Jyvaskyla, Finland: The one stage that many in the over 500,000-strong band of spectators who converge on Jyvaskyla for Rally Finland is the Ouninpohja stage - labelled the "Mother of all special stages" by the rally world.

"Yes that is very true and this is a stage which not only provides the most thrills but a driver needs a big heart as he flies at one particular point which comes about six kms into the 33-km 14th and 16th stages," says Englishman Wilf Crozier, have seem much of rally action in his involvement with the sport for over 20 years.

The official handbook warns of the challenging nature of the Ouninpohja stage and the organisers were forced to split it into two separate sections to ensure that the average speed remained below the regulation maximum over the last two years.

Roller-coaster ride

But this year it was back to its old challenging best and the one record that beckoned all was that of Markko Martin. Martin holds the record for the jump with a flight of 57 metres. Apart from this jump, the entire stage of 33kms is a roller-coaster ride with innumerable bends, crest and jumps.

Six-time champion and current leader Marcos Gronholm admitted yesterday's Ouninpohja stage was challenging. "Ouninpohja was slippery at the start and I was wide everywhere but I gained my time in the second half," said the local champion.

Chasing the leader, another Finn Mikko Hirvonen also said he had some narrow escapes in this stage. "I pushed too hard and it was scary at times. It is not the most enjoyable test because to be fast a driver has to take risks.

"At one point we came off the crest after a left bend and the rear of the car dropped into a ditch.

"We escaped but there were so many spectators there that if we had gone off, the only thing we could have done was to climb out, stand on the road and take a bow!"

The UAE's Shaikh Khalid Al Qasimi also managed to negotiate the Ouninpohja stage (14th) and promised more pace in the same 16th stage.

"The corners come so fast and I was worried about the jumps in Ouninpohja but they were okay. I think I can step up my pace next time trough," said the UAE ace.