Latvala leads FIA EHRC field on Lahti Historic Rall


Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team principal and 18-time World Rally Championship event winner Jari-Matti Latvala drove impeccably on the opening day of the FIA European Historic Rally Championship’s Finnish round, the 20th Lahti Historic Rally.

Taking the wheel of a Toyota Celica GT-4 prepared by his own family-run team, Latvala took almost a minute from the rest of the field on the opening special stage and never looked back. After four stages, his advantage at the overnight halt is 2 minutes 41.2 seconds.

Leading the pursuing pack early on was fellow Finn Jari Kankaanmäki in a Volvo 242 DL, but he was soon sidelined with mechanical problems. 

Former FIA EHRC Category 3 champion and 2022 Lahti winner, Ville Silvasti, swapped his regular Lancia 037 Rallye for an Audi Quattro to better tackle the gravel stages. However, an engine problem also forced him to retire after the second stage of the day.

These dramas helped Hungary’s Tibor Erdi Jr, three times an overall winner so far in this year’s EHRC, move up to get among the local heroes in his distinctive purple Ford Sierra 4x4. At the overnight halt he held third place just 9.1 seconds behind the Opel Ascona 400 of Marko Uutela.

Another exciting battle was playing out between two more stalwarts in the series - Northern Ireland’s Ernie Graham and Austria’s Karl Wagner - for much of the day. Having already wrapped up the Category 1 title with five wins in his Ford Escort Mk1 Twin Cam, Graham’s pristine Ford Escort Mk2 RS2000 was battling with Wagner’s mighty Porsche 911  in Category 3 until the Austrian rolled off the road.

Fortunately the car was not badly damaged and both Wagner and Co-driver Gerda Zauner were safe after the incident. Their demise on the final stage of the day meant that Jari Latvala, father of the event leader, ended the day inside the top 10 at the wheel of his own Toyota Celica.

The action continues early on Saturday morning, with eight stages before the event comes to an end.