Katajamäki Takes Title
The final round of the Finnish Rally Championship, the Valvoline Rally in Hyvinkää, turned into a real thriller when the titles in all of the groups were decided on the last day of the two-day event. The route proved to be demanding with fast and even unpredictable roads. The rally was very eventful, but in the end the championships were won by the expected favourites: Kosti Katajamäki in Group A, Juha Salo in Group N over 2000 cc and Marko Mänty in Group N up to 2000 cc.
Finally a Win for Ampuja, Katajamäki a Deserving Champion
Ford Focus WRC driver Jouni Ampuja has so far been the perpetual
second place man of Group A, but in the Valvoline Rally he at long
last managed to "break the duck" and score his first win - but not
without some difficulties. Ampuja was running second after the
first day with the experienced Jarmo Mikkonen in the lead. On the
second special stage of the second day, SS8, Mikkonen was forced to
retire due to clutch trouble and on that same stage Ampuja suffered
a puncture. He managed to soldier on however, and that paid off in
the end. Ampuja was fourth in the standings prior to the final
round of the Championship, but thanks to his win in Hyvinkää he
rose all the way to second.
- It was an extraordinary rally. So many people had some kind of problems along the way. Still, Im extremely happy about this win and about finishing second in the Championship. Kosti is a very deserving Champion, he won so many times this season, said Ampuja.
Kosti Katajamäki, driving a Peugeot 206 WRC, had even more
worries throughout the rally. On the first day the turbo of his car
was not functioning as it should and that cost time - Katajamäki
was running only 11th overall, over 2 minutes behind the leader.
The team of mechanics worked hard to fix the problem and on the
second day Katajamäki was able to make up the time and finish
second. That also sealed the Championship.
- We have now reached one of our goals and it is a great feeling. This was an unbelievable rally and we experienced some troubles along the way. It would have been nice to end the season with a victory, but winning the Finnish Championship is naturally more important, Katajamäki said. This young protégé of World Champion Marcus Grönholm also drives for Suzuki in the J-WRC.
Juuso Pykälistö, who was one of the strongest title contenders early on with his Ford Focus WRC, had to miss the previous round of the Championship, the Uusikaupunki Rally, due to his job as a Citroën test driver. Pykälistö did not take part in the Valvoline Rally either. That meant that he finished the season just outside of the top three. Third place in the Finnish Rally Championship 2005 (in Group A) went to Kristian Sohlberg, who unlike Pykälistö did participate in the Valvoline Rally, but crashed out already on SS2 destroying his Championship hopes.
Group N, over 2000 cc
Miettinen Wins, Salo Crowned Champion after Many Twists and Turns
This seasons comet, young Juho Hänninen, was in the lead after the first day of the Valvoline Rally. Hänninen was third in the standings before the final round and even had a chance of winning the Championship, especially when the points leader Juha Salo had a terrible first day in Hyvinkää and started on the final leg of the final rally in 12th place, 2 minutes and 22 seconds behind Hänninen. Salo had a off on stage 6 puncturing both front tyres of his Mitsubishi Lancer. He only had one spare and this cost him time.
At this point it looked as if Jari Ketomaa, second in the standings in his Subaru Impreza WRX prior to Valvoline Rally, had the strongest hold on the title as he lay second after the first day, only 36.7 seconds behind Hänninen. It looked as if the battle for victory, and ultimately for the title, was going to be between these two drivers. But nothing was that straightforward in the season finale this year!
Ketomaa had to retire due to gear-box problems after stage 7 and
Hänninen punctured a tyre on the notorious stage 8. Hänninen was
lucky enough to be able to continue and he finished the rally third
place in the end. But to win the title he should have finished
first, and thus Salo was crowned Champion, although he was close to
retiring on the second day after getting stuck in a ditch and
finishing only 17th. Hänninen was second and Ketomaa third in the
Jarkko Miettinen won in Hyvinkää in his Mitsubishi Lancer after a fantastic drive. In addition to winning his group Miettinen was second fastest overall, beating all the WRC cars, except for Ampuja of course. Second was Jukka Ketomäki in a Subaru Impreza.
Group N, up to 2000 cc
Hautamäki Wins, Mänty Takes the Title
In this group the whole season has been very tight and before the season finale five drivers had at least theoretical chances of winning the title. Joonas Lindroos was leading the rally after day one, but like many others, he too ran into trouble on stage 8. In this case it was the drive shaft of Lindroos Honda Civic. The lead was taken by another Honda driver Ville Hautamäki who held his position until the finish and so cemented his second place in the Championship.
Marko Mänty won the title after finishing third in Hyvinkää. His closest rival in the standings before the final round was Marko Nieminen, who however was forced to retire on the first day of the Valvoline Rally after an off on stage 5. Third in both Hyvinkää and in the Championship was the only Renault driver of the pack Kalle Pinomäki, who had already won the Junior Finnish Rally Championship this season.