Jari Huttunen elected Future Rally Star of Finland by AKK Sports
Emerging talent Jari Huttunen has been chosen as the Future Rally Star of Finland by AKK Sports, the organizer of Neste Oil Rally Finland.
The 21-year-old will receive a prize drive on Neste Oil Rally Finland next month in a Citroën DS3 R3T, enabling him to follow in the footsteps of rising star Teemu Suninen, who clinched the award last year and used it to win the WRC 3 section of his home round of the world championship.
Finland is the spiritual home of rallying, with AKK backed stars having gone on to dominate in the sport thanks to healthy mix of talent and sisu: a uniquely Finnish word that describes bravery under pressure.
“I’m delighted and surprised to win this amazing prize,” said Huttunen, who was co-driven by Antti Linnaketo. “There is a huge tradition of rallying in Finland, so to become part of it and to be recognised in this way by the AKK Sports is a big privilege. It’s the biggest opportunity of my life.”
Huttunen had to go head-to-head against three other competitors – Ville-Markus Marttinen, Joonas Tokee and Joni Viitala – to win the prize, which was judged over two days in Finland. The assessment included a recce test, where former World Rally Championship competitor Jarmo Lehtinen judged each candidate’s ability to make pace notes, a psychological test carried out by a top psychologist from Finland’s leading sports institute, designed to assess each candidate’s mental strength and attitude, a physical training test, to reveal each candidate’s agility and fitness, and finally an interview – just to find out more about each driver and what makes them tick.
In order to take part, each driver had to be under 25 and in the top five of the R2 class points table after the first four rounds of the Finnish Rally Championship that have taken place so far: the Arctic Lapland Rally, the Vaakuna Rally, the Pohjanmaa Rally and the Itaralli.
The judging panel consisted of a number of experts including Neste Oil Rally Finland Clerk of the Course Kai Tarkiainen, Jarmo Lehtinen, and Marc De Jong from WRC Promoter: the company that holds the commercial rights to the World Rally Championship.
Tarkiainen said: “It was a tough and complex selection process, but it was made easier by the fact that Jari excelled in every discipline. From the outset it was clear that he has a lot of potential, so the selection panel were united in placing their confidence in him.”
Huttunen, who will benefit from a full testing programme in his Citroën before the start of Neste Oil Rally Finland, comes from the town of Kiuruvesi, north of event host city Jyväskylä. He originally started his career in karting, before moving into rallying. Now he has been handed a dream opportunity to realise his life’s ambition.
“My goal is to become a professional rally driver one day,” he said. “This is a very exciting step towards that goal, so I would like to thank everyone who made it possible and had faith in me. I’m going to work as hard as I can to make the most of that opportunity.”
Huttunen will have his first test in the Citroën DS3, run by an experienced team Print Sport that fields the car in the Finnish championship, next month.
His predecessor, Teemu Suninen, used the prize and his resulting class victory in Finland as the springboard for a WRC3 campaign in the World Rally Championship this year, winning on the most recent round in Sardinia. He is also already a member of a factory team, having been recruited by Toyota as the famous Japanese squad gears up to its WRC return in 2017.
Neste Oil Rally Finland runs from July 30-August 2.
Kai Tarkiainen, Clerk of the Course Neste Oil Rally Finland
Tel. +358 40 846 6766