Back to defend his 2007 Group-A Finnish title, it was the first time Valimaki and his co-driver Jarkko Kalliolepo had managed to claim an overall event victory, completing the Tahko SPA SM-rally more than 11 seconds ahead of current Group-A leader Ari Vihavainen (Ford Focus RS WRC01).
The rally was held in perfect winter conditions, sub-zero temperatures, bright sunshine and huge snow banks. “I have won group-A (before), but this was my first overall victory in the championship. We didn’t expect to be fastest…our goals were set for highest podium position in group-A.”
Following the engine dramas that forced his retirement from round two of the series, Valimaki employed engine-wiz Juha Martikainen to produce a new group-A engine for his Lancer Evo 8. “(The) new engine is completely different than previous ones. I didn’t get good feeling (in the pre-event tests). However the stage times in the rally told us completely different story”.
Valimaki now sits second in the Group-A championship, just five points behind Vihavainen. The Finnish series now takes a break until the middle of June, with the first of four gravel events.
Final results Tahko SPA SM-ralli, Nilsiä:
1. Jussi Valimaki & Jarkko Kalliolepo, Lancer Evo VIII Gp.A, 1.06.45;5
2. Ari Vihavainen & Asko Sairanen, Ford Focus RS WRC’01 Gp.A, +11.4
3. Jari Ketomaa & Miika Teiskonen, Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2008, Gp.N, +16.0