The Swedish Rallycross Championship, the 'Rallycross Norden' events and probably eight events of the 2010 FIA European Rallycross Championship is the plan for Per Eklund this year. Like Michael Jernberg yesterday, Andréas Eriksson this last saturday, and Kenneth Hansen last week, Eklund also attended Strängnäs Motorstadion for some testing before the season. He had this time only brought his "old" SAAB 9-3 with him. "Everything underneath is the same – it is only the model that is older – otherwise it is just as fast as my other Division 1 cars,"he explained.
Per Eklund, explains Toomas Heikkinen how Rallycross has to be driven. (Photo: © Lennart Pettersson)
The reason that Eklund is not attending the first two events of the 2010 European Championship this year is that he will be in Finland at the Finnish Rallycross Championship that kicks off at Hämeenlinna on May 8 – though, he will not be driving. This year, Eklund is taking young Finnish driver Toomas Heikkinen under his wings. Heikkinen, only 19 years old, is this year entering the Rallycross stage by renting one of Eklund's Divison 1 SAAB's, and has at the same time gained a mentor in Eklund. Eklund (64 years old in June) realizes the importance of getting young drivers into Rallycross and wants to support them as much as he can with his knowledge and experience. His first step is to act as a 'teacher' for Heikkinen, whom he sees much potential in. "This test is actually for Toomas, though I do of course get into the car as well," Eklund says. Even no matter how experienced as Eklund is, he too needs testing before the season and sat yesterday both in the driver's and co-driver's seat.
Toomas Heikkinen was already very fast in the "old" SAAB 9-3 of Eklund Motorsport. (Photo: © Lennart Pettersson)
He thinks that it is important to help "the new generation of young drivers" forward in their careers. And to be there as a mentor is something he really looks forward to. Even though Toomas Heikkinen has not yet competed in any Rallycross event, nor even driven a Rallycross car before coming to Strängnäs Motorstadion, Eklund sees a big potential in the young Finn. Heikkinen has a background in karting and Formula Renault, and has earlier teamed up with drivers such as Timmy Hansen (son of Kenneth Hansen) and Marcus Ericsson in karting. Yet a few laps on the track in a rented Group A Rally car (a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10) and Eklund's Division 1 SAAB 9-3 Rallycross car, he soon learned more about how to make full use of the track, and even came down to laptimes faster than Michael Jernberg initially had yesterday. "He beat Michael!!!," mentor Eklund shouted with a smile when the Finn got out of the car.
Toomas Heikkinen will focus on the Finnish Rallycross Championship in 2010, however he is already making plans for a European Rallycross season in 2011. (Photo: © Lennart Pettersson)
Heikkinen will this year drive in the SRC Finnish Rallycross Championship in a SAAB 9-3 SportSedan of Eklund Motorsport. The biggest difference from Formula Renault to Rallycross was not, as probably expected, the new wider driving style; "the seat is on the left side of the car!" Heikkinen laughed, as he is used to sit in a kart. He is also a little worried over the roughness that sometimes does occur in Rallycross. "In Formula Renault we drive with distance to each other, and you won't get much damage on your car, however in Rallycross – you can," Heikkinen says. Though the fear of rough competition and the trouble of a left-seated car, seem not to be too big problems for the young Finn who plans to have his first and second event as learning events, and then, during the rest of the season he hopes to be competitive in the 'A' finals. In 2011 Heikkinen plans to drive a full season in Division 1 in the European Rallycross Championship. Will he succeed? This is not known yet, however we will for sure keep our eyes on this new young driver.
20 April, 2010
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