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GP Week : Issue 163
RALLY >>> FEATURE Like most budding Finnish rally drivers, Jarkko, now 26 years old, first drove a car at a very early age. In his case when he was 10. He then went in for national autocross races at 16 and the next year entering junior rally sprints. His first event was in his father’s Saab 96, and his first official event was at the wheel of an Opel Ascona in 2004, moving on to an Astra in 2005. He had been rallying regularly in 2006 and 2007 in Finland with a Honda Type R before moving on to four wheel drive in 2008 with a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.: “The Civic was a logical step for a young driver and is more popular here in Finland than most other European countries.” It got Jarkko noticed and brought not only some sponsorship and also the Finnish Junior title in 2006. In 2008 he had his first taste of foreign rallying, competing on the gravel Adriatico Rally in Italy in a Subaru, which unfortunately ended off the road on the first stage. The Pirelli Star Driver selection process in October 2008 brought Nikara into the sporting limelight. Jarkko’s drives in the PSD Evo X established him as the fastest driver of the five drivers in the team, though not the most consistent, his best position being third in Group N, behind two PCWRC championship drivers, in Sardinia: “This was my first opportunity to enter long foreign events. It gave the chance to learn completely different kinds of roads, telling me that going flat-out all the time was not possible, and working with a professional team (Ralliart Italia) was a great boost for a young driver.” The PSD programme was not just a learning curve for the young drivers, unfortunately it was also a learning curve in the development story for the Evo X car, and consequently the cars were not completely reliable. His personal esteem was greatly enhanced, however, as PSD officials acknowledged that he was a star of the group, impressed with his skills on asphalt as well as gravel, with the ability to go a lot further in the sport. The PSD programme however also brought harsh realities of the commercial side of rallying home to Jarkko: “We contacted different teams in the hope of getting a programme for 2010, but always the money being asked was too much for us, if we wanted to go ahead with running big cars “In the end that led to going across to Britain to rally in the national championship with Autosport Technology’s Twingo. That went well and we only missed the chance of winning the R2 championship category with mechanical failure on the final round.” The one big hope was when he was offered a drive in a Peugeot 207 S2000 for the 2010 NORF, but it was not a success, there were technical issues but apart from some fastest SWRC times the event was a disappointment. Then came more reality checks. The arrangement with his manager fell apart, and he was on his own. Nothing was appearing on the horizon for the 2011 season. His aspirations were now focussed back on the national rally championship. All the time, Jarkko had an Evo IX which he used from time to time in Finnish national events, and which he will use again in Jyvaskyla this year: “Even now the Evo IX is still a competitive car on Finnish roads, maybe because of its lighter weight faster than the Evo X. The car I will use on NORF this year is my own, rallied many times and regularly used as a training car as well. It is a good and most economical car, and good to use in between other opportunities.” Other opportunities fortunately are still coming. For 2012 he was approached by Autosport Technology with a view to driving a Citroen DS3 R3T in the British championship, which now is focussed completely on two-wheel drive cars: “Autosport Technologies knew me well enough. I knew that this could give me more international events at a reasonable cost and get as much experience as I can, two or four- wheel-drive” . A new four-wheel-drive option also cropped up, with Tommi Makinen Racing with a Impreza R4: 38 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: