Team MRF to field Lindholm, Gronholm in snow-laden Artic Lapland Rally
The Indian manufacturer will two cars in the snow-laden rally.
Team MRF Tyres gets its 2021 rally season underway with the Arctic Lapland Rally, the first round of the Finnish Rally Championship to be held in Rovaniemi on 15-16 January.
Emil Lindholm and Mikael Korhonen will compete in their Skoda Fabia Rally 2 Evo for Team MRF Tyres. Meanwhile, World Rallycross ace and son of two-times WRC Champion Niclas Grönholm will compete on MRF Tyres with Antti Linnaketo in a privately run Volkswagen Polo GTi R5.
Rallying in Finland at this time of year means two things – snow and ice. MRF Tyres competed in the Itäralli in 2020 with Craig Breen and Paul Nagle, taking a podium position on the Indian manufacturer’s first rally on studded tyres.
One year on, the team is back having made further developments to the tyres. It is the first of two outings in Finland for Lindholm/Korhonen with the duo due to run at the SM O.K. Auto-Ralli at the start of February.
Having fought to the very end in the 2020 Finnish Rally Championship, Lindholm has confidence heading into the rally and suggests the MRF Tyres will be on the pace despite this rally being just the second ice rally for the manufacturer.
For Grönholm, his family connection to MRF Finland and the opportunity to run in the Arctic Rally prior to his rallycross season is too much to resist. He has competed on the rally twice before and is looking forward to rallying on ice and snow once again.
The Arctic Rally consists of a slightly shortened route this year with Covid-19 regulations prohibiting crowds and as a result the super-special stages are cancelled. More than 120 crews will face seven stages and 217km of competitive action. The Friday stages get underway with the 23.55km Aittajärvi test. Kaihuavaara at 27.93 km follows before the final stage of Jyrhämäjärvi will test the concentration of the crews at 33.38 km.
Saturday’s stages will see the crews tackle four stages. A monster 42.64km Siikakämä / Hanaa will test the crews early in the morning before Heinunkierto at 24.95 km, Sarriojärvi at 32.48 km and the final stage of Ristilampi / Pohjanhovi at 31.51 km.
The stages are long, and the average speed is very high. The conditions during recce saw a good covering of ice on the stages but the snowbanks were small in some areas, meaning that drivers will have to be careful not to make any errors.
The journey into Finland will prove to be a challenging start for the 2021 rallying season for Team MRF Tyres. Further details on the European rallying plans will be announced in due course.
Emil Lindholm, Driver, Team MRF Tyres, Skoda Fabia Rally 2 Evo , said: "We are looking forward to rallying on snow and ice with Team MRF Tyres. Last year they had success with this tyre with Craig Breen and I am looking forward to trying it out on this rally.
“The Arctic Rally is a nice mix between fast, flatout sections and twisty sections. There are quite a few long straights which brings the pace up. The stages are in quite good condition with completely frozen ice. There is not a lot of snow, but the most important part is the surface, so it will be really good.
"The MRF ice tyre is very good and it is impressive given how new the company is to rallying on ice. This field in Finland is very strong and there is no better place to test your tyre and gain more data than on these winter roads.”
Niclas Grönholm, Driver, Volkswagen Polo GTi R5 , said: "I am looking forward to getting back in a rally car and at the moment we are planning on doing just the Arctic Rally with MRF Tyres. We will be able to work with the engineers at MRF Tyres for this round and while Emil and I are in different teams, for the tyres we will work together. My dad (WRC Champion, Marcus Grönholm) is involved in MRF Finland, so it makes sense to test and develop the tyres. The level of competition is quite high this year. Let’s see what happens in this rally, I don’t know to expect but we hope for a good result.”
[Image courtesy: MRF Racing]