Huttunen the King of Kuopio - Lappi and Katsuta brought rare treats to the stages of Finnish Championship
The second round of 2023 Finnish Rally Championship season ended on Saturday-night in Kuopio. The IsoValkeinen SM-Ralli had a rare treat in store for the fans, as two Rally1 hybrid cars were entered to start the event. Esapekka Lappi's and Takamoto Katsuta’s rallies weren’t trouble free however. In the main SM1 class, Jari Huttunen took the victory after another thriller finish.
A historic rally was held in Kuopio, as the Rally1 hybrid cars made their debut for national competitions in Finland, and with no less than two car from the get go. Taking part were Esapekka Lappi in a Hyundai and Takamoto Katsuta in a Toyota.
Lappi started out with 1,2 seconds faster than Katsuta and increased his lead throughout the day. The Finn, who arrived to the mid-day service with a lead of almost 13 seconds, was looking for last-minute setup fine tuning for the WRC round of Sweden next week.
- The times were pretty good compared to Takamoto, but we’ve had a fair bit of issues with grip in the rear, and we needed to be a bit too careful because of it. At times we’re pushing hard, but it’s not balanced enough yet. The jumps here are amazing, and you can’t go any faster into them than what we did, it’s a shame Uumaja doesn’t have them so much, Lappi laughed before the service break.
On the next stage after the service break Takamoto Katsuta hit snowbanks and had to retire. Lappi on the other hand drove off on the penultimate stage, but managed to continue after ten minutes spent in the snow bank. After being on his way to overall victory before his off, Lappi dropped down all the way out of the top-30.
- I tried pushing a bit, and a bit too much apparently. I was a bit late in the braking and lost the rear. We got a taste of driving flat out as well.
- We had a good day overall. As long as the car works, we’re feeling good going to Sweden, Lappi ended.
Huttunen victorious in SM1
After losing his lead in the snowbanks at the season opener, Jari Huttunen was in a class of his own in Kuopio winning the class in an older Skoda Fabia R5. The race at the top-3 was incredibly close again throughout the day.
Juha Salo took the lead in the fourth stage from Teemu Asunmaa and kept his lead until stage number six, where Huttunen struck and took over the lead. The winning margin at the end was 2,1 seconds in Huttunen’s favour.
- It was a pretty difficult rally, we needed to drive quite slowly. Luckily, we found the rhythm for the afternoon, the morning was overly cautious, and it started to annoy me. However, we can now head to Sweden with positive feeling, Huttunen told at the finish.
Huttunen also confirmed in the rally morning that he’ll be competing in all Finnish Rally Championship events this season.
The veteran Juha Salo had to yield for second for second time in a row, but the strong start of the season has showed that the multiple time champion still has pace for everything.
Teemu Asunmaa took the third place and continues leading the SM1 class points after two events. Salo is in second place and Saturday’s fourth fastest Lauri Joona is third in points. Huttunen’s win elevated him into fourth in standings.
Kuopio also saw an interesting debut as the ex-F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen and media personality Janni Hussi had their first rally together. An avid rally fan, Hussi made her co-driver debut in an FRC event, in her career-third rally. The pair finished ninth in SM1.
Korhola won second time in a row in SM2
Benjamin Korhola continued where he left in Rovaniemi, and took his second win in a row, strengthening his points lead in class. Korhola’s win was mostly uncontested, even as the gap narrowed down to 6,7 seconds to his closest rival Henri Hokkala.
- It seemed like the rally was going to be closer than it needed to be, especially after the last two stages were a bit difficult. Overall a fine rally, Korhola said.
Last year’s SM3 champion Hokkala succeeded after retirement in Rovaniemi. Second-place also puts him in a better spot in the championship, up to third in fact.
Kristian Nieminen made a fine debut in category with a third place finish. Finishing fourth in category, Ville Ruokanen continues second in the point standings.
Välilä took his won after the disappointmend in Rovaniemi
Tuomas Välilä took a commanding win in SM3 class. After retiring from the lead in Rovaniemi, Välilä took control of the rally early on and brought home the maximum points by a lead of 1 minute 15 seconds.
