Winter Season Wrapped-up - Välimäki Wins TahkoSpa Rally
The third round of the Finnish Rally Championship and the last rally of the so called winter season took place in Nilsiä last Friday and Saturday. The TahkoSpa Rally was kicked-off with a "super special stage" driven on an ice track with five cars lining up and starting at 10 second intervals. The rally continued on Saturday seven "traditional" stages. The winner of the overall competition and Group A was Jussi Välimäki. Jari Ketomaa was fastest in Group N over 2000 cc and in Group N up to 2000 cc Ailu Magga scored his first ever Finnish Rally Championshp win.
Välimäki Sneaks up to a Victory
In Group A the first fastest time on Saturday went to Jukka Ketomäki in a Skoda Octavia WRC. However, his rally was short-lived as he retired on SS3 with spark-plug problems. After that there was a tight battle for the number one spot between Subaru´s Janne Tuohino and Ford´s Ari Vihavainen for the next three stages. Of the two, Tuohino kept the position for stages three and four. On SS5 the "old" gear-box gremlins hit again and he was 1.5 minutes slower than fastest-time-setting Vihavainen, who took the lead for the time-being. On stage six it was Jussi Välimäki´s turn to move up front.
Miraculously Tuohino´s gearbox started working again and on stage six he lost only 0.5 seconds to Välimäki. On SS7 Tuohino was again fastest, but Välimäki kept his lead and Vihavainen too stayed ahead of Tuohino. The eight and final stage was also Tuohino´s but his time was still only good enough for third place in the end.
- This win was a bit of a surprise, but very well timed. It was only in the afternoon that things started to go smoothly and I really woke up on stage five. On the final stage however, I nearly had an off for about a dozen times - we had decided that it´s a win or nothing, Välimäki analysed.
Jarmo Mikkonen, who had finally gotten his Peugeot 206 WRC in a good working order, had an off on SS3.
Maiden Win for Ketomaa in New Subaru
In Group N over 2000 cc Kosti katajamäki in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 and Teemu Arminen in his Subaru Impreza WRX started off very strongly. Katajamäki was fastest on Saturday´s opening stage, SS2, but Arminen was wide awake too and lost only 0.2 second´s to Katajamäki. The biggest "bomb" was dropped by Juha Salo, the dominant winner of the previous two rounds, who retired on stage 3 after driving his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 deep into a snow bank. Teemu Arminen suffered the same fate on SS4.
Katajamäki´s rally was ruined after the first service when he was given a 3-minute time penalty for coming to the TC three minutes too early. On SS4 the lead was taken by Ketomaa, driving a latest model Subaru Impreza WRX. Ketomaa held the number on spot all the way to the finish line. Second place was taken by Matti Rantanen, a member of the AKK-Motorsport Coaching Team, who really has found a good speed during the winter. Third was Marko Kakko, who like Rantanen has realy improved his pace recently.
- We´ll work hard during this spring and it´ll be great. We are very happy with this result and car just keeps developing and getting better. The season always seems to even out at some point. We´ll try to be at the top again at the end of this season. It´s high time for Subaru to win the Championship, Jari Ketomaa said and continued: - This rally went really well and driving-wise it was a flawless day. It was a good run, even though we were taking it a bit easier on the last stage when we knew where things stood.
First Victory for Ailu Magga
In Group N up to 2000 cc Saturday started like the two previous rounds this season, i.e. with Joonas Lindroos setting the fastest time on the opening stage, the second stage of the rally. Lady luck however was not on Lindroos´ side this weekend. He suffered from gearbox problems on SS4, on stage five his car hit a snow bank and Lindroos eventually retired after the stage.
Ailu Magga took the reigns on SS3 and was fastest on the rest of the stages apart from SS6, where the quickest man was Erno Randelin. Ville Hautamäki, who has scored second places in the first two rallies of the season, had an off on stage four and joined the number of other retirees. Second in the TahkoSpa Rally was Vesa Hirvonen and third in his "hometown" rally was Erno Randelin. All the top three finishers drive Honda Civic Type R cars.
- I´m feeling fantastic! It´s been a long time coming this first win. We blew the engine in the tests before this rally, and now that there is a new one, there is so much more power. The summer is going to be very interesting, said the very happy Ailu Magga.
Next round: Keski-Uusimaa SM-ralli, Kerava, 13 -14 June 2008.