EHRC - Jari-Matti Latvala claims landmark Lahti Historic Rally Win

  • Toyota GR World Rally Team boss claims victory on FIA European Historic Rally Championship encounter in Finland
  • Classic Finnish stages deliver a highlight of the season to the EHRC regulars led by Tibor Erdi Jr
  • Wagner recovers from Day 1 roll to score strong points in Category 3

Finnish World Rally Championship hero and Toyota GR World Rally Team principal Jari-Matti Latvala claimed an emphatic victory on this weekend’s FIA European Historic Rally Championship round, the Lahti Historic Rally.

Fresh from making his WRC return on last weekend’s Rally Finland at the wheel of a modern Toyota Yaris GR Rally1, Latvala travelled south from Jyväskylä to Lahti in order to take part in the event at the wheel of a 1990 Toyota Celica GT-4 which he himself restored, joining the EHRC’s Category 4 contenders.

An impressive 43-car entry list for the event saw Latvala line up against championship regulars including Tibor Erdi Jr from Hungary in his Ford Sierra Cosworth 4x4 and Germany’s Jürgen Geist in his Opel Manta 400. Another regular contender for victory is Austria’s Karl Wagner in his sonorous Porsche 911 SC from Category 3, which also appeared in Finland.

Right from the outset, however, Latvala stamped his authority on the event as he sought to take the seventh Lahti Historic Rally victory of his career. Having taken the lead by more than 50 seconds after the first timed stage, Latvala and co-driver Enni Mälkönen charged onwards throughout the 12 stages of the event to take victory by a margin of 7 minutes 11.9 seconds.

“It was a very, very nice weekend and I must say that now, coming from Rally Finland, of course I had some kilometres under the belt so the feeling was very easy to start this rally to be fair,” the winner said.

“We built the Celica in 2017 and we have been running it since then. Last year I was the first time with it here, which we won, and now we’ve won it a second time and I’m very, very happy to come here with the Celica. It’s an easy car to drive.”

“Before the rally we would like the second place in Category 4 because we know that Latvala will be very, very much faster than me,” Erdi said at the finish, joined as ever by his Croatian co-driver István Kérek.

“The other goal was not to crash. So we did it! We have a lot of Finnish teams here who know the rally very, very well and we are third overall making a good result so we are very happy.

“The car was a lot of fun on gravel for the first time, and it is my first time on gravel for two years. The first day we had a turbo issue but the team changed it and now we have a little bit of noise in the gearbox but thanks to the team and to the car we are here safe.”

Sadly, not all of the contenders finished with such happy stories to tell. Among the casualties of the weekend was Wagner, who was in fine form until Friday’s closing stage, when the Porsche was pitched into a roll.

“I think it was a big stone which went between the left rear wheel and the brake,” Wagner explained. 

“We heard a big noise there for maybe half a second and it put the car a little out of control into the left ditch, the right ditch, left ditch, right ditch and eventually we rolled. The guys did a great job putting the car back together again.”

Together with regular co-driver Gerda Zauner, the Austrian returned to the fray on Saturday and began to reel in his rivals, eventually finishing in 23rd overall and maintaining his lead at the top of the category 3 points table.

“We got some good points for the championship, and that’s why we are here, but always when you go into a race you want to win so it is hard not to be a little disappointed,” he added.

Despite this setback, Wagner’s weekend was less painful than that of Geist, who crashed out in a fast section of the Finnish forest on Saturday morning. The Opel Manta was heavily damaged in the accident and Geist himself was given a precautionary medical check-up from which he was fortunately pronounced fit and well.

Incidents such as these are always a risk on the fast gravel roads of Finland, but for 2023 Category 1 champion Ernie Graham, who together with wife and co-driver Karen, joined Category 4 in a Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800, the rewards are all the sweeter.

“This is our tenth time in Lahti and it’s absolutely lovely,” he enthused. “This is such a good rally: the roads are ideal, like the best of Wales but so smooth. A real pleasure to drive in a car like the Escort.

“It’s our third car of the year. The idea was that we wanted to try for the Category 1 championship with the Escort Twin Cam, which we did. We were hoping to have our BMW M3 ready for this one but in the end we decided to run the Mk2 Escort and it really is a pleasure to drive on these stages.”

The FIA European Historic Rally Championship action returns to asphalt for the penultimate round of the series, the Sanremo Rally Storico, on October 5-8.

Lahti Historic Rally Top 10 Results

Date: August 11-12, 2023. Location: Lahti, Finland. Number of Entrants: 43 (FIA EHRC). Number of Stages: 12. Stage distance: 149.12 km









Jari-Matti Latvala/Enni Mälkönen


Toyota Celica GT-4


1hr 15m 54.4s


Marko Uutela/Ville Mäkelä


Opel Ascona 400


+7m 11.9s


Tibor Erdi Jr/Istvan Kerek


Ford Sierra Cosworth 4x4


+7m 48.3s


Pasi Hapulahti/Antti Nordström


Volvo 242DL


+9m 19.2s


Esa Peltonen/Jussi Salo


Toyota Starlet 1300


+9m 46.2s


Janne Lindberg/Jan Lönegran


Volkswagen Golf GTi


+10m 17.7s


Tommi Hannuksela/Jukka Vihtalahti


Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800


+10m 36.2s


Ernie Graham/Karen Graham


Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800


+10m 48.4s


Valter Christian Jensen/Erik Pedersen


Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800


+11m 8.4s


Jari Latvala/Jarmo Mursala


Toyota Celica GT-4


+11m 42.7s


Category winners: Cat. 1 Pekka Anttalainen/Antti Hietaniemi (Skoda Octavia Super), Cat. 2 Jensen/Pedersen, Cat. 3 Mayr/Mayr, 4 Latvala/Mälkönen

2023 FIA European Historic Rally Championship Calendar


Round 1            71st Rally Motul Costa Brava                Spain                               March 16-18

Round 2            31st Historic Vlatava Rallye                   Czech Republic              April 20-22

Round 3            Rally de Asturias Historico                    Spain                               May 11-13

Round 4            Rallye du Chablais VHC                          Switzerland                   June 1-3

Round 5            Mecsek Rallye                                           Hungary                          June 22-24

Round 6            Rallye Weisz Historic                              Austria                            July 13-15

Round 7            Lahti Historic Rally                                   Finland                                         August 10-12

Round 8            Sanremo Rallye Storico                          Italy                                  October 5-8

Round 9            Historic Acropolis Rally                          Greece                            November 2-4