Mercedes F1 driver Valtteri Bottas will make his rally debut when he contests the Arctic Lapland Rally (aka Tunturiralli) from 24-26 January in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta World Rally Car with veteran co-driver Timo Rautiainen.
His appearance billed as: Flying Finn – Mission in Lapland is a marketing initiative arranged by AKK-Motorsport to promote Finnish race drivers and motorsport projects.
Interestingly Mercedes have released Bottas to drive a Ford, a practice that is rare in the brand-aware sport these days. He will drive “a blue-and-white car, with the AKK Flying Finn insignia. The car livery will be revealed at a later date.”
The undertaking also has an obvious risk factor as Robert Kubica once proved when he did a spot of off-season rallying a decade ago. In 2017 Pascal Wehrlein compromised the start of his season when his extramural driving at the ROC in Miami went wrong.
Bottas said of his forthcoming adventure, “This is a unique chance to take a peek into the world of rallying, and I would like to thank everyone who has made it possible.”
“It’s a totally new territory for me too, as I have no prior experience of a World Rally Car. Still, being the race car driver that I am, you always go flat out whatever the vehicle you’re driving in.”
The navigator’s seat beside him will be occupied by highly experience Rautiainen, a two-times WRC world champion with Marcus Gronholm in 2000 and 2002.
Rautiainen said of the opportunity, “In my life, I’ve sat in a rally car with only three drivers, but this is such an interesting mission that I just had to accept the challenge. I believe that for a talented wheelman like Valtteri, we’ll be able to establish a good basic driving routine in testing.”
“The challenging part, of course, will be learning the ins and outs of pace note making and learning to drive with pace notes all at once,” explained Rautiainen.
The rally has been organized continuously since 1966 and is currently part of the Finnish Rally Championship. In previous years it was part of the European Rally Championship until 2004 and the FIA Cup for Rally Drivers in 1977 and 1978.
My first ever rally will be the Arctic Lapland Rally in January with @MSportLtd 🚙