Jyväskylä has hosted World Championship rallies since 1951. Now known as Neste Oil Rally Finland, the event draws thousands of visitors, many drivers, and large groups of personnel involved in the race.
Cars are, of course, the centre of attention in any rally, but helicopters crisscrossing the sky add to the excitement of the occasion, too.
Some thirty different helicopters arrive to Jyväskylä for the weekend, a few even all the way from Estonia and Sweden.
Choppers cover many roles
'Helicopters are used for various safety tasks, for example. A helicopter carrying a medical team follows the cars throughout the rally and can land along the route if needed', explains Ari Tolonen, the leader of one of the helicopter teams.
'Choppers can also be used for monitoring the traffic, and both TV viewers and the public on the site will see material filmed from them'.
Helicopters also transport race-goers to various spots along the rally route.
'Choppers take visitors to VIP areas and other landing sites during the race. As you can see, we use them in many ways', Tolonen continues.
Safety comes first
With dozens of helicopters buzzing in the same area, safety issues must always be kept in mind.
In the earlier years, helicopters used to be flown simply by the solid professional expertise of the pilots, but as the number of flights increased a few years ago, safety became more and more important.
'We put together specific helicopter teams for the event and generally started to coordinate the flights more precisely', Ari Tolonen says.
'The basis for this development was a joint decision by the event organiser, AKK-Motorsport, and Finavia to improve safety'.
Ari Tolonen has a wealth of experience in flying and choppers, but in his day job he is the Managing Director of Labkotec Oy, based in Pirkkala, Finland.
Finavia plays an important role in helicopter traffic too
'Finavia is in charge of all operations related to the air traffic control area, whereas the rally organisers cooperate with Finavia', Ari Tolonen clarifies.
'Some of the time the helicopters fly at and near the airport, under Finavia's control, and at other times here in the rally area, under our control. This works, thanks to seamless cooperation and principles that have been agreed upon jointly'.
Reach Neste Oil Rally Finland easily by air. Finnair flies to Jyväskylä from Helsinki twice a day. Look for timetables.