Lahti Historic Rally: a case of flying finns | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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Lahti Historic Rally: a case of flying finns


Unsurprisingly, the fifth round of the FIA European Historic Sporting Rally Championship, the Lahti Historic Rally, was dominated by Finnish drivers, who won three of the four categories in the competition, with the fourth win, in Category 2, going to another northern European driver, Sweden’s Tony Jansson (Ford Escort RS2000).

Sixty-eight crews, including an impressive delegation of foreign participants, took the start of the Lahti Historic Rally, the only gravel event on the calendar of the FIA European Historic Sporting Rally Championship. The fast, undulating roads of the Lahti, a clear reminder of the profile of the famous special stages from the former 1000 Lakes Rally, hold the power to attract drivers in search of excitement… and of difficulties too, as it takes more than just one visit to tame these roads!

Finland’s Jari Kankaanmäki , who knows the course well, drove his Volvo 242 to victory in Category 3, winning the event for a second time – fourteen years after his win in 2004 at the wheel of an Opel Ascona 400. Kankaanmäki was almost one minute ahead of the two Audi Quattros driven by his compatriots Ville Silvasti and Antero Laine.

Not all of the European Championship regulars who had made the journey found it worthwhile. The Italians “Lucky” and Fabrizia Pons, lying fourth after the first day of the rally, were forced to retire following a run-off in the seventh special stage. Instead of their usual BMW M3, Valter Jensen and Erik Pedersen had switched to a Delta HF Integrale for the occasion. In theory, this car was more adapted to the Finnish roads, but the Norwegians scarcely had the opportunity to test their Lancia’s all-wheel drive as its engine gave up the ghost on the very first timed sector. They nevertheless remain at the top of the provisional Championship classification in Category 4.

No change either in Category 3, where Hungarian Ferenc Wirtmann is still in control of the Championship, despite missing out on the Finnish event. Austria’s Karl Wagner and Gerda Zauner and Finland’s Pentti Veikkanen and Timo Jaakkola could have taken advantage of the opportunity to reduce the gap to Wirtmann in the Championship classification, but the engineering of their respective Porsche 911s decided otherwise. Of the drivers entered in the FIA Championship, it was the Italian Alberto Battistolli and his Fiat 131 Abarth who clinched the deal, claiming the fifteen points for the win.

Despite also missing Lahti, the couple Laszlo and Edit Mekler and the inseparable Antonio Parisi and Giuseppe d’Angelo remain at the top of the European Championship intermediate classifications in their respective categories (2 and 1). Finland’s Vesa Rissanen, the winner with his Ford Escort RS1600, is now only eleven points behind Mekler in Category 2, while Sverre Norrgard climbs to second place in the Championship in Category 1.

The Nordic event was marked by the very spectacular off-track excursion of Giuliano Calzolari and Silvio Stefanelli’s Escort, as a result of which the eighth special stage had to be neutralised to allow the intervention of the medical teams. The crew from San Marino luckily escaped serious injury. The 11th special stage of the rally also had to be cancelled due to a forest fire nearby.

The FIA European Historic Rally Championship will continue in Italy from 30 August to 1 September, on the occasion of the 23rd edition of the Rally Alpi Orientali Historic.