In a rain-affected third round of the Finnish V8 Thunder championship, Milla Mäkelä – the only female racer on the grid – claimed two podium finishes at Botniaring, making it four in a row this season.
Finland is a country with a strong motorsport heritage, which has produced plenty of racing stars in both racetrack and rally categories. From Formula 1 to WRC, race fans have been following the rise of the most talented Finnish drivers, yet the national motorsport scene didn't often get the attention it deserved. One of the top championships to run on Finnish soil is the V8 Thunder Championship – a spectacular series that features muscle cars that resemble a mix of GT racing with American stock cars. With its +500 horsepower vehicles, the Finland-based series has seen among its entries drivers of the likes of Emma Kimiläinen in the past (2017) and is now starring another female talent: 28-year old Milla Mäkelä. Mäkelä's motor racing background starts in the very propaedeutic Formula Ford, before moving to the big powerful cars of the V8 Thunder series with her family-owned team MTEC. In 2021, the 5-event calendar started with the Ahvenisto round in mid-June, where Mäkelä was P4 and P6. The two races were won by Toni Lähteenmäki, who has so far completed a flawless run to win every race this season. At Kemora Racetrack, home of the second round of the 2021 championship, Mäkelä – already a race winner in the series – returned to the top and one of the main challengers. “We were struggling a bit with set ups at Ahvenisto and the results were not what we were looking for." – she said, as further investigation revealed an issue with shock absorbers after the season opener. In the first race of the weekend, Milla drove to a solid third place, earning her first podium of the season. She was then eager to top that result on Sunday's race 2, but a sudden rainfall made everything more difficult: as cars switched to wet-weather tyres after an aborted start, Mäkelä had to battle the torrential rain, poor visibility and a failing windscreen wiper. Most of the cars went off track at one point during the action-packed second race and Milla found herself going off at the fastest section due to aquaplaning - but was able to rejoin without hitting anything. She then made her way back to third place, where she would eventually finish - securing another podium. “The tire show was crazy! And the whole race was so intense." – she said. "The places changed several times when everyone went out at some point but there were also real overtakes and close on track battles all over. I went out in the fastest corner of the track due to aquaplaning", she recalled. "After a couple of laps I got back to P3 and was able to finish the race there.” The series then moved to Botniaring – the circuit where Mäkelä had scored a double-victory in 2020. And, again, the weather played a big role in the team's strategies throughout the weekend. In qualifying, drivers went out on slick tyres on a drying track, following dry practice sessions. Mäkelä had shown good pace in the dry and was eyeing a strong result – with pole position not out of reach. The team warned Milla of the fast approaching rain just before the green flag, which meant that she had to put a good lap in quickly: that's what the Finnish racer did, but traffic on her flying lap cost her pole position by two tenths. But drama wasn't over, as more unpredictable weather also marked the first race of the weekend. Most of the drivers lined up on slicks on a damp track. Starting from second position, Mäkelä found herself on the wetter line and had a slower start, dropping to third. Then the rain started to fall heavier. “I lost visibility completely in the last corner of the track because of the rain and ran a bit wide." – she explained. "Then I saw the leaders of the race crash into the barriers in the first corner." Milla couldn't avoid going off as well, but escaped major damages. Following Jonne Rautjärvi and Sami Talvitie's crash, the race was red flagged to allow the track cleaning. At the restart, Mäkelä went into the lead, but was passed by championship leader Lähteenmäki at Turn 2. She then continued a great run to finish second – crucially snatching the fastest lap of the race that gained her the start from pole position on Sunday. The mixed conditions of Race 2 made for another challenging race for the drivers, who had to gamble for tyres just before the start. Mäkelä – who had fitted slick tyres two minutes before the pit opening – would change to used wets. “I have never seen such a circumstance in a race" – commented Milla, as the rain fell on half the track throughout the race and required at one point the intervention of the Safety Car. Lähteenmäki went on top and battled with Talvitie at the restart, as Mäkelä struggled on the wetter sections: "Our tyres were so hard that I was completely lost on the wet parts, but I caught up the front in the dry part." "In the end I was in a firm P3 and had a fairly easy race to drive with good points again." – she said, as she stepped on the podium for the fourth consecutive race. "It feels good to see we can finish on the podium in any weather! Though I’m a bit gutted we didn’t get to race on dry track this weekend, as we had the pace to fight for the win on dry." "But solid points for the championship and we are now holding a top 3 position in the standings.”, concluded the driver of the #15 Mercedes. Now entering its final two rounds, the V8 Thunder championship will head to the newly-built Kymiring, on 28-29 August, where Milla Mäkelä will try to carry momentum and continue the streak of positive results.