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Rovanperä serves exquisite tastes at the Arctic Circle – Asunmaa leads the Finnish Championship classes after the first day

03.02.2024 / Finnish Rally Championship / Communications

The second round of the Finnish Rally Championship, the iconic Arctic Lapland Rally, embarked on its 59th edition with a flurry of excitement on Friday, featuring five special stages. Unfolding over 75 special stage kilometers, the opening day treated rally enthusiasts to a spectacle in the form of Kalle Rovanperä and Elfyn Evans, both competing outside the Finnish Championship classes. The Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT driver pairings were present to conduct tests for the upcoming Rally Sweden, scheduled two weeks later.

Rovanperä, entering his first competition of the season in Rovaniemi, swiftly seized control of the rally on the opening stage, claiming the fastest time on the subsequent three stages as well. The only blemish in this otherwise flawless streak occurred on the final trotting track stage, where Evans edged out Rovanperä by a mere 0.2 seconds. Nevertheless, by the end of the five special stages, Rovanperä had built a commanding lead over his teammate, amounting to nearly half a minute.

“The forest stages went really well today. There were a few mistakes on the last trotting track stage. However, I didn’t want to make any setup changes for the final stage but rather experiment with how the car feels with forest settings,” explained Rovanperä.

“The feeling has improved, and we’ve brought out what we were looking for. It’s been a fantastic day with great weather and stages. There were many people watching, so it’s been cool to drive,” Rovanperä reflected at the end of the day.

Evans, who secured third place in the recent Monte Carlo WRC season opener, couldn’t match Rovanperä’s pace at Rovaniemi. However, considering both drivers are treating it as a test event, definitive conclusions shouldn’t be drawn solely from the results.

“The day wasn’t the best. The start was quite good, but then we made some changes to the car, and they didn’t work as we wanted. The latter part of the day was a bit of a struggle with more loose snow on the evening stages, making it a challenging combination with the car,” commented Evans.

Teemu Asunmaa leads SM1 class at the overnight break

The defending champion in the SM1 class, Teemu Asunmaa, commencing his season in Rovaniemi, displayed his customary strong form. In pursuit of his fifth championship, Asunmaa consistently hovered near the top of the class throughout the day, securing the lead with a 5.6-second advantage over Mikko Heikkilä. In the overall standings, Asunmaa sits in third place after Rovanperä and Evans.

“It was an easy day, nothing special. There was no need to push hard; it was smooth sailing,” said Asunmaa.

Mikko Heikkilä, in his first race with the new Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 and testing for the Rally Sweden, navigated the snowy competition conditions impressively.

“We lost quite a bit on the last stage of the day, but it didn’t feel too bad. Overall, a reasonably good day for us with the new car,” evaluated Heikkilä.

In the SM1 class, Roope Korhonen, also making his debut with Toyota, holds the third position going into the night halt, trailing Asunmaa by 18 seconds.

Lauri Joona, piloting a Skoda Fabia RS, led the class until the third special stage but suffered an off-road incident, losing time before getting the car back on track.

“I took a left turn too tightly, and the car lifted on two wheels. It was touch and go for a while, contemplating whether it would tip over. However, it sucked in a load of snow into the front, and I had to clear it to prevent the engine from overheating,” recounted Joona.

Henri Hokkala secures the top spot in SM2 class

Henri Hokkala, continuing his momentum from the first event in Riihimäki, took control of the class from the very start. He didn’t have to push too hard, as his main competitors encountered troubles. Jesse Kallio faced a slowdown due to a brush with a snowbank, and Toni Herranen suffered a puncture. Both managed to continue, unlike Ville Ruokanen, who retired due to gearbox issues.

“A bit of the traditional Friday fumbling happened on the last stage, but overall, it was a good day. It sets up nicely for tomorrow, which will be really interesting, especially with the snowfall predicted,” anticipated Hokkala.

Jooa Iivari, participating in only his second event in the class, finished the day in second place, ahead of the Paraguayan guest driver Diego Dominguez Berajano.

Kauppinen and Lassila lead the SM3 class

Tuukka Kauppinen, who collected zero points in Riihimäki due to disqualification, didn’t play it safe in Rovaniemi and stormed into the overnight break with a half-minute lead.

“The early long stages were a bit challenging, but on the last forest stage, we managed to break away,” shared Kauppinen after the final stage of the evening.

Leevi Lassila, the current championship leader, struggled to respond adequately to Kauppisen’s pace.

“We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. Tuukka drove really fast today, and in the latter stages, we couldn’t quite respond enough,” Lassila noted.

Joni Korhonen holds the third position in the SM3 class as they head into Saturday.

Ville Vatanen dominates SM4 class

Ville Vatanen, the winner in Riihimäki and the leader in the class, continued his rapid pace in Rovaniemi, leaving many of his competitors trailing. Henri Sääskilahti is still within striking distance, trailing by 20 seconds, but others have fallen far behind.

“The day went well. The route was in excellent condition, and the car worked well. However, tomorrow will undoubtedly bring fierce competition, and there’s no room for complacency,” said Vatanen.

Tomi Tikkinen, currently in third place, is already over a minute behind the leader. However, the battle for the third spot is intense, with fourth-placed Roope Hirvonen just over a second behind.

Miikka Vuokila leads in SM5 class

In the National four-wheel-drive class, there were several retirements at the top. Class leader Pekka Keski-Korsu, after a strong start, discovered a faulty alternator on the fourth special stage, resulting in an early exit from the competition. Arttu Lähdeniemi, who had taken over the lead, faced the same fate as his Mitsubishi gave up before the final evening stage.

