Sordo Retires Ari Vihavainen Wins Eventful O.K. Auto-ralli in Kouvola
Sordo Retires - Ari Vihavainen Wins Eventful O.K. Auto-ralli in Kouvola
Weather forecasts promised pouring rain, but the day of
the sixth round of the Finnish Rally Championship was a scorcher.
For the first four stages Citroën Sport driver Daniel Sordo was in
the lead of the rally, as expected, but on SS5 he had an off and
the young Spaniard´s run came to a premature halt. For the first
time this season, the overall competition was won with a Group A
car as Ari Vihavainen beat the fastest Group N finisher Jari
Ketomaa by a mere 0.1 seconds. In Group N up to 2000 cc the winner
was Joonas Lindroos.
Finally a Change of Luck for Vihavainen
As it was to be expected, Dani Sordo with his manufacturer team
WRCar was fastest in the early part of the rally. However, on stage
5 a surprising left after a crest caught Daniel off-guard and he
had an off that ended his run. Sordo, who drove his Citroën C4 WRC
in Kouvola as a test for the forthcoming Neste Oil Rally Finland,
lead the O.K. Auto-ralli by 41.6 seconds after 4 stages. Behind the
leader, a fierce battle ensued between Ari Vihavainen and Jarmo
Mikkonen. Vihavainen´s Ford Focus was finally in very good form and
Mikkonen, who had initially entered a Mitsubishi, managed to get
himself a WRC Peugot at the very last minute.
After Sordo´s off the pace was set by Jarmo Mikkonen, who was fastest on stages 5 and 7. Ari Vihavainen fought hard, however and he was fastest on stages 6, 8 and 9. That was enough to secure him the overall win.
- This was the first success we´ve had during our WRC project, so it feels good! The route was good too, was Vihavainen´s answer to the question: "how does it feel to win".
Jarmo Mikkonen was pleased about finishing, but something was still nagging the man:
- I´m happy about today, apart from one mistake that cost us the win and naturally that annoys me a little bit. Also the car still needs to be worked on, but it´s good to go on from here.
Third in group A was Jouni Ampuja, took part in his hometown rally with a Subaru Impreza WRC 03. Ampuja is not entered in the championship however, and therefore the third highest points went to Kim Niemi driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5.
- The end result was good, especially since we drove for about a kilometre with a flat tyre. We were even gaining on the guys in front of us towards the end. The car is old, but it still runs like clockwork, Niemi mused at the finish.
Jussi Välimäki stayed in the points´ lead, even if he did not participate in the Kouvola rally due to another competition abroad. Jarmo Mikkonen moved up to second place, past Juha Vuorela who had to throw in the towel just before the start because the gearbox joystick in his Toyota Corolla WRC was broken. Also Arto Juolahti, who scored fourth highest points with his fifth place finish "overtook" Vuorela in the drivers´ standings.
Ketomaa´s "Winnig Streak" Continues
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 driver Jari Ketomaa has this season won every round he has finished. A winning streak might not be the exactly correct term to use since there are also two retirements in between the wins, but Ketomaa definitely has a certain finish-and-win regime going on. The win in Kouvola did not come easy, as it rarely does in Group N over 2000 cc. Ketomaa and Juha Salo, driving in the same Mitsubishi importer team, each set four fastest times and in the end the gap between the two at the finish was 6 seconds, exactly.
- I´m happy with the result, but the gap to the top two guys was too big. Apparently this was a difficult rally for the others too since there were so many offs. Towards the end I was taking it a bit easier since my closest rivals both in front of and behind me retired, Klemets recounted.
Joonas Lindroos Increases Lead
First driver from Group N up to 2000 cc to set out on the route
was points´ leader Joonas Lindroos. His pace in the early part of
the day was so good that even if he set the fastest time on just
three stages out of nine he won by a margin of 21.1 seconds,
beating Ville Hautamäki who came second.
After the very first stage Lindroos´ lead was already over 17 seconds and the rest of the field was unable to catch him. After five stages Jarkko Nikara was running on second place, but still the gap to Lindroos was 16.6 seconds. Nikara, who was second in the standings before the O.K. Auto-rally, had an off on SS6 and had to retire. Ville Hautamäki "inherited Nikara´s place and third was Erno Randelin, who secured his first podium finish this season. All the top finishers drive a Honda Civic Type R.
- We were at the front from start to finish, so naturally I´m very pleased! This time the pilot was "awake" from the get-go, unlike in Kerava. We didn´t have any problems and things are looking good in the championship standings, Joonas Lindroos said smiling from ear to ear.
- A rather OK day. Apart from stage one, we were pretty equal to Joonas and Jarkko. On some stages we were faster than Joonas, especially towards the end of the rally, but we lost too much at the start, said Ville Hautamäki who set two fastest times.
- It was a pretty good rally for us. We were really competing with Jani Hirvonen in the latter part of the day for third place.
I´m really pleased, said the happy Erno Randelin.
Uusikaupunkiralli, the 7th round of the Finnish Rally Championship 2007 takes place in Uusikaupunki on 1 September 2007.