It was a tough weekend for former APRC front-runner Jussi Valimaki, as he battles to defend his Finnish Group-A championship title. The second-last round of the Finnish national series saw Valimaki with co-driver Kai Tarkiainen battling it out near the city of Uusikaupunki, on Finland’s west coast.
An extremely high-speed event, this rally was always going to be a tough one for the STC-Meat Group-A Lancer and the leaderboard was dominated by the ex-WRC cars that also compete in the Finnish championship. But Jussi did well to get his car home in 4th outright, scoring valuable points in the process.
“Today we had no chances to battle with the World Rally Cars”, Valimaki explained. “The very high speed special stages of Uusikaupunki were better for WRC drivers than us. My main rival Ari Vihavainen finished third and I was fourth. So the battle for the title will continue.”
And speed was not the only thing holding back Jussi. Sickness and transmission problems both did their best to slow him during the eight stages of Uusikaupunki.
“The ‘flu had an effect on my concentration skills. Also for the whole final stage I rallied with a jammed gearbox. It was stuck in fifth gear, so the gap for the winner Jukka Hiltunen was increased to over two minutes. It was a rough and not so good day for us”, Valimaki explained at the end of the event.
The result means Valimaki drops to second in the championship points, with Vihavainen now just a single point in front. And with the final round, SM Vaakuna Rally, starting in three weeks time, Jussi is trying to find a budget to run a WRC Lancer and give himself a chance to match the speed of Vihavainen’s Ford Focus WRC.
SM Uusikaupunki Rally, Group-A: Top-5
1. Jukka Hiltunen & Jarkko Kalliolepo, Ford Focus RS WRC’03, 44:31.7
2. Jukka Ketomäki & Kai Risberg, Skoda Octavia WRC, +0:3.7
3. Ari Vihavainen & Lasse Hirvijärvi, Ford Focus RS WRC’01, +0:39.8
4. Jussi Välimäki & Kai Tarkiainen, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII, +2:21.5
5. Janne Mäkilä & Ilkka Ruusunen, Mitsubishi Lancet Evolution VI, +3:55.0
Finnish Rally Championship, Group-A:
1. Ari Vihavainen, 68
2. Jussi Välimäki, 67
3. Jukka Hiltunen, 52
4. Arto Juolahti, 32
5. Janne Tuohino, 25
Photos courtesy of jussivalimaki.com .