Miikka Vuokila, a local driver, assumed the lead heading into Saturday, followed by Yrjö Martti and Jarkko Hosike. While Martti and Hosike are over four minutes behind Vuokila, their determination promises a challenging competition ahead.

As the 59. Arctic Lapland Rally pauses for the night, the anticipation for an action-packed Saturday looms large, with varying weather conditions and intense battles expected on the snowy stages of Rovaniemi.

Entry list »

59th Arctic Lapland Rally: Results after SS 5/12

1. Kalle Rovanperä 36:16,1
2. Elfyn Evans +24,6
3. Teemu Asunmaa +2:40,9
4. Mikko Heikkilä +2:46,1
5. Roope Korhonen +2:59,3

1. Teemu Asunmaa 38:57,0
2. Mikko Heikkilä +5,2
3. Roope Korhonen +18,4
4. Nikolay Gryazin +25,1
5. Benjamin Korhola +30,9

1. Henri Hokkala 40:44,2
2. Jooa Iivari +18,4
3. Diego Dominguez Bejarano +37,1
4. Fabio Schwarz +2:29,0
5. Petr Borodin +2:29,4

1. Tuukka Kauppinen 43:24,7
2. Leevi Lassila +29,8
3. Joni Korhonen +1:17,8
4. Juhana Raitanen +1:48,1
5. Ossi Pohjanharju +2:14,0

1. Ville Vatanen 47:01,0
2. Henri Sääskilahti +19,7
3. Tomi Tikkinen +1:03,9
4. Roope Hirvonen +1:05,2
5. Lauri Halonen +1:14,7

1. Miikka Vuokila 42:21,6
2. Yrjö Martti +3:53,2
3. Jarkko Hosike +4:01,6
4. Pentti Veikkanen +4:14,9
5. Juha Karilainen +4:50,4

All results »

Route & itinerary

Leg 2, Saturday 3 February 2024

08:00 Start Leg 2, Service Park Mäntyvaara
08:43 SS 6 Aittajärvi 2 / Rautio Oy, 22,47km (Road closed 6.30-13.30)
09:46 SS 7 Siikakämä, 26,00km (Road closed 07.30-14.30)
10:59 SS 8 Ounasvaara / Kaukomaa, 1,15km
11:29 Service D / Regroup In, Service Park Mäntyvaara
14:12 SS 9 Sarriojärvi 1 / Capital Box, 32,65km (Road closed 12.00-22.00)
16:15 SS 10 Patovaara, 7,26km (Road closed 14.00-21.00)
16:58 SS 11 Kemijärvi, 2,27km (Road closed 14.00-22.00)
18:01 SS 12 Sarriojärvi 2 / Capital Box, 32,65km (Road closed 12.00-22.00)
20:16 Finish Podium, Lordi Square, Rovaniemi

Special Stage distances

Leg 1: 75,50km
Leg 2: 124,45km
Total: 199,95km

Route map »
Tickets »
Livestream: Saturday

Flying Finn Future Star

Finland is famous for its internationally successful rally drivers - both in past years, now and hopefully in the future as well.

In 2014, AKK Sports Oy, the organizer of Secto Rally Finland, the organizer of the Finnish World Cup rally, founded the Flying Finn Future Star program, which maps promising rally drivers, to accelerate the path of young talents towards an international breakthrough and the top of the world.

The driver who wins the program has received a significant prize from the beginning. In 2024, the winner will be offered participation in the 2024 Secto Rally Finland as a prize. He gets to show his skills on the gravel roads of the Finnish World Rally Championship with a complete competition package, including M-Sport's Ford Fiesta Rally3 car and a maintenance package: tires, fuel, participation fees, a test before the race, training and coaching, as well as consulting for managing PR and media relations. 

Read more here »

FRC calendar 2024

1) 12.-13.1. Riihimäki rally, Riihimäki (FJRC)
2) 1.-3.2. 59. Arctic Lapland Rally, Rovaniemi
3) 8.-9.3. Tuuri Rally, Alavus (FJRC)
4) 24.-25.5. Länsirannikon Rally, Turku (FJRC)
5) 14.-15.6. Pohjanmaa Rally, Seinäjoki (FJRC)
6) 23.-24.8. Rally Lahti, Lahti (FJRC)
7) 4.-5.10. Rally Kitee, Kitee (FJRC)

Contact details

Sporting Executive

Henrik Frank
040 534 9977


Mika Heinonen
045 7730 5990


Lassi Liimatainen
050 325 1120

Follow the FRC


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Photo: Taneli Niinimäki / AKK

Score top 5

1. Roope Korhonen / Anssi Viinikka 70 points LMM (Rally2)
2. Benjamin Korhola / Sebastian Virtanen 49 points VihUA (Rally2)
3. Anssi Rytkönen / Mikael Korhonen 38 points KoMoKe (R5)
4. Mikko Heikkilä / Kristian Temonen 34 points MäntsMK (Rally2)
5. Niclas Grönholm / Kristian Temonen 31 points EMSC (Rally2)

< See all >

Calendar 2024

1) 12.-13.1. SM Auto Sorsa Riihimäki-Ralli, Riihimäki
2) 1.-3.2. 59. Arctic Lapland Rally, Rovaniemi
3) 8.-9.3. SM Tuuri Ralli, Alavus
4) 24.-25.5. SM Mad-Croc Länsirannikon Ralli, Turku
5) 14.-15.6. SM Pohjanmaa Ralli, Seinäjoki
6) 23.-24.8. Future SM-ralli, Lahti
7) 4.-5.10. SM Ralli Kitee, Kitee

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