Lindholm - Champion 2002
Sebastian Lindholm: winner of the Valvoline Rally, crowned Finnish Rally Champion 2002
The final round of Finnish Rally Championship, Valvoline Rally,
was a fight for seconds in each class. There were seven special
stages in total, of which three were doubled. The rally champions
were celebrated at the Hyvinkää market place at the end of a
demanding day. Gr A, over 2000 cc leader, Sebastian Linholm had a
tight battle with Jouni Ampuja from the very beginning. Ampuja, who
drives Toyota Corolla WRC, took the lead on two first stages. At
the third stage he had puncture only two kilometres to the finish,
and Lindholm took the lead with his Peugeot 206 WRC. He increased
his lead during all the following stages and the difference was
finally 15,8 seconds. Lindholm, with co-driver Timo Hantunen,
scored the Finnish Championship title for the fifth time.
- I was driving very clean and without risks, because I had to make it to the finish for the championship. After Ampuja's puncture the situation got a bit easier. Then I decided to end the season as gloriously as I could: with a victory, said Lindholm, the winner of four out of seven events this year.
Jouni Ampuja, runner-up of the day, was also very pleased. This was his third rally ever with a WRC car and he is obviously finding more and more speed in each rally. - I am satisfied with the stage times, as we were already pretty close to Lindholm's speed. Next season I will speed up a bit and continue my good development, Ampuja promised.
Before the last stage Ari Vihavainen was reaching for the bronze medal, but he had an accident and had to retire. Kaj Kuistila was only four seconds behind and took the third position and the championship bronze. The silver medal was already taken by Juuso Pykälistö, who won three first events of this season. Fourth of the Valvoline Rally was Jarmo Mikkonen and Heikki Westerlund finished fifth.
Juha Salo - champion of group N
Juha Salo and his Mitsubishi took the lead of Gr N, over 2000 cc from the beginning. At the halt he and his co-driver Mika Stenberg found out that the challengers were right on their tail, Jarkko Miettinen was only four seconds away. Salo although kept his lead to the end and finished his season with his fourth group N victory. With this performance the Finnish Junior Rally Champion of 1996 scored his first championship of the "big boys". Salo was sixth on the overall classifications. - We didn't need to win this rally, but I left there to drive my own speed. That was fast enough and we are all thrilled for the title, Salo told with a great smile on his face.
Second in the class, 5.4 seconds from the winner, was the comet of the summer, Jarkko Miettinen. He jumped from the seventh position to the silver medal of the championship. Marko Uutela took the championship bronze, taking the fourth position of this event after Marko Kakko.
Tukiainen was the class winner and silver medalist
The champion in Gr a, up to 2000 cc was clear already after the previous event. Mikko Hirvonen was sovereign during all the other events this year and now he had the possibility to go to a "study trip" to New Zeland. The champion of 2001, Tomi Tukiainen and the winner of the previous event Janne Vähämiko had a tight battle for the class victory of this rally. At the halt Tukiainen had streched the difference to 8 seconds and was getting on top. Both were aware that the championship silver medal will be handed to the winner of this rally. Tukiainen added his lead with ten more seconds at the last stages, after which the very happy winner climbed on the podium. - The competition was very tight at the start, but my good speed at the doubled stages ended the battle,Tukiainen explained. Juha Sipilä finished the rally as third of the class, which made him fourth of the championship.
Räikkönen took the championship after Teuronens misfortune
Gr n, up to 2000 cc season has been a battle between V-P Teuronen and Eero Räikkönen. These two Honda drivers started the rally again with good speed and split the stage wins between themselves. After three stages out of seven the difference was only nine tenths of a second. At the halt Teuronen was leading with 2.2 seconds, but the fifth stage was crucial: he broke his front suspension and had to retire. After this Räikkönen was driving only for the championship victory without any competition. - We have had a good rallying summer with Teuronen and it is a pity that it ended like this. Of course I am anyway satisfied with my victory, Räikkönen summed up. Timo Mäenpää finished second in the class with his Honda Civic. He was 17.9 seconds behind Räikkönen. Third was Esa Kettula. Henry Hänninen was fifth in this class, but gained championship bronze.
Finnish Rally Championship
Gr A, over 2000 cc
Finnish Champion: Sebastian Lindholm, 93 points
Silver: Juuso Pykälistö, 66
Bronze: Kaj Kuistila, 65
- - -
Gr N, over 2000 cc
Finnish Champion: Juha Salo, 75 points
Silver: Jarkko Miettinen, 47
Bronze: Marko Uutela, 45
- - -
Gr a, up to 2000 cc
Finnish Champion: Mikko Hirvonen, 79 points
Silver: Tomi Tukiainen, 76
Bronze: Janne Vähämiko, 69
- - -
Gr n, up to 2000 cc
Finnish Champion: Eero Räikkönen, 73 pistettä
Silver: Ville-Pertti Teuronen, 60
Bronze: Henry Hänninen, 55