After a six week break, the Neste Oill Rally Finland heralds the return of the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship.
Victory in Finland, the sport's spiritual home, is one of rallying's most sought after achievements and the 'home' drivers have a distinct advantage on one of the most specialised events of the season.
Only six non-Finns have won the rally in 57 years, and huge crowds flock into the countryside amid the lakes and forests near the host town of Jyvaskyla to cheer on their fellow countrymen.
It is based on blisteringly fast roller-coaster gravel speed tests and drivers who grew up on this type of road have a clear advantage over 'outsiders' who require several years' experience before they can hope to challenge for a win. Rally Finland boasts five of the six fastest rallies in history, the 2005 round topping the all-time list at a remarkable average speed of 122.86kph.
The wide, hard roads are as smooth as a billiard table but technically it is an incredibly difficult rally. Precision driving and bravery are more important here than anywhere else. The awesome stomach-churning jumps frequently hide bends over the crest, so accuracy and delivery of pace notes must be exact and picking the right line before 'take-off' ensures maximum pace through the following curves.
Along with the Swedish Rally, Finland is one of the fastest of the year - a real gutsy challenge where the brave will top the timesheets.
Based from the town of Jyvaskyla, one of Finland's cultural hubs, the rally route winds through spruce forests archetypal of the region and skirts some of Finland's 60,000 mirror-smooth glacial lakes.
Serene as it sounds, the landscape is unforgiving and wayward cars stand little chance of dodging rocks and trees to rejoin the rally.
In contrast to the rough, rocky and inconsistent nature of both the Acropolis and Turkish rallies - the last two events - the smooth, fast and flowing characteristics of the '1000 Lakes' make it a maximum commitment and confidence rally.
Rather than an overriding onus on endurance and reliability as in recent rallies, Finland marks a return to flat-out no-compromise competition right from the start.