, for whom we do all this. This year gives us motivation to do even better next summer, and I hope we will be able to provide everyone with even more enjoyable experiences on the gravel roads of Central Finland again at the end of July 2018", says Neste Rally Finland Promoter Jani Backman.
"Neste Rally Finland - the WRC's 'Gravel Grand Prix' - has long been the benchmark for sporting and commercial activation and implementation, as well as spectator experience in the WRC. The 2017 edition continued this trend with an impressive increase in spectator and media attendance. It is for these reasons and more that we have a long-term commitment between AKK and WRC Promoter for Neste Rally Finland to be a key event in the WRC", Oliver Ciesla, Managing Director of the WRC sums up.
Results of the Neste Rally Finland 2017 economic impact study will be published in November. The next years's rally route will be published at the end of February - beginning of March 2018.