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"Ketomaa Victorious in the First Rally of the ""Summer Season"""

18.06.2007 / "Ketomaa Victorious in the First Rally of the ""Summer Season"""

Finnish Rally Championship, Keski-Uusimaa Rally
The kick-off of the so called summer season of the Finnish Rally Championship took place last Saturday in Kerava, about 25 kilometres north from the capital Helsinki. The Keski-Uusimaa Rally was driven in sunny and warm conditions. The rally route was new and unfamiliar to all the drivers and according to the general opinion very very fast. The roads however were in good condition and the speeds were indeed high. Keeping in line with this year's trend, fastest of all was a Group N driver, this time the reigning Finnish Champion Jari Ketomaa.

Vuorela Takes Home Victory in Group A with a WRC Car

Juha Vuorela, who switched from Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7 to Toyota Corolla WRC for the summer season, started the rally with a firm attack. With the Toyota used by Jari-Matti Latvala in last year's championship, Vuorela drove the fastest time overall on the opening special stage. On stage 2 the fastest guy in Group A was Ari Vihavainen, whose Ford Focus WRC finally seemed to be in good shape. Vihavainen was forced to skip the winter rallies due to problems with part deliveries. Juha Vuorela was fastest again on SS three, four and five and this sealed the deal on his victory in Group A.

- This was a great start for our "WRC season". We had some problems with the hydraulics on stage five, so there is still some room improvement, but this really is a RALLY CAR, with a capital "R", Vuorela smiled at the finish.

Jussi Välimäki, who started the rally in Kerava in the points' lead, drove a solid competition. His only fastest time however came on the last stage of the day, the super special stage driven on the two-kilometre track in Vantaan Vauhtikeskus. Välimäki finished second in Group A with his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7, which allowed him to keep his place at the top of the standings.
- We ended up bringing the car home and securing the second highest points. We had all kinds of small problems throughout the day, in the morning it was tires and then the shock absorber. These points we gained today are very valuable since we have to skip the next round due to our driving commitments in Japan and the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship. We also have to find a new car for Uusikaupunki and Mikkeli for this car has already been sold and is going from parc fermé straight to the new owner, Jussi Välimäki said.
Third in Group A was Jukka Hiltunen in a Ford Focus WRC and fourth place went to Heikki Westerlund in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7.

"Seasoned veteran" Jarmo Mikkonen, who is usually fighting for the top positions, had to throw in the towel even before the start of the rally due to a broken rear differential in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8.

Ketomaa Begins Summer with Double Win

There were new "marching orders" in the Finnish Rally Championship during the winter, i.e. instead of the Group A and WRC cars the top spots in the overall competition were conquered by Group N drivers. Summer and its first round in Kerava did not bring change into this order. The reigning champion Jari Ketomaa begun strongly and was fastest in his group on SS1. On stage two he was fastest overall. Kosti Katajamäki, who like Ketomaa drives a Mitsubishin Lancer Evo 9, was able to squeeze in front of Ketomaa on the third stage.
After the service, as the rally caravan headed out for a repeat run of the first three stages, Ketomaa was fastest again on SS4. He kept the same pace on the fifth stage, where Juha Salo who was in the points' lead before this rally finally found his "usual" rhythm. With number 1 on his doors Salo warmed up to driving during the course of the day and on the sixth stage he set the overall fastest time. That was not enough however and Jari Ketomaa went on to win both Group N over 2000 cc and overall. Salo had to settle for fifth place in Group N.
- I have to say that everything went well. There was a bit of stiffness on the very first stage, but luckily that was the case the others too apparently. Naturally, we are driving for the win in the remaining rallies. We still need to do a bit of testing and improve the car before the next round. We got new tires from Pirelli already for this rally and those too worked really well, Jari Ketomaa recounted happily.
Kosti Katajamäki finished second in Group N over 2000 cc, but that did not satisfy the ambitious driver.
- I'm not happy about this result. We didn't make any major mistakes or anything, Ketomaa was just so fast, Katajamäki said with a vexed impression.
Third was Teemu Arminen, who was undoubtedly one of the happiest men at the finish line. This was the first podium finish of his career on the Finnish Championship level, and the cherry on top was the fastest time he set on the super special stage.

- Our tight battle against Toni Klemets is the most vivid thing on my mind right now. Our gap to him at the finish was only 2 seconds. This podium position has been our goal for a very long time and now we finally achieved it. For Kouvola we need to make even faster pace notes, Arminen said after the finish in Kerava.

Nikara Dominated in Group N upto 2000cc

In Group N upto 2000 cc the reigning Junior Finnish Rally Champion Jarkko Nikara took the lead right from the get-go with his Honda Civic Type R. Nikara was fastest in his class also on stages two, four and five. On stage number three Erno Randelin caused a slight surprise by being fastest and on SS7, the super special stage, fastest in Group N up to 2000 cc was Jani Hirvonen. Joonas Lindroos, who is in the points' lead, drove a steady rally being consistently second or third fastest, but his speed just wasn't enough to keep up with Nikara.
Jarkko Nikara's pace was pretty superior and as a matter of fact, the gaps between all the top finishers were fairly big. IN the end Joonas Lindroos lost 36 seconds to Nikara and Ville Hautamäki, who finished third, lost second place by 12.1 seconds.
- Everything went really well. We were able to pull ahead and open up a big enough gap right at the beginning of the rally that it felt fairly safe. We didn't have to drive at the very limit, but close to it still. This win allowed us to gain on the others in the standings a bit, said the overwhelming winner modestly.
- This was one of those securing-the-points-days. Also, it is good to have these kilometers "under my belt" - my driving was a still a bit "off" at the beginning after a long break. In Kouvola we're going to attack with full force and have a hard battle with Jarkko, Joonas Lindroos promised.
- I can't be very pleased about today. We didn't reduce the gap in the standings. I guess the break from driving was too long and we were left behind right from the start, third place man Ville Hautamäki summed up his day.

Next Round:

O.K. Auto-Ralli, the sixth round of the Finnish Rally Championship, takes place in Kouvola on 7 July 2007.

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