Ketomaa Wins in Nilsiä
Another Win with a Group N Car
The winter season of the Finnish Rally Championship continued on Saturday with the TahkoSpa Rally driven on the narrow roads around Nilsiä, which is located near Kuopio in Eastern Finland. The previous time a Finnish Championship rally was driven in these parts was in 2002, so the route was pretty unfamiliar to all. Therefore recce and good pace notes played a very important role. The best job was done by Jarmo Mikkonen in Group A, Jari Ketomaa in Group N over 2000 cc and Joonas Lindroos in Group N up to 2000 cc. They finished first in their respective groups. Ketomaa was also the overall winner of the TahkoSpa Rally.
Jarmo Mikkonen Fastest in Group A
TahkoSpa Rally, the third round of the 2007 Finnish Rally Championship, consisted of 107 SS kilometres. That is somewhat more than is "the norm" in single-day Finnish Rally Championship events. In Group A the fastest man was Jarmo Mikkonen, who however seemed to warm up to the competition during the latter part of the day. In the beginning of the rally the pace was set by Jussi Välimäki, who had a new engine in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7. Välimäki set the fastest time on stages one and three and kept his lead even though Ioannis Papadimitriou of Greece was quickest with his Ford Focus WRC on SS2.
Then Mikkonen, also at the wheel of a Ford, stepped up his pace and was fastest of all on stage four. Thus far the overall fastest times had been set by Group N competitors. Välimäki still held on to his lead in Group A, but the gap to second-place-man Mikkonen had been reduced to 0.4 seconds. Ioannis Papadimitriou retired on stage four. The Greek was running on third place.
Jarmo Mikkonen continued his good pace on SS5 and took the lead in Group A. He left Välimäki behind by 21 seconds. Kai Eklund driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6, who was second in the points standings before Nilsiä, rose to third due to Papadimitriou´s retirement, but was forced to retire himself on stage five. Eklund had an off caused by a gear-box jam. he third place was then inherited by Mitsubishi Evo 6 driver Arto Juolahti
Mikkonen increased his lead by being fastest on the two last stages of the rally, SS6 and 7. He eventually beat Välimäki by over 40 seconds. Arto Juolahti kept his third place ´till the end, but finished over 2 minutes behind Mikkonen.
- I´m pleased with the result, but we had plenty of problems along the way. The car wasn´t running properly on the long stages and on the last special stage the clutch began to slip. Luckily things ended this well, even though it felt like nothing was going right in the beginning of the rally. We´ll try to get the car fixed for the next round, said the winner of Group A Jarmo Mikkonen after the TahkoSpa Rally.
Juha Vuorela, who was topping the standings before the Nilsiä round, retired on stage 3 due to engine failure.
The drivers of Group N over 2000 cc were expected to be fast in the TahkoSpa Rally - even in the Start List the first nine numbers had been allocated to Group N competitors. The reigning Finnish Champion Jari Ketomaa, who won the group in Nilsiä, was also the winner of the overall competition. Ketomaa finished nearly 35 seconds ahead of Kosti Katajamäki who came in second. The tight battle between Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 drivers Ketomaa and Katajamäki begun on the very first stage where Katajamäki was 3.1 seconds faster than his closest rival Ketomaa. On SS2 the gap grew by 0.9 seconds. Ketomaa fired back on stage three by completing it 6.8 seconds faster than Katajamäki and taking the lead. On SS4 the two gentlemen set the exactly same time, which however was third fastest in Group N. Anton Alén and Jarkko Miettinen, who is not entered in the Championship, were faster than the battling duo.
On stage five Ketomaa broke away from Katajamäki who fas only fourth fastest Group N driver and lost 23.8 seconds to Ketomaa. katajamäki howver kept his second place. Anton Alén who had been running third all day had an off on SS5, as did Jukka Ketomäki. Both were driving Subaru Impreza WRX´s. Third place was then taken by Juha Salo, whose rally had been so far hampered by a bent suspension arm caused by the car hitting a tree stump on stage two.
Salo found his usual pace on SS6, where he lost only 1.9 seconds to Jarkko Miettinen, who set the fastest time on that stage where Katajamäki and Ketomaa were only third and fourth respectively. Everyone kept their place however and remained unchanged on the seventh and last stage where Ketomaa was again fastest. The order in which the Group N drivers finished was Ketomaa, katajamäki, Salo. Miettinen was fourth, but since he is not entered in the championship the fourth highest points went to Toni Klemets.
- This was good. We had some difficulties in the beginning: on the first stage we messed up one junction and on stage two we drove some kilometres without the helmet intercom. That cost us a few seconds since I couldn´t hear the pace notes! Otherwise there were no major problems. On SS6 I was actually playing it a bit too safe, Jari Ketomaa reports after the rally and continues:
- We did a lot of testing prior to this competition following a detailed plan. That really benefited us and we were able to improve the car. There should however still be room for improvement though.
Hands Down Win for Joonas Lindroos in Group N up to 2000 cc
In Group N up to 2000 cc Joonas Lindroos who was in the points lead before TahkoSpa Rally begun the day by setting fastest times on the first two stages. Ailu Magga, who like Lindroos drives the Group N up to cc favourite car Honda Civic Type R, was quickest through SS3, but Lindroos kept his top spot because the reigning Junior Finnish rally Champion Jarkko Nikara whop was second fastest on stages one and two was only fourteenth fastest on SS3 loosing some 50 seconds to Magga.
Nikara recovered well however on stage four where he was fastest ahead of Magga and Lindroos. On SS5 the 20-year-old Nikara further improved his position by completing the stage 24.4 seconds quicker than Lindroos who was second fastest. Nikara thus moved up to second place in the Group N up to 2000 cc competition. Unfortunately this was very short-lived. The gear-box in Nikara´s car broke on the penultimate stage of the day, SS6, and the young driver had to throw in the towel. Ailu Magga who was doing well throughout the day was forced to retire already on stage five due to a technical fault in his car.
Lindroos was fastest on the last two stages of the day and went on to win the Nilsiä round. Due to the retirements of his closest rivals (Magga and Nikara) the winning margin was pretty great. Jani Hirvonen who came second lost by 2 minutes and the third-place-man Vesa Hirvonen over 2.35 minutes. Since Vesa Hirvonen is not entered in the championship, the third highest points were scored by Mikko Kaistamo.
- This went pretty well. We spun on stage three and had to reverse a bit, and our tyre choice for stages four and five was wrong. Stage six was good, but on seven, when there was "no need to compete" anymore, it was hard to drive slowly. We had to finish though, so what can you do, said Joonas Lindroos after the rally.
Ville Hautamäki who was second in the points before the TahkoSpa Rally retired on SS2 due to transmission problems.
Next: Peurunkaralli, the fourth round of the Finnish Rally Championship takes place in Laukaa near Jyväskylä on 10 March 2007.