Lindholm Victorious in Valkeakoski
The so called summer season of the Finnish Rally Championship was kicked-off with the Waltikka-Ralli driven on the fast roads around Valkeakoski. Drivers praised the renewed route, which proved to be very challenging. Winner of the seven stages long rally was Sebastian Lindholm.
Lindholm, driving a Peugeot 206 WRC in Group A had a strong start setting the fastest time on stage 1. Jari-Matti Latvala, the Championship leader, was quickest on the three following stages, but the margines were so small that Lindholm kept his lead throughout the day. The seven-time Finnish Champion was also fastest again on stages 5, 6 and 7 and got to celebrate his first win of this season. Toyota Corolla WRC driver Latvala finished seconod and Russian Alexander Dorosinsky with his Subaru Impreza WRC was third.
- The route was very hard and demanding. Luckily we didn't make too many mistakes. Naturally, I'm really happy about the win, said Lindholm.
- We just weren't fast enough today, but it was a good rally all in all, said Latvala who kept his top spot in the points' standings. Lindholm moved up to second thanks to his win in Valkeakoski. Third in the standings is Jarmo Mikkonen.
Jari Ketomaa Wins Group N with New Car
In Group N over 2000 cc Mitsubishi "team mates" Juha Salo and Jari Ketomaa battled it out for the win. Salo the reigning champion set the fastest time on SS1 and Ketomaa came back to take stage 2. After that Salo was quickest on three of the next stages, but Ketomaa won the last two. And he did that with such fast times that he ended up winning Group N. Ketomaa, driving a brand new Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, was fourth overall, just behind the top three Group A finishers. Third in this group was Janne Vähämiko and fourth Juho Hänninen, both with Evo 9 Mitsubishis.
- We were pushing really hard on the last stage, although it was like that all day long, actually, said the winner Ketomaa. he made it sound pretty easy and straightforward when the truth is that his new car was finished only days before this event and he got to do hardly any testing with it.
- This was a tough competition. We were leading the rally for the better part of the day, but only at the wrong part of the day. Jari was "hungrier" on the last stage, said second-place-man Salo.
Finally a Win for Matti Rantanen
Jarkko Nikara was the fastest driver in Group N upto 2000 cc on the day's first specail stage. After that Ville Hautamäki and Matti Rantanen claimed the rest of the stages between them.
Those three drivers were the strongest contenders for the win in Valkeakoski. It all came down to the last stage where Hautamäki rolled his car and in addition to time lost his good position. He ended up finishing 15th in the group. Matti Rantanen, who drove a strong rally, took home his first win the year and was extremely pleased about that:
- I've had so many problems so far this season that I'm overjoyed right now. Lyuckily we didn't have any problems at all today, he said.
Jarkko Nikara finished second and Joni Nikko was third.