Rally Hokkaido 2023, 08.-10.09.2023 – result: 1.

Rally Hokkaido was held in Obihiro where the rally had been held the previous time in 2007. I drove there in 2006 and 2007 but both times I went off the road.

Now I was participating for the third time but this time the race was a Japanese championship race and my car was Toyota Yaris Rally2.

As early as in January 2023 Akio Toyoda invited me to drive in Hokkaido knowing that Rally Greece would be held at the same time. The decision had been made so we kept it which meant that I did not go to Greece as the team principal, but went to Japan as a driver instead with Juho Hänninen as the co-driver.

The Toyota Rally2 car was still in the developmental phase because it would enter the series in 2024 but we wanted to get the data of the ongoing phase. 

Right away the first stage of the race (Rikubetsu) convinced us that the car had potential. I was five seconds faster than anyone else on the stage.

The car was very easy to drive, the engine had enough torque, the car had good grip due to its long suspension travels and the car was strong. With a good car and an able driver results were easy to achieve. I was able to drive at the same level that I did in Secto Rally Finland a month earlier. 

I won the rally by two minutes 16 seconds. Number two was Norihiko Katsuta (Takamoto’s father), who also drove Rally2 Yaris,  and Heikki Kovalainen was third.

The race gave us important data and information about the car and its performance. The Toyota people were very happy with the results. We are really looking forward to the premier of this car in the world championship series.



Lahti Historic European Championship Rally 2023, 10.-12.08.2023 – result: 1.

The traditional Lahti rally was ahead and I felt excited but to be honest I have to say that I was a bit tired after the Secto Rally Finland the previous weekend.

Luckily I forgot the tiredness when the flag swung.

After Jyskälä it was easy to start in Koukunmaa because it felt like I just continued my racing from where I was left in Jyväskylä although the car was of course not the same. It was easy and relaxed to drive but on stage two my co-driver Enni Mälkönen had to remind me that my Celica was not a Rally1 car. Drive according to that, she told me.

Day one went excellently but we lost gear number two. We had to change the cluster into the gearbox. 

Day two started near the Hämeenkoski area where on the first stage of the day the upper water hose of the cooler slackened spraying the cooling liquid on the windshield  making the visibility bad. We managed to drive to the service and the mechanics could fix the problem. Five liters of cooling liquid was gone.

The car ran well now that the problem was fixed but it was “breathing ” after the stages. However, Celica did not break and we got the seventh victory of the Lahti Historic Rally. After the race we had to fix the engine quite a lot, but that’s just motorsport!



Secto Rally Finland 2023, 03.-06.08.2023 – result: 5.

A huge dream of mine came true when Akio Toyoda, the chairman of Toyota Corporation gave me permission to drive in Secto Rally Finland after a break of four years in driving. This was my 210th world championship start. 

I had wanted to experience the hybrid technique of this new generation Rally1 car.

It was really exciting to return as a driver after being a team principal for some time now and to see what competing in the world championship series level felt like today. The week started by testing in Konnevesi where I was able to drive 150 kilometers with the car. Right away the car felt great. The power of the Rally1 car was a huge experience. About 530 hp with extra boost by electricity. The fastest car ever that I had driven, I thought.

The first stage of the rally was the legendary and traditional Harju on Thursday. I felt nervous.  I decided to drive through safely with no risks, because any mistakes would be embarrassing and people would remember them for a long time. I was ninth fastest, eight seconds slower than the fastest car. We lost quite a lot on the stage which was only 3.5 kilometers long but the car was undamaged.

On Friday the first stage was in Laukaa. After the rain the roads were wet and slippery. My intention was to honor the conditions and make good memories throughout the weekend. My co-driver Juho Hänninen made it clear to me that this was the intention of this race for the both of  us. 

We started the rally on Friday by being in ninth position but the wet roads surprised some of the top drivers. After their retirements we realized that we were fifth overall, one minute 24 seconds behind the lead.

On Saturday it was still raining which forced us to adapt our driving  to the conditions. Västilä felt like a fine stage but at the same time it was difficult because I could not trust the grip. No mistakes during the day although Vekkula felt like the Safari Rally at times with the ruts full of water.

On Sunday (Himos1) I was a bit too enthusiastic and attacked which caused a few moments. Right away my co-driver Juho Hänninen drew me back to Earth and stated that no more of such moments or he would step out of the car!

I drove a clean and safe power stage and was fifth. So, I received 1 extra point from Power stage and my overall results was 5th in the rally as well. Elfyn Evans won the race.

It was such an overwhelming experience to drive in Jyskälä in front of the home audience that I talked more than too much in the interviews  after the finish line but luckily the spectators liked it.



SM Pohjanmaa Rally 2023, 19.-20.05.2023 – result: Historic 1., Gen 5.

My intention in this homerally of mine was to drive over the finish line because the previous time when I was able to drive the whole Rally Pohjanmaa through was in 2018.

This time the rally was held in May, not in June as usual. The roads were a bit softer and there were fewer leaves in the trees which gave us more visibility.

I drove under a far back number of 104 which meant lines and ruts on the roads but luckily we didn’t have to drive in the dark.

Enni Mälkönen, my co-driver in the gravel rally of Kuhmoinen in February, took the co-driver’s seat once again. 

There was no pressure. I just wanted to drive and have a good feeling with no unnecessary reasoning. We had a great start because on the first stage on Friday we were seventh fastest. There was another stage on Friday where we were ninth fastest so after Friday we were in seventh position.

There were six stages on Saturday, the second day of the race. Our car worked perfectly and the brand new dampers made Celica trustworthy. We were among ten fastest on stages, made no bigger mistakes and because some of the top drivers had to retire it  improved our position. Finally Enni and I were fifth overall. Lauri Joona won. We lost about 1.3 seconds per kilometer to him which was not bad at all. 

My best result with Celica ST165 ever!



Kuhmoisten Soraralli 2023, 25.02.2023 – result: Gen 1.

The race in Kuhmoinen was driven on snowy gravel roads. My regular co-driver Juho Hänninen was on holiday so he asked if Enni Mälkönen could replace him in Kuhmoinen. Normally Enni is a co-driver of Sami Pajari. This was the first time for us two to drive together. Right away on stage one, five kilometers after the start, there was a double jump and maybe I came a bit too fast to that point so I landed on the road so heavily that the top of the damper came through the bonnet. I had to drive 17 kilometers with that broken top mount  which meant driving pretty carefully. Stage two was a rather short one so I thought that we could drive it through but all of a sudden the bonnet came out which confused me a bit. Luckily the bonnet hit the roof vent and flew over the roof not even breaking the windshield. For a moment I was thinking of what to do but all in all I decided to continue the race. In the service there were some locals to help us and we managed to assemble an iron plate for the damper top mount. We were able to press the damper into its normal spot but it did not absorb shocks anymore. However, I was able to increase my speed and drive faster. Of course I had to slow down whenever there were jumps or minor bumps. On stage four I thought that the nose of the car might rip apart. I had to ease my speed a bit more. Still I was able to win the overall. What an adventure! To crown it all my Dad drove into the snow after stage two finish line and our mechanics had to go and help him out of there. They managed to get Dad back to the road within the limit of the service time so no time penalty for him. In the end my Dad Jari was third overall and the fastest of his category.

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