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Towards the New Era

Big change in the organising of the event occured in 1997, as AKK Sports Ltd., the marketing company of the Finnish ASN, took responsibility of organising the event.

This entailed the changing of its name into Neste Rally Finland. The company set out to develop Neste Rally Finland into a clearly defined brand. It was essential to make the public understand that a fundamental change had taken place.

The new organisation put effort to the safety and promotional aspects, and raised the standard of the event. This was also noted by the customers. Year 1997 the event won the Award of Excellence: Outstanding Safety Effort, which is an award voted by the FIA registered teams.

Year 1998 Neste Rally Finland was voted as the Rally of the Year again by the teams. Year 1999 the event received acknowledgement for the promotional efforts with the Award of Excellence: Promotion, mainly for the top of the class corporate hospitality VIP Village at Hippos Super Special Stage.

The event was the Rally of the Year again in 2003 and 2004. According to the teams´ opinion Neste Rally Finland took the sporting, commercial and organisational aspects of World Championship rallying to a new level. The teams also considered that the Finnish organisers had a thorough and complete understanding of what spectators and competitors wanted in a modern rally.

In 2003 Markko Martin scored a famous victory in the Focus to delight the vast crowd of Estonians who had crossed the Baltic to cheer their hero. And there were no Finns in the top five! But Marcus Grönholm was back in charge in 2004 to give Peugeot a much needed victory for the 307. The two-time world champion took the lead in stage six on the first day of the rally and went on to win his home event for the fourth time.

In 2006 the event name changed into Neste Oil Rally Finland. The modern Finnish WRC round still is worth its legend, the Grand Prix on Gravel. It has proven to be one of the best rallies in all aspects - not just because of lakes and jumping.