‘Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally’ Awarded to Local Hero Rantanen
Privately entered young Finn claims 7th place against all odds

Jyväskylä, Finland. 3rd August 2008: The ‘Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally’ award was today presented to local star Matti Rantanen, a privately entered competitor who’s defied the odds to achieve 7th place in Rally Finland – a remarkable feat for one of the World Rally Championship’s fastest and most specialised rallies.

The ‘Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally’ award recognises parties demonstrating the same values that the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, stands for; respect, innovation, integrity and teamwork. It also acknowledges a positive contribution to the WRC by any of the myriad of parties involved in the sport.

And Rantanen has proven a worthy winner. With its lightning quick stages, ‘The Gravel Grand Prix’ poses problems for even the most experienced WRC drivers. Indeed, just making it to the end of the 340.42km, loose gravel event - let alone securing a top ten finish - is regarded as a significant achievement.

“It was a real surprise to win this award and it really makes this whole weekend that little bit more special. It was a good rally and we had some good stage times, which was what we were looking for. I am very happy today,” said Rantanen – who was competing for the first time ever in a WRC event.

With Rally Finland an official round in both the Production (PWRC) and Junior (JWRC) series, the entrant numbers for the Jyvaskyla-based event are higher than normal with a throng of private drivers showing off their skills in the sport’s ‘spiritual home’.

Beyond the usual manufacturer team entries - among which there are no surprises - some of the fastest young Scandinavians have illustrated the region’s rich rally pedigree as they’ve battled the super-fast Finnish stages, with Rantanen coming out on top.

“The Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally award was created to reward exceptional talent and the performance of Rantanen this weekend was just that. The efforts needed to simply contest a rally as a private entry are immense, but to then capitalise on a place and record such a strong finishing position - in what is one of the most challenging rallies in the series - is a tremendous achievement,” said Ali Al Hosani, Director of Promotions, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority – the outfit that signed a landmark partnership with two times manufacturers’ series winners, BP-Ford.

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