Finn Toomas "Topi" Heikkinen has made the move from circuit racing to Rallycross and will take part in this year’s Finnish 'Super Rallicross' championship in an Eklund Motorsport Saab 93 ERC.
Heikkinen (18) will contest a full season in the Finnish championship as well as driving the Saab in the Finnish round of the ERC in July. Further outings will be considered on the basis Heikkinen’s progress. Starts in the Swedish ERC round, and late season ERC events that fall after the end of the Finnish championship are under discussion.
Having raced karts since the age of eight, Heikkinen progressed to cars in a fairly conventional career path and drove in Formula Renault events in 2008 and ’09. The move to Rallycross is not unique; Finland’s most recent European champion, Jussi Pinomäki, was also an accomplished racer before switching codes.
“It is great to start taking part in a sport in which Finns have a fantastic history and several European champions. My team manager, Per Eklund, has also won the European championship, and Matti Alamäki, the living legend of Rallycross and a five-time European champion, is still driving in the Finnish championship. In company like that, you just have to grab the wheel like a man!” said Heikkinen, “Obviously there is a huge amount to learn. Just to start with, I’m not familiar with the high-powered engine and four-wheel drive of my car. During the winter I have been learning to drive a four-wheel drive vehicle in a Mitsubishi rally car on various Rallycross tracks. Rally driver Riku Tahko has been sitting beside me, and I’m starting to get the hang of it."
In kart racing Heikkinen was a contemporary of Timmy Hansen, Tom Blomqvist and Marcus Ericsson, he was a race winner during the 2009 Formula Renault NEC Cup season.
Eklund has high hopes for his young protege and is looking forward to the task of working with a young driver, "Toomas tested my car at the end of last year, it was just a short run but he drove well. He is going to come to Sweden now and we will work together, driving in the snow and on Rallycross tracks. I’m going to teach him like he was my own son," said Eklund, "He has a lot of experience from karts and Formula Renault, has a very professional attitude and good backup. He’s not quite 19 yet and he wants to learn everything, I’m looking forward to working with him."
Heikkinen’s switch to Rallycross is already viewed as a multi-year project by his father Jarmo, "We are by no means saying never again to the Formula classes, but for now we are seriously investing in Rallycross and aiming to move to the ERC in 2011," he said, "We are happy to face the new challenges and delighted to have Per Eklund with his tremendous experience by our side, not forgetting the team and the fast, reliable car. Rallycross is very popular in Finland and Europe, and I’m convinced this colourful sport would surely be a hit in the United States too. It is also a splendid thing that both the Finnish and the European Championships will be broadcast on TV."
Heikkinen Senior also pointed out the economic advantages of Rallycross: "After karting we drove in the Formula Renault class, and I must say that they are both excellent ways of draining your funds. When I started to find out about Rallycross as a sport last autumn and had discussions with Eklund Motorsport, I noticed that there is still some sense left in the 'price tags' of this sport. It is not exactly cheap either, but it is a lot more sensible compared to the prices in karting and Formula Renault, where the situation is rather overheated,” he said.
Eklund has yet to confirm his own programme of events for 2010, but is set to contest the Finnish championship rounds in Kauhajoki and Joensuu (Heikkinen’s home town) alongside his young team mate. Eklund Motorsport is the latest of the sport’s established operators to embrace the commercial team model, joining OlsbergsMSE and KHM in expanding its activities by running other drivers.
Finnish Rallycross Championship
May 8, Hämeenlinna
May 29, Hyvinkää
June 19, Oulu
July 17, Kauhajoki
August 7, Joensuu
August 21, Kouvola
22 February, 2010
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