Jari-Matti’s top moments 1989-2002

I started training for my rally career when I was four years old with a car (in the photo) my father bought me. It has been used in traffic school for children. I drove with it in our yard, which was filled with combine harvesters. But my way of driving was so hard that the car didn´t last very long.

When I was six years old I started also karting. My first competition was in Vaasa on 20th of September 1992. Success varied and I drove until summer 2000.

I have dreamt of being a rally driver all my life. When I was eight years, my father bought me a Ford Escort from one employee of our company. The car didn´t have very much power, but it was only a good thing, because I continued driving between threshers. The most important thing was, that I learned driving properly.

We didn´t own the Ford Escort very long time before dad sold it and bought instead a Sunbeam Avenger from Henri Toivonen. It was a better car, it had a lot more power and there were room for a co-driver. The speed started to rice and one time the Avenger hit sideways to a thresher quite hard. After that, father didn´t allowe me to drive in our yard anymore.

I switched the Avenger to a group A 2 litre Opel Ascona, when I was ten years old. The next place where I practiced, was an icy lake nearby our summer cottage. There I had a chance to drive plenty and I became much faster. One time, when I was let to drive on a real road and one man, who worked as a mechanic in dad´s rallies, jumped into the co-drivers place. He was the same man, from whom we bought my first rally car. He was a good teacher, but Juha taught me to use big gears, which caused me problems and we ended to the ditch. That incidence taught me a lot and after that, driving on the road started improving.

When I was 12, father got a group F Ford Escort RS 2000 together in deal of other machinery. Escort was even better than Ascona and it was easier to drive, too. I trained both on ice and road, a little bit more on road. Dad also participated with the car in Tikkakoski Rally and succeeded quite well.

My next car was an Opel Astra. Father bought it when I was 14. It was a normal car at first, so it had to be built into a rally car and Jari Valtaala did that. Jari drove with that a few rallies, but he was rather unlucky. After that, I had an opportunity to test it and after a while it started to go well. I drove with it even in three events, which were arranged to some clients. Later that car was switched to a Mitsubishi Lancer, that dad used in Safari Rally in Kenya and drove all the rough way to the finish line.

In autumn year 2000 father switched my Escort to a Toyota Corolla 1600 GT. It was build by Jukka Karjalainen. The change had to be done, because in rally sprints (in junior class) cars should be under 1600 cc. Again, I was fortunate to have a better car than the previous one. As soon as I was 16 years old, I had a chance to take part in my first rally sprint on 5th of May 2001. I participated in 13 rallies with this car, but then in the middle of October in 2001 the engine broke down. After it was fixed in February, the car was as good as new and I drove five rally sprints during 17th of February – 17th of March 2002.

In October 2001 when the other car was in a repair shop, I had to find another car very quickly and father found it, a Toyota Corolla GT 1600 (ex Hiltunen). By the way, it was also build by Karjalainen. With this car I drove nine sprints and the last of them was on 19th of May 2002.