Toksport WRT’s Škoda driving Emil Lindholm and Reeta Hämäläinen mastered the difficult driving conditions of the World Rally Championship in Japan. The Finnish duo finished third on rain-soaked roads of the WRC2 class, which was enough to secure the Championship title in the FIA WRC2 class.
Finland's all-time best season in the World Rally Championship continued when Team GRX’s Emil Lindholm and Reeta Hämäläinen hit a gold mine and became Champions of the FIA WRC2 class.
The duo, competing with Toksport WRT's Škoda, started the final day of the rally in the lead of their class until heavy rain soaked the roads. The Finnish duo secured their title by driving safely to the finish line being third. It was enough to defeat the reigning champion of the class, Škoda's Andreas Mikkelsen, by seven points.
Lindholm and Hämäläinen became the fourth Finnish crew to reach the championship title of the current WRC2 class. In 2011 Juho Hänninen and Mikko Markkula drove their Škoda Fabia S2000 to SWRC class champions. In 2016 Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm won the WRC2 championship title with their Škoda Fabia R5 and in 2019 Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen took the WRC2 Pro class title with their Škoda Fabia R5.
Lindholm had already secured the WRC2 Junior class Championship in October. The second FIA Championship title of the season left Lindholm almost speechless.
- When I think what happened, it is going to take a while to sink in. Phew! The year ended with a better result than expected. The WRC2 championship title was my dream for next year, Lindholm admitted.
- The rain made the situation even more surprising. The penultimate stage was extremely slippery and the most difficult stage in my entire driving career. Rally Japan was my most challenging World Championship Rally overall. We expected rain for the last special stage and I based my choice of tires on that prediction. It (the choice) went wrong and I have only myself to blame. Fortunately it didn't solve anything.
- Losing the win of Rally Japan doesn't hurt at all. We had a much bigger goal (Championship title) in our minds, which we took. The title was our only goal going into the rally and the rally went much better than I could have expected.
- This is the absolute highlight of my career. It's great that we were able to join the Finnish rally win streak and strike gold. A big thank you to all of my supporters who made it possible for us to even drive in Japan and go for the championship, Lindholm reminded.
The upcoming new season is just two months away. Plans have been made, but Lindholm has nothing definite to tell about the 2023 season yet.
- Nothing has been agreed on yet. However, I believe that with the Championship title we have a good chance to do something in next year's World Rally Championship series, says Lindholm.
Final results: FORUM8 Rally Japan WRC2-class:
1. Grégoire Munster (NED) – Louis Louka (BEL) Hyundai i20 N Rally2 2:51:43.1
2. Teemu Suninen (FIN) – Mikko Markkula (FIN) Hyundai i20 N Rally2 + 21.6
3. Emil Lindholm (FIN) – Reeta Hämäläinen (FIN) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo + 34.8
4. Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) – Sae Kitagawa (J) Škoda Fabia R5 + 1:09.0
5. Sami Pajari (FIN) – Enni Mälkönen (FIN) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo + 1:10.0
WRC2 World Championship standings:
1. Emil Lindholm – Reeta Hämäläinen (FIN) Škoda 116
2. Andreas Mikkelsen – Torsten Eriksen (NOR) Škoda 109
3. Kajetan Kajetanowicz (POL) – Marek Szczepaniak Škoda 104