The Finnish Rally Championship started last weekend. As always, this honor goes to the Rovaniemi region and the Arctic Lapland Rally
The Arctic Lapland Rally is the only one I’ve been writing about for the third year in a row. And he really deserves that honor. Last weekend, the Sigdals Rally in Norway competed with the Arctic. Although the Norwegian had great battles and tension in results, there were still many more interesting things to do in the Arctic.
The Arctic Lapland has taken over Toyota in recent years. In 2020, the maturity level of the Kalle Rovampera was tested with the ’17 WRC technique. Last year, Toyota tested the car and the conditions for the WRC event, which after a while had to go on almost the same roads as Sweden disappeared from the World Rally Championship calendar. Juho Hanninen successfully completed this task. I would be lying if I said Toyota disappeared from the Arctic radar this year. This time, the factory was represented by Jari-Matti Latvala, Toyota WRC team leader. It was even a little strange because due to his participation in this rally, he missed the opening event of the WRC season, which as a team leader should be attended. But as well as Dirtfish’s headline writes, Jari-Matti has been itchy for sixteen years. That pimple is called the Arctic Lapland Rally. Sixteen years have passed since Finland’s last start in this legendary rally. And really wanted to do it once more.
Usually, Jari-Matti Latvala from time to time jumps into one of the historic rallies to drive his Toyota Celica ST165. It is said that one of the conditions for Jarri-Mati to become the leader of the Toyota WRC team was that Toyota would not ban him from participating in the rally. But this time Jarri-Matti brought a slightly faster version of the Toyota Celica ST185 to Rovaniemi, which he kept in his museum. The ST185 has a higher top speed, which is especially relevant in the Arctic Lapland Rally, whose special stages have straight lines up to a kilometer. However, this is not the WRC technique that has dominated in recent years. On the other hand, one WRC participated – the Ford Fiesta RS WRC driven by Mikko Eskilenen. F1 star Valtteri Bottas with Citroen DS3 WRC had to join the show. But unfortunately, this Finn did not come north.
However, really interesting exhibits could be found among the 129 participants. At the Arctic, we found N5 equipment equipped with Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, and Toyota Yaris body kits. Those are popular in southern Europe. Two historic Porsche 911 models arrived from Germany and Spain to taste the winter exotics. Among the participants was Ken Block’s co-driver Allesander Gelsomino, who read the pacenotes to Kyle Tilley, a British living in the United States. Even the Lada VAZ 2107 ran in the Finnish taiga.
Since Jari-Matti could not resist the more modern technology, and in the end, Toyota’s engine could not withstand it, the fight for victory was similar to that which took place in the usual stages of the Finnish Championship. E.Lindholm, T.Asunmaa, M.Heikkila, J.Salo, E.Pietarinen, and a guest from Estonia E.Kaur were preparing to grab the legendary trophy. In other words, the names was serious.
Participants were served 223 kilometers of special stages in two days. Along with liaisons, the rally route stretched for an impressive 800 kilometers. Just ten special stages, three of which are extremely short. However, the remaining seven are of such length that they are not for faint-hearted. The shortest of the longest is 24 kilometers, and on Saturday crews tried to wake up in the 45-kilometer stretch of Ahmavaara.
Friday was enough for some of the participants to sit down and find out who will fight for the victory. J.Salo and E.Pietarinen had serious problems, they were well outside the top ten after the first day. E. Lindholm was the fastest while T.Asunmaa tried to catch him. M.Heikkila, who didn’t find himself in Rovaniemi winter roads, and E.Kaur who had problems with the engine, fought for the last position on the podium.
The fighting continued on Saturday. E.Lindholm tried to escape, but Teemu Asunmaa drove flat-out and before the last stage those two Finns were divided only by 0,1 seconds. Everything was decided in the last 31 km special stage. After successfully reaching the finish line, E. Lindholm was waiting for Teemu, but this one did not appear for a long time. The mistake in the special stage cost Finn over 10 minutes and he fell from the front of the lineup to 16th place, and E. Lindholm celebrated the victory in the north. The last time he won here was in 2019. Due to Teemu’s failure and Estonian speed – Egon Kaur finished second. Behind was Heikkila. R.Korhoonen with a fresh Rally3 technique won an impressive 8th place in the overall standings. Other Ford Fiesta Rally3 models stood close to him, which shows that the potential of these cars has increased quite a bit by increasing the restrictor by one millimeter. These cars overtook a bunch of Rally2 machinery. Among the two-wheel-drive cars, the fastest was T. Herranen with a Ford Fiesta Rally4. He remained 24th overall.
This year, the Finns will have two more winter events. One in February and the other in March. It’s likely that the fight for the various standings will be really fun.
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