"Ketomaa Victorious in the First Rally of the ""Summer Season"""
Finnish Rally Championship, Keski-Uusimaa
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
- 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
Third in Group A was Jukka Hiltunen in a Ford Focus WRC and
fourth place went to Heikki Westerlund in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo
"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
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
- 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.
O.K. Auto-Ralli, the sixth round of the Finnish Rally
Championship, takes place in Kouvola on 7 July 2007.