Victory for Co-driver Reeta Hämäläinen at Rally Finland
Rally Finland - the event of the year in the WRC season for the many Finnish drivers.
And it was a memorable one for Reeta Hämäläinen, co-driver of Emil Lindholm, who took WRC2 class victory after a post-race penalty. Enni Mälkönen, co-driving Sami Pajari was also in the fight for third, but the duo was out of contention after an incident on Saturday. Here is the full story.
Rally Finland - one of the main events of the rallying season - saw many home drivers on the entry list this year, especially among the crowded WRC2 class; among them we could find two female co-drivers, ready for some home success. One of them is Reeta Hämäläinen, currently co-driving Emil Lindholm in the WRC2 season. "From SS1 in Harju starts my 7th time in Rally Finland as a co-driver", she wrote. "It is super cool to start on these world's fastest rally roads with Emil. This is definitely one the most amazing contests during the season." "These roads are just so awesome and as the home audience is rooting for us, it makes competing so very special." - Reeta Hämäläinen explained ahead of the big event. Enni Mälkönen also was back co-driving for Sami Pajari, as the duo currently competes in Junior WRC, at their second start in WRC2 this season. And both crews are fast, very fast. Friday started with a dominant performance for Teemu Suninen, with seven fastest times in the nine speed test and a gap of 19,4 seconds at the end of the day to Emil Lindholm and Reeta Hämäläinen who followed in second position. In third place and with impressive pace on their second ever WRC2 start were Sami Pajari and Enni Mälkönen, after a competitive first day run in the region of Jyväskylä. Suninen hit trouble on Saturday, as he was shortly down on power but managed to pick up the pace once again, then topping the day. The crowd saw an exciting duel between Suninen and Lindholm: the Finnish driver, alongside Reeta Hämäläinen, also had drama with a faulty starter motor, which meant they had to restart the engine several times. Luckily, this didn't slow down the duo who came home 10,6 seconds behind Suninen. Sami Pajari and Enni Mälkönen were in for another great run, but they hit a rock and were forced to retire due to a broken track control arm. The pair showed impressive pace on course to 3rd place and would restart the rally on Sunday - but unfortunately dropped out of podium contention. Suninen ended Sunday's action by winning Rally Finland, ahead of Emil Lindholm and Reeta Hämäläinen. Third was Egon Kaur, with nearly a two minute gap to second-placed Lindholm after calmer Sunday stages for the leading teams.
"What a week! Victory on WRC2 Juniors and second place on WRC2", said Reeta Hämäläinen immediately after the race. "Emil drove super well and with no mistakes the whole weekend and we had a blast on stages! It is a great honor and a privilege to get to sit next to Emil in the cabin." But the surprises were far from over: race winner Suninen was disqualified after his Hyundai i20 N Rally2 front bumper was found underweight. That meant that Emil Lindholm and Reeta Hämäläinen claimed victory in Rally Finland, ahead of Kaur and Hayden Paddon, who thus moved into third. "Breaking News! Due to the disqualification of Suninen, we are promoted to P1 in WRC2", added Hämäläinen. "Not the way we would have wanted to win of course, and we feel sorry for Teemu and Mikko who did a superb job." Sami Pajari and Enni Mälkönen were classified as 10th after retiring on Saturday and resuming the rally on Sunday. "The rally again showed both its good and bad sides, when a stone on the driving line caused the interruption of the podium chase on Saturday", said Enni Mälkönen. "But we'll make up for it soon, as the Belgian World Rally Championship is up next week." The next WRC round will take place from 18th to 21st August, at the WRC Ypres Rally Belgium.