Lindholm Scores Second Consecutive Win
The sixth round of the Finnish Rally Championship, O.K. Auto-ralli was driven in Kuusankoski in unusually hot weather conditions. The demanding, varied and challenging route was a favourite with the drivers, even though the dust kicked-up by the other cars occasionally hampered the driving. Winner of the seven-stages-long rally was Sebastian Lindholm.
Lindholm's start for the rally was very strong as he set the fastest time on the opening stage with his Peugeot 206 WRC. Lindholm was fastest also on special stage 5 and he was naturally pleased about winning after a hard day's work:
- This was a very tough competition in every way. I think that before the last stage there were four WRC cars only within a few seconds from each other, so it was really tight all the way to the finish. The roads were hard and there was a lot of dust out there. This was one of the most difficult Finnish Rally Championship rallies that I've driven, said Lindholm on the podium.
- We're trying to fight for the title this year, but since we missed the first two rounds I think our rivals need a bit of bad luck in order for us to succeed, Lindholm continued.
Second in Group A was Aki Teiskonen, who this year competes in the PWRC and hence is not entered in the national championship. In Kuusankoski Teiskonen drove with a Mitsubishi Lancer mainly for testing pusposes.
- This was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed driving on these fast roads. We came here looking for speed and courage and we found just that. We didn't have the best possible start as we experienced some engine problems on stage 1 and lost 50 seconds, but the rest of the day went really well. I must say that the roads the Finnish Rally Championship rounds are driven on are the best in the world. I would love to be able to drive here even more, said the very happy Teiskonen.
According to the provisional results third in Group A was Heikki Westerlund with his Mitsubishi. Because second-place-man Teiskonen is not entered in the championship, Westerlund scores the second highest points. Kosti Katajamäki, who set fastest times on stages 2, 3, 4 and 6 and was leading the rally for the most part of the day, was forced to retire on the very last liaison section due to a fly-by-wire failure. Katajamäki is the reigning Group A Finnish Champion, but is this season driving in the WRC and not defending his crown.
Jari-Matti Latvala who is leading the driver standings was the second fastest man overall, but his performance was disqualified. A protest has been made against the disqualification, so the Group A and overall results are still provisional.
Juha Salo Scores First Win of Summer Season
The reigning Finnish Champion of Group N over 2000 cc Juha Salo returned to his winning ways in Kuusankoski. His previous win dates back to the Peurunkaralli driven in March. Salo driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 set the fastest time on stages four and five.
- Today was a good day. We now "found the plot" that was a bit lost in the previous rally in Valkeakoski and our times were where at the level I wanted them to be. On the last two stages I was taking it a little easier trying to avoid any unnecessary risks. The route was good and the roads really great, said Salo.
Another Mitsubishi driver Juho Hänninen gave Salo a run for his money by being fastest on SS1, SS6 and SS7.
- Apart from stage four, everything went really well today. On SS4 I slowed down a bit and I guess Salo carried on at a fast pace. Otherwise it was a close battle between the two of us. The route was good and fast, really great roads, said Hänninen.
Third in Group N over 2000 cc was Jari Ketomaa, the winner of the last round in Valkeakoski. Ketomaa, driving with a Mitsubishi Ralliart Finland Evo 9 "identical" to Salo's, suffered a flat tyre on the opening stage and even though he fought back setting fastest times on two stages, but it wasn't quite enough for a win.
- There was no point in pushing really hard when it was impossible to catch Juha and Juho by simply driving fast. In other words, this rally wasn't as good as the previous one, Ketomaa said.
Second Win in a Row for Matti Rantanen
In group N upto 2000 cc Matti Rantanen, the winner of the previous round, was victorious again in Kuusankoski winning the season's second "summer rally" in a dominating style - Rantanen was fastest in six of the seven stages. Only on SS5 that fastest time was set by Ville Hautamäki.
- We had no problems at all. The car was good, the pace notes were good, the service team was good and even the guys in the car worked pretty well, Rantanen explained in good spirits.
- Hopefully this good from will continue for the rest of the season, but I think that my fellow competitors will have a thing or two to say about that. But all in all, a great result today - it feels good that we were in the lead from the start, he continued.
Also Hautamäki, who had a new car in Kuusankoski, was pleased with his second place:
- I have to be happy with the result today. We were close to crashing out of the competition on SS3, where we fell into a ditch at a very high speed and punctured a tyre. We drove to the stage finish with only a rim. This rally was tough on the car, Hautamäki said.
Since Jari Luostarinen and Riku Seppä are not entered in the championship, the third highest championship points went to Ford Fiesta ST driver Joonas Lindroos, who finished the rally in fifth place.