On Rally Finland's legendary Ouninpojha stage
Rallying is so heavily ingrained in Finnish culture, people think absolutely nothing of seeing a rally car fly past their living room window, several feet off the ground. A truck, though? Now that’s a different matter.
Sponsor Red Bull brought together the Kamaz 4326 that has dominated the Dakar Rally’s truck category for the last 20 years, and the Volkswagen Polo R WRC, the single most successful car in World Rally Championship history, on Rally Finland’s legendary Ouninpojha stage.
2015 Dakar Rally winner Ayrat Mardeev is at the wheel of truck, chasing down three-time Rally Finland winner Jari-Matti Latvala. Ouninpojha is monstrously fast and packed with massive jumps. It's not the sort of road you would expect a 10-ton truck to be able to handle at all, but the big Kamaz takes it all in its considerable stride. Even for the hardened locals, it must have been an awesome spectacle.
"When you accelerate in the car, the power goes down so quickly that it takes some time for the truck to catch up. But the funny thing is that under braking, when the truck is coming a bit closer, you really feel like you want to run away. You don't want it to touch you,” Latvala said.
No kidding! The truck’s ground clearance is so huge, the chassis is probably above Latvala’s head when he’s sitting in the Polo. Don’t go thinking the truck is slow, though - its 16.5-litre engine generates 1,000 horsepower. Though the flyweight 320 hp Volkswagen can punch out of corners quicker, on a straight run the truck would soon catch up as the WRC ran out of gears.
Mardeev noted: “This really is a huge, massive machine and when you sit behind the wheel of such a powerful truck, it’s an incomparable feeling. You feel the full power of the truck as soon as you start the engine, while all the vibration is transferred to your hands and your body.”
The event has piqued Latvala’s interest in contesting the Dakar, which has long been a good hunting ground for World Rally winners. Former champions Ari Vatanen, Juha Kankkunen and Carlos Sainz have won it, while nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb and four-time vice-champion Mikko Hirvonen made their debuts this year.
But Latvala is more interested in the trucks. “I have to say that now I’m excited: maybe after my rally career I should go on the Dakar and drive a truck. I know that Loeb and the other have been driving the Dakar car, but I’m more excited about the trucks now.”
It would be interesting to see if he follows through.