Latvala wins in Laukaa
In the Finnish World Rally Championship, the last rally of this winter was driven last Saturday in the legendary roads around Laukaa, near Jyväskylä. It was snowing heavily at times during the day, but according to the competitors that did not have a huge effect on their driving. The winner, after seven special stages and a total of approx. 100 kilometres, was Jari-Matti Latvala.
20-year-old Latvala begun by setting fastest times on the first two stages of the day. Sebastian Lindholm, who has taken the title in the Finnish Rally Championship a total of seven times, was fastest with his Peugeot 206 WRC on stages 3 and 6, but that was not enough to stop Latvala from winning. The young Toyota Corolla WRC driver was quickest on all the rest of the stages.
- This was a good day. There were no problems at all with the car. We were taking it a bit easier on stage 6 to avoid any unnecessary mistakes, but on the last stage we had the best run of the day. Generally, we've found this good speed this season through doing a lot of driving with the same car. We've managed to get the set-up right and at the same time become more confident. I would give this four-rounds-long winter season a 9 out of 10. It can't be a perfect ten, because our off in Arctic Lapland Rally, said Latvala.
- Driving felt better today than three weeks ago in Mikkeli. We will naturally try to win in the summer, but can't of course make any promises. The roads in Laukaa are in very good condition, you couldn't ask for a better winter rally, said the second-place-man Sebastian Lindholm.
Jarmo Mikkonen, who was only one point behind the points-leader Latvala before this fourth round of the championship suffered the same fate as in the previous rally in Mikkeli. He had to retire from the competition due to an off. This time Mikkonen's Ford Focus WRC damaged after making contact with a tree on stage 3. Third in Group A was Kai Eklund, who is not entered in the championship. Therefore the third highest points went to Kari Ali-Rantala, who finished fourth in the group.
Group A, unofficial results:
1. Jari-Matti Latvala 54.46,7
2. Sebastian Lindholm +0.26,7
3. Kai Eklund +3.46,9 (not entered in the championship)
4. Kari Ali-Rantala +4.02,1
5. Markku Nikupeteri +4.05,3
1. Jari-Matti Latvala 40
2. Kari Ali-Rantala 26
3. Sebastian Lindholm 24
3. Jarmo Mikkonen 24
5. Pekka Keski-Korsu 21,5
Jari Ketomaa, who scored a sweet "home victory" in the previous round driven in Mikkeli, started the day well in Laukaa too by setting the fastest time in this group on SS1. After that though the pace was set by Juha Salo, with Ketomaa being fastest on stage 6 and Juho Hänninen on the last stage.
- Our day was pretty much problem-free, we didn't even touch the banks that much. Everything worked brilliantly. Towards the very end we eased up a bit, because it would have been stupid to have to shovel some snow. All in all this was a good competition. Now we'll concentrate on achieving better results in the summer than we did last year, said the winner Juha Salo.
- I am very happy with today's rally and with the entire winter season. I would give it an 8 or a 9 out of ten. You can't do anything about technical problems, but in general everything has gone well after we changed cars (from Subaru to Mitsubishi). I've got high expectations of the summer - we'll get an "upgrade" on the car front, from an Evo 8 to Evo 9 - but naturally there will be a lot of hard work involved, says Jari Ketomaa who finished second in the group in Laukaa.
In the standings Juho Hänninen kept his lead, but only one point separates him from Juha Salo. Ketomaa is currently laying third.
The top drives of Group N, over 2000 cc were asked before the start of the rally in Laukaa that do they think they could challenge the WRC cars of Group A, and the answer was that maybe on some stages, if everything goes well. Apparently things did go well, because Salo was third overall, Ketomaa fourth and Anton Alén fifth. The only drives ahed of them in the overall competition were the two top finishers of Group A, i.e. Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastian Lindholm! Also, Juho Hänninen, Teemu Laatunen, Jukka Ketomäki and Marko Kakko finished in front of the rest of the Group A drivers.
Jani Paasonen, who made a "guest appearance" in Laukaa driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8, finished eighth in Group N over 2000 cc.
Group N over 2000 cc, unofficial results:
1. Juha Salo 56.14,3
2. Jari Ketomaa +0.12,7
3. Anton Alén +0.46,5
4. Juho Hänninen +0.57,6
5. Teemu Laatunen +1.00,6
1. Juho Hänninen 40
2. Juha Salo 39
3. Jari Ketomaa 35
4. Jukka Ketomäki 29,5
5. Teemu Laatunen 21
Hautamäki takes win in after tight battle
In Group N, upto 2000 cc the points-leader Ailu Magga set the fastest time on the first special stage of the day. Magga was also quickest on SS3 and SS5. However, Jarno Kinnunen who like Magga has been very strong this first part of the season, wasn't that far in Laukaa either. Kinnunen was the fastest man of the group on the second special stage, and quick enough on the rest of them to be in the lead after five stages, six tenths ahead of Magga.
The fight for victory was however a three-way battle, because Ville Hautamäki was "laying in ambush" right behind the leading pair. Hautamäki was fastest on SS4 and SS6 and on the latter the gap between him and his closest rivals was so big that Hautamäki took the win in this battle of the Honda drivers. On the last stage quickest was Joonas Lindroos driving a Ford Fiesta ST.
- In the early stages of the competition it seemed impossible to catch up and close the small gap between myself and the guys in the lead, but on stage six things started to go really well. I felt slightly nervous on the last stage, but everything went ok. This was a really good and close competition. Winning here helped us close the gap in the points a bit before summer, Hautamäki said.
Group N upto 2000 cc, unofficial results:
1. Ville Hautamäki 1.01.10,6
2. Ailu Magga +0.08,4
3. Jarno Kinnunen +0.11,7
4. Joonas Lindroos +0.19,6
5. Joni Nikko +0.52,7
1. Ailu Magga 40
2. Jarno Kinnunen 37
3. Ville Hautamäki 33,5
4. Joonas Lindroos 30
5. Jani Hirvonen 18
Final official results at: http://www.tenab.net
Complete standings at: http://www.akk-motorsport.fi/rallism/english/pist_engl/
Next round of the Finnish Rally Championship: Waltikkaralli in Valkeakoski, 11 June 2006