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Katajamäki Wins Battle of Uusikaupunki

14.09.2005 /

The seventh round of the Finnish Rally Championship, Uusikaupunki Rally, took place last Saturday 10th September. Only one more rally remains in the championship after Uusikaupunki so the battle for points was fierce. In Group A the lead changed nearly after every stage. The fastest time on the first stint was set by Jarmo Mikkonen in a Ford Focus, as a slight surprise. Mitsubishi driver Kristian Sohlberg had a strong start. He was second fastest on both the first and second stage. Sohlberg took the lead after two stages, even though Jouni Ampuja set the fastest time on that stage. The third stage was a short run on asphalt where the fastest time was set by Kosti Katajamäki, but due to the extremely close times, the overall lead was taken by Ampuja, who was second fastest on stage 3. Then it was Kristian Sohlbergs turn to re-claim the lead on stage 4, but Ampuja took it back on the following stage.

The win was decided on the final two special stages: Kosti Katajamäki driving a Peugeot 206 WRC was fastest on stage 6 and faster than his closest rival Ampuja on the last stage. That sealed the deal and there was a big smile on Katajamäkis face at the finish:
- I couldnt have driven any faster on the last stretch, but luckily was able to squeeze enough out of myself and the car to keep the Jouni and Kristian behind me. The car performed brilliantly all day, and we are now in a good position going to the last round in Hyvinkää, said Katajamäki. The win in Uusikaupunki put him in the lead of the Championship.

Jouni Ampuja, taking the very familiar number two spot, was baffled:
- I dont know where these gaps on the final two special stages came from. The last stage was slippery due to loose gravel and the times were really close throughout the rally, but Kosti was just faster today. Theres nothing I could have done.

Kristian Sohlberg finished third and he and Katajamäki both moved ahead of Juuso Pykälistö in the Championship standings. Pykälistö, who missed the Uusikaupunki Rally due to his duties as Citroën test driver, has so far held the lead all season long, but now lies in third place. Jouni Ampuja, currently fourth in the standings, is also still in contention for the title, so we have to wait until after the last rally of the season to find out who will be crowned Finnish Champion 2005 in Group A.

When Mitsubishi driver Juha Salo has a good day, then everyone else has a really hard time beating him - even Mikko Hirvonen, who took part in the Uusikaupunki Rally in order to test a Tommi Mäkinen Racing 2006 Subaru. Hirvonen had to settle for second, whilst another Subaru-driver Jari Ketomaa finished third.

However, the fastest man on the opening stage was young Juho Hänninen, the winner of Group N over 2000cc in the previous rally in Kouvola. In Uusikaupunki Hänninen was driving a new Mitsubishi, so according to the man himself his rally was spent pretty much getting accustomed to the car. Hänninen finished fourth.

Juha Salos supremacy wasnt as total as it was in the winter rallies - he was fastest "only" on three special stages. The rest of the fastest times were set, in addition to Salo and Hänninen, by Jukka Ketomäki, Jari Ketomaa and Mikko Hirvonen. But a win is a win - even if some luck was needed in achieving it:
- We really had to fight for the victory. After stage 5 things looked a bit grim because the rear-end of the car got damaged, but thankfully luck was on our side and we got the parts needed for repairing the damage from a fellow competitor. Our intention was not to go flat out on the last stretch, but it just happened, it just felt so good to drive, said the happy winner.

- Juha was just faster on the last two stages. We didnt make any mistakes and tried our best to keep up with the speed of Juha and Mikko, but to little avail. In any case, Im happy with the Championship standings, said Ketomaa, who took home the second highest points from Uusikaupunki. Mikko Hirvonen is not taking part in the Championship, so he the third highest points went to Juho Hänninen, who finished fourth.


Mänty Makes it Tight in Group N, up to 2000cc

The first fastest time of the day was set by Renault driver Kalle Pinomäki, but his hopes of a win in Uusikaupunki were trashed already on the second special stage due to tyre problems. Marko Mänty took the lead, but he had to surrender it on the following stage, stage 3, to Joonas Lindroos. Lindroos gave Mänty a run for his money throughout the day - the two drivers even set the exact same time on the last special stage - but Mänty held his own to the end.
- We had quite a good day, we didnt make any mistakes. Naturally we tried to push, but at the same time avoid taking reckless risks. We didnt have to go flat out, thinking of the Championship standings, but the driving just felt so good, it couldnt be helped, said Mänty smiling. Before Uusikaupunki Rally Mänty was third in the points, but thanks to his win (and partly thanks to Pinomäkis bad luck) he is now leading the Championship.

Joonas Lindroos is not in the running for the title, nevertheless he was naturally very happy about the outcome of the day:
- Mänty was fastest today. I tried even on the last stage to close the gap, but was just a bit too much. The car felt good and everything was working well, however. Well see what happens in the last rally&

Third in Uusikaupunki was Ville Hautamäki and fourth Marko Nieminen - which means that the title is up for grabs in the last rally of the season in Group N, up to 2000cc as well. It should also be mentioned that Vesa Mikkola, the son of former World Champion Hannu Mikkola, drove a good rally finishing in fifth place.


Final Official Results at: www.tenab.net

Next round of the Finnish Rally Championship takes place in Hyvinkää on 1 2 October 2005. Valvoline Rally is the last rally of the season.

Pisteet top 5

1. Teemu Asunmaa / Jani Salo 107.5 pistettä Alavuden UA (R5)
2. Emil Lindholm / Mikael Korhonen 95 pistettä NHD (R5)
3. Mikko Heikkilä / Henri Arpiainen 61 pistettä MäntsMK (R5)
4. Esa Ruotsalainen / Jukka Ruotsalainen 51 pistettä SaarUA (R5)
5. Juha Salo / Mikko Markkula 49.5 pistettä Karkkilan UA (R5)

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