Flame Airikkala scores best overall finish at Silverstone
After qualifying seventh overall for race one and a phenomenal third for race two, car racing rookie Flame Airikkala displayed fantastic speed in the Fiesta Junior Championship as she achieved her best overall finish with a sixth place result among a record grid of drivers at Silverstone.
Flame Airikkala displayed fantastic speed in the Fiesta Junior Championship as she achieved her best overall finish with a sixth place result among a record grid of drivers at Silverstone.
After qualifying seventh overall for race one and a phenomenal third for race two, Airikkala looked set for a top-5 result in race one, before contact saw her drop down the order. Nonetheless, the 20Ten Racing driver bounced back superbly to finish sixth overall in race two, missing out on the fastest lap in the MK7 class by less than a tenth of a second.
After a challenging weekend at Knockhill, Flame was aiming to return to the form which saw her claim a MK7 class podium at Oulton Park. Saturday morning saw a 15 minute free practice session disrupted by a red flag, however Airikkala showed her potential with an excellent final lap placing her sixth in the MK7 class, with her first sector the fifth quickest overall.
Qualifying gave Flame a chance to replicate this speed and push towards the front of the MK7 class order. Improving her lap times throughout the session, the 20Ten Racing driver secured her best starting spot of the season with a seventh place qualifying effort, third fastest in the MK7 class. Her second fastest lap was an even more impressive third overall, while lining up second among the MK7 competitors. Setting the second quickest middle sector of any driver, while being fastest in the MK7 class, Airikkala’s ideal lap would have placed her fourth.
Flame lined up on the third row of the grid for race one following a penalty for a driver ahead and held her own on the opening lap, remaining in sixth overall, third in the MK7 class. Airikkala was successfully able to replicate her qualifying pace in the early stages and put a brilliant move on MK6 class driver Marcel Laczycki to move into the top-5.
At the drivers headed down into Brooklands on lap three, Flame received contact to the rear which caused her to spin and was subsequently collected by a fellow competitor. Although she was able to continue, there was substantial damage to her Ford Fiesta with Airikkala also dropping to 21st overall, eighth in class.
As Flame began to get back up to speed, an incident further ahead led to a red flag bringing the race to a halt with Airikkala promoted to seventh in the MK7 class. Following a shortened restart, Airikkala did her best with a damaged car to hold with the group of drivers ahead of her, even making a move on James Pope for 16th overall on lap five. Crossing the line 15th overall, seventh in the MK7 class, this was not the result she had hoped for but her pace in the early stages of the race was extremely encouraging heading into race two.
Starting from her best ever position in the Fiesta Junior Championship in race two, Flame made a good start to drop just one position on the opening lap to fourth, third in class. Holding with the leading drivers, Airikkala set the fastest lap of the race on lap four to once again display her speed in her first race weekend at the home of British motorsport.
Lap five saw Flame enjoy a close battle with fellow MK7 driver Daniel Lewis as the drivers swapped places with Airikkala settling into fourth overall. As multiple race-winner Luke Hilton hit trouble on lap nine, Flame was now into a provisional overall podium place and enjoyed her highest career running position to date.
As drivers continued to battle for podium positions, Flame drove smartly around more experienced competitors and although lost a couple of spots, kept the car clean and avoided contact. After Ben Doughty and Ben Mulryan passed her on lap 12, Airikkala sat sixth but remained in close proximity to her rivals and continued to apply pressure in the closing stages. Finishing just two seconds behind an overall podium position, Flame ended race two in sixth overall, also sixth in the MK7 class while setting the third fastest lap of any driver.
"In race 2 I started on the second row and throughout the race was consistently fighting for second place, but unfortunately I left a gap open and dropped back to 6th place in the end", Airikkala commented. "I also held fastest lap for part of the race!"
Flame ended the weekend on a positive note and although a podium result was within reach, securing her best overall finish was a brilliant achievement for the car racing rookie.
"Such a huge improvement for only my fifth race weekend as I have gone from finishing at the back of the grid in April to now fighting at the front", she summed up.
Showing consistently front-running speed in both qualifying and the races, the 20Ten Racing driver will believe that an overall podium finish is a realistic possibility as the second half of the season progresses, while also targeting further trips to the MK7 class podium.
The next round of the Fiesta Junior Championship takes place at Donington Park on the weekend of 9th/10th September.