Suzuki's Michal Kosciuszko could seize the lead in the battle for the Junior World Rally Championship crown on the Rally Finland this coming weekend, providing he wins and takes the maximum ten points.

Kosciuszko, who took his maiden win in the J-WRC in Sardinia back in May, the last event in the Junior championship, currently trails Sebastien Ogier by 8 points.

However with Ogier not nominating the '1000 Lakes' as one of his six points scoring events [see separate story], the Pole now needs to capitalise, as he will be in the same position later next month, when he 'skips' the Rallye Deutschland.

"I like Rally Finland a lot and I'm feeling confident at the moment after winning the last Junior round in Sardinia. I was third in Finland last year, so I believe that we are well-prepared," said Kosciuszko.

"We're in a good position with the championship now, so the most important thing is to have a consistent rally and then make sure we are there at the finish; hopefully with some useful points on the board."

Kosciuszko isn't the only person however that could knock Ogier off his perch, as Shaun Gallagher is also only 8 points behind following a sixth place in Mexico, a second in Jordan and a fourth in Sardinia.

"I've got good memories from my participation on this event last year, and I'm feeling quite confident heading into the final gravel rally of the year. After the good results we obtained at the start of the year, I hope to continue on the same track and I hope to finish in the top three by the end of the rally," said the Irishman, who was eleventh in Finland in '07 in a C2-R2.

"I'm also looking forward to the rallies that are still to come, because I probably feel a little more confident on asphalt. Nonetheless, I believe that Sebastien Ogier will be a formidable opponent on asphalt as well. In any case, I'm going to do everything I can in order to hang onto my position in the Junior World Rally Championship."

Other contenders for the class honours include last year's Finland J-WRC winner Patrik Sandell in his Renault Clio S1600, plus the likes of Jaan Molder, Aaron Burkart, Alessandro Bettega and Martin Prokop.

Prokop will be especially determined to do well, after leading comfortably last year until an off on day 2 in SS14. He was also battling for the class honours in Sardinia too, until disaster struck when a fuel pressure problem forced him to stop mid-stage in the penultimate test and he lost 29 minutes.

The Czech is looking ahead though, not back: "I love the Rally Finland. Even though this is my fourth participation, I start just as motivated - if not more so - than ever. After some disappointing results at the start of the year, Finland will be a new challenge for us," he continued.

"Before this event I was invited to compete on the Voru Rally in Estonia by Urmo Aava and his co-driver Kuldar Sikk. I think it was good preparation, as the conditions were quite similar to Finland. I cannot afford to make any mistakes at this point in the season, so I'm hoping for a new start here and some slightly better luck in the future too."

Burkart and Molder are also hopeful that they can score some 'big' points: "I feel quite confident for Rally Finland, as the roads are not so different to the ones I have rallies on at home in Estonia," said Molder. "I've done the event twice, with a best result of fifth in 2006, so I'm hopeful that we can improve on that this year. The car feels very good on these roads as the engine is very strong, so I think that we can have a good rally if we don't make any mistakes."

"This is a really special event where you need to concentrate on pace notes even more than on the other rallies. Above all, the important thing is not to go off," added Burkart. "All the blind corners and jumps are not going to help, so it's mostly a question of being careful. In order to prepare for this event, I've competed on two national rallies in Finland.

"I think I've found a good set-up for the rally now, which should the particular characteristics of the stages. I contested Rally Finland last year, but I wasn't happy with the result. So I hope to end up higher in the classification this time, and I would like to set some decent stage times as well. At this point in the season, it's vital to score some championship points."

In total 17 runners will be able to score Junior WRC on the '1000 Lakes', including Kalle Pinomaki, who is entered on his home event as 'wild card' in a Suzuki Swift Super 1600.


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