- We’re really happy about the result. Our goal was to continue where we left in Rovaniemi before retiring. The last stage felt a bit worse, but the stopwatch didn’t agree with us, Välilä smiled.
Arctic Lapland Rally winner Justus Räikkönen drove a clean rally and took home second place before Jere Pensas, who made his debut in category.
Räikkönen strengthened his position at the lead of the category, as Välilä elevated himself up to third after Topi Kärki. Second in points after the opening round, Niko Patajoki went off and retired.
Results overhaul in SM4
The overall results in SM4 couldn’t be verified until the stewards had gone through several protests.
The official results were verified late in the night, and the winner of the class is Henri Sääskilahti. After Sääskilahti, second place finisher is Jose Kangas and rounding up the podium is Jyri Räsänen.
In the points standings, Tuukka Kauppinen continues in the lead with Tomi Tikkinen in second. The win elevated Sääskilahti up to third.
No challengers for Hautamäki in Kuopio
Ville Hautamäki was again in a class of his own, even though the young challenger Konsta Saarinen applied some pressure to Hautamäki from time to time. The win was Hautamäki’s second in a row, strengthening his lead in the point standings.
- We were meaning to drive safely through the last stage, but I got mixed up with the order of the jumps and went a bit too hard on the last jumps. Luckily nothing broke and we got safely to the finish, Hautamäki laughed.
Second place finisher Saarinen was half a minute behind keeping his second place in the standings. Third place finisher Jaakko Lavio was a bit over a minute behind the winner, elevating him up to fourth in standings. The third place in the standings belongs to Arttu Lähdeniemi despite his retirement in Kuopio.
Finnish Rally Championship continues on March 3-4 with the Jyväskylä Winter Rally, which brings the Finnish Rally Championship series to the wonderful sceneries of the famous WRC event and serves the blazing fast roads of Central Finland in their beautiful wintery outlook for both spectators and drivers to enjoy!
IsoValkeinen Rally, Kuopio: Results
1. Jari Huttunen 44:41,4
2. Juha Salo +2,1
3. Teemu Asunmaa +13,0
1. Benjamin Korhola 47:30,6
2. Henri Hokkala +6,7
3. Kristian Nieminen +1:23,2
1. Tuomas Välilä 51:11,5
2. Justus Räikkönen +1:14,1
3. Jere Pensas +1:38,2
1. Henri Sääskilahti 56:44,2
2. Jose Kangas +1:05,2
3. Jyri Räsänen +1:08,2
1. Ville Hautamäki 47:55,8
2. Konsta Saarinen +32,7
3. Jaakko Lavio +1:06,4
Championship standings: 2/7
1. Teemu Asunmaa 49p
2. Juha Salo 43p
3. Lauri Joona 32p
1. Benjamin Korhola 59p
2. Ville Ruokanen 37p
3. Henri Hokkala 29p
1. Justus Räikkönen 52p
2. Topi Kärki 30p
3. Tuomas Välilä 25p
1. Tuukka Kauppinen 46p
2. Tomi Tikkinen 35p
3. Henri Sääskilahti 25p
1. Ville Hautamäki 59p
2. Konsta Saarinen 43p
3. Arttu Lähdeniemi 20p
1. Co-Motorsport 102p
2. Rautio Motorsport 2 102p
3. TGS Skoda Motorsport Suomi 81p
Secto Rally Finland Power Stage
During the Finnish Rally Championship 2023 rounds a Secto Rally Finland Power Stage is driven, where drivers gain points per category. In the IsoValkeinen Rally, the Power Stage was the 5th stage of the rally, Pihlainen (7,10 km).
Power Stage winners: IsoValkeinen SM-Rally
SM1: Juha Salo
SM2: Benjamin Korhola
SM3: Tuomas Välilä
SM4: Tuukka Kauppinen
SM5: Ville Hautamäki
Power Stage standings »
Read more about the Secto Rally Finland Power Stage »
Photo: Taneli Niinimäki / AKK