58th Arctic Lapland Rally finished on Saturday evening in the snowy scenery of Rovaniemi and Kemijärvi. First to finish was Teemu Asunmaa, who got to lift the legendary reindeer antlers.
In the Rally2 based SM1 category, experience was the winning formula. Winner of the rally, the three-time Finnish Rally Champion Teemu Asunmaa celebrated his fourth SM1 category Arctic Lapland Rally win. Jari Huttunen led the rally since stage one, but ran into snowbanks on the seventh stage of the event and had to resort to shovelling snow and losing almost seven minutes in the process.
The braking was very slippery, and I hit the bank and car became stuck. I’m sorry for all those who made this trip possible.Jari Huttunen
Asunmaa fought for the lead with another experienced driver, Juha Salo, taking the victory home amongst the two Skoda drivers with a mere 1,5 second margin.
It was a really tough rally this time, Juha made it interesting. Jari was also well in the play, but unfortunately his fight for victory ended in snowbanks today. It’s a difficult rally, and experience does pay off here. We’re off to a better start to the season than last year, and these points help a lot during the long season.Teemu Asunmaa
Behind Asunmaa and Salo, Lauri Joona survied into third spot on his debut with the Rally2 category car in FRC. Behind the leading trio, Juuso Metsälä finished 4th and Niclas Grönholm, son of the legendary Marcus Grönholm, was 5th overall.
Korhola into an assuring victory in SM2
In the SM2 category, Benjamin Korhola drove into an overwhelming victory. Second in the rally was Lapland’s own man Ville Ruokanen, who was a minute and 40 seconds behind Korhola. Henri Hokkala was in contention for the lead until stage 7 where he drove into snowbanks and lost his chances of winning. Korhola got to ease up a bit afterwards and drove into a stylish victory.
We ought to be happy about this. We found the rhythm right from the start, even though we lifted a bit too much near the end. Apart from a few small mistakes, our rally was near flawless.Benjamin Korhola
Finishing third after Ruokanen was Jani Luhtaniemi, who made his return to FRC after a lengthy hiatus. He finished a bit over two minutes behind Korhola.
Räikkönen shone at his category debut
The SM3 time sheet had to be rewritten late on Saturday, as the class leader Tuomas Välilä was excluded from the rally. Välilä had rushed into service due to mechanical issues in his car after the day-ending special stage. The car couldn’t be fixed in the time period permitted, and on top of this the drivers missed a time control before heading to night break, resulting in exclusion from the event.
Inheriting the lead was class-debutant Justus Räikkönen, who didn’t stay to wait for anyone behind him. Young Finn drove into a clear victory with a bit over two-minute margin.
Feels great, I never would have believed we’d win the category on our first rally. Hard to imagine a better way to kick off a season, Räikkönen vibed.Justus Räikkönen
Räikkönen’s closest rival’s, Jooa Iivari’s rally was ended prematurely due to a technical fault on stage 7. This in turn elevated Toyota junior driver program candidate Nao Otake up to second. The last spot on the podium was taken by visiting Swede Mille Johansson.
Räikkönen gained the most championship points, but the second and third biggest points were awarded to Niko Patajoki and Topi Kärki as Otake, Johansson and fifth place finishing Hikaru Kogure have elected not to gain points in this year’s championship.
Kauppinen left no chances to his co-competitors
Last year’s bronze metal winning youngster Tuukka Kauppinen, 16, was overwhelming in the season opener. The task was made a bit easier by second in class, Ville Vatanen’s retirement into a technical failure on special stage 6.
The rally was really good for us, and we drove quite a clean event. My mind started to wonder near the end, but here we are.Tuukka Kauppinen
After Vatanen’s retirement Kauppinen was left without any threats. Closest was Tomi Tikkinen, 4,5 minutes behind. Tikkinen snatched the second place by a bit over 7 seconds from Raoul Dahlqvist before the last stage.
Hautamäki in his own class
Ville Hautamäki was on a good form all rally long and didn’t give any chances to his closest rival, Konsta Saarinen, despite his good efforts. The winning margin was almost 30 seconds after eleven stages.
Feels quite amazing. We’ve never won the Arctic with a four-wheel-drive car, only with two-wheel-drive ones. Undoubtedly the rally was difficult, we didn’t get our tire choices right, and even had a little visit in the snowbanks on the penultimate stage.Ville Hautamäki
After Saarinen, third place finisher was Arttu Lähdeniemi, a bit over a minute behind Hautamäki.
Top-3 results by class
- Teemu Asunmaa 1:57:49,0
- Juha Salo +1,5
- Lauri Joona +1:48,7
- Benjamin Korhola 2:03:51,8
- Ville Ruokanen +1:40,9
- Jani Luhtaniemi +2:20,6
- Justus Räikkönen 2:15:02,8
- Nao Otake +2:10,1
- Mille Johansson +8:47,7
- Tuukka Kauppinen 2:20:30,2
- Tomi Tikkinen +4:28,9
- Raoul Dahlqvist +4:36,2
- Ville Hautamäki 2:04:41,7
- Konsta Saarinen +26,6
- Arttu Lähdeniemi +1:22,0
Photo: Toni Ollikainen