Flying Finn Future Star
Finland is a country famous for its successful rally drivers. It’s been like that for a long time, still is and hopefully will be well into the future. AKK Sports Oy, organizer of Neste Rally Finland, began a project in 2014 to find promising new drivers with the intention to speed up their progress towards an international career and world level status.
The carrot dangled by the project called Flying Finn Future Star is free entry to Neste Rally Finland. The chosen driver gets a chance to show his stuff in the spotlight, as he is handed a deal comprising a rally car, full service, tyres, fuel, entry fee, pre-rally testing, coaching and consultation regarding dealing with PR and media relations.
Springboard - Finnish Rally Championship
Judgement on who is viewed as the best young driver is based on success in the Finnish Rally Championship. AKK Sports acts as the series’ promoter with local clubs organizing individual events. Participants in Flying Finn Future Star contest must compete in class SM3 for cars with R1 or R2 FIA homologation.
This increasingly popular class is especially favoured by young drivers, because it keeps the costs at reasonable level. It also serves as a good springboard to an R5 or Super2000 car. Citroën, Ford, Peugeot and Skoda are represented in the class.
Selection process of 2018
All five 2019 Finnish Championship rounds taking place before Neste Rally Finland will count towards graduation to a special selection event. Candidates must compete in SM3 class and be born on 1.1.1994 or later. The drivers holding top five positions in the points table after those four rallies will be invited to selection event.
An analysis of each candidate’s driving will be carried out based on his performances during the season. Furthermore, physical and psychological qualities will be tested, as well as prowess in dealing with PR and media.
2018 Winner Henri Hokkala
Emerging talent Henri Hokkala has been chosen as this year’s Future Rally Star of Finland, and will make his World Rally Championship debut on Neste Rally Finland from July 26-29.
Hokkala is the latest winner of the fully-funded drive awarded annually by AKK Sports, the promotional arm of Finland’s motorsport federation and organiser of Neste Rally Finland.
He follows in the footsteps of Teemu Suninen, who was the first ever Future Rally Star of Finland in 2014 and is now a podium finisher in the WRC with M-Sport, as well as Jari Huttunen and Juuso Nordgren, who compete in WRC2 with the backing of Hyundai and Skoda respectively.
Hokkala was chosen after a selection process held at the Kuortane Sports Institute in the two days following the conclusion of the nearby Pohjanmaa Ralli, round five of this year’s Finnish Rally Championship. The finalists, all aged under 25, earned their places in the selection by being among the top six drivers in the SM3 class for R2 machinery, with Hokkala joined by Samuli Vuorisalo, Niko Mäkinen, Jussi Lindberg and Lauri Joona.
The process tested the drivers’ reconnaissance and pacenote-making skills, mental strength, physical fitness, and ability to give an interview in English. Their performances were judged by a panel comprised of Tapio Korjus (Olympic champion, Chairman of the Finnish National Sports Council and Principal of the Kuortane Sports Institute), Kai Tarkiainen (Clerk of the Course, Neste Rally Finland), Tommi Pärmäkoski (Performance Coach, formerly with Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel), Maciej Woda (Junior WRC Manager), Jani Backman (Promoter of Neste Rally Finland) and Minna Sillankorva (Rally Coach).
Hokkala began rallying in 2015 and stepped up to the Finnish championship this year, claiming his first class win just last Saturday on the Pohjanmaa Ralli. He will now make the next step in his career when he contests Neste Rally Finland behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R2, competing against other young talent from around the globe in the Junior World Rally Championship.
As Hokkala comes from Tikkakoski, just 20 kilometres north of host city Jyväskylä, it will be a true home event for the 23-year-old.
“Of course, it is a great honour to win the title of Future Rally Star of Finland,” said Hokkala. “I’m very excited to make my debut in Junior WRC at Neste Rally Finland in my home town, Jyväskylä.
“Pohjanmaa Ralli was big success for us and we took our first victory in the Finnish championship. From there, we went straight to Kuortane for the Future Star assessments. It has been a busy few days but I have enjoyed it very much.
“I must remember that Neste Rally Finland will be my first JWRC event, but I have never started a rally without a will to win. This is really a big dream-come-true for me. It is important to make it to the finish of the rally, but I also want to show my speed to everyone else.”
Henri Hokkala, profile:
Date of Birth: 27.8.1994
Home city: Tikkakoski
Career: Driving his first season in the Finnish Rally Championship, took his first class win in Seinäjoki on Saturday 16th June
Previous Future Rally Stars of Finland:
2017: Emil Lindholm
2016: Juuso Nordgren
2015: Jari Huttunen
2014: Teemu Suninen
The Future Star – how, where, when?
You can follow the project throughout the season through the various information channels of Finnish Rally Championship and Neste Rally Finland.
Names of the finalists will be published after the Finnish Rally Championship round in June and the decisive selection event takes place before the end of the month.
When the winner has been announced his path towards the prize drive in Neste Rally Finland will be followed on the event’s website and on its social media forums. A pre-event TV-programme of the project will be screened at a date to be confirmed.