15 May, 2011

Heikkinen positive, but out

Still one of the youngest drivers in the paddock, Finnish champion Toomas Heikkinen continues to impress in the second event of this first full ERC season, the 19-year-old running under the watchful eye of team boss Per Eklund.

“It’s going the right way, we are close to the front and the direction is right. Per could be my grandfather but it’s really good work with him, he’s a really smooth guy and he gives me a lot of advice about how I could do things better and that helps me a lot. I also have the experience that I can bring from Formula Renault and that helps also,” says Heikkinen who made the switch from circuit racing to Rallycross last year and feels that his previous racing also plays a role in his form on mixed surfaces. “There are many things from circuit racing that I can use here; the basic car control is the same and this is racing just like Formula Renault was racing, the racecraft is a big part of this. Now there is no problem on the gravel either, I drove a lot in the winter on snow and ice and that has helped me a lot with the gravel speed: here I was fastest on the gravel sections on Saturday so actually we have changed the setup in the car a little bit to try and get better speed on the asphalt.”

The Eklund Motorsport Saab 93 Aero has been extensively re-engineered over the winter, it’s Prodrive transmission replaced by a Sellholm system which has allowed the engine to be repositioned for a better weight balance in the car. “There is now more torque in the engine and now the car handles better, the understeer that we had last year is gone and I can use a more aggressive style, it’s much nicer to drive now,” said Heikkinen who won the final event in last Autumn’s inaugural US Rallycross Championship and who is working together with his father to try and return to the States later this year. “I hope to go back. We are talking about it and there is a good possibility, but we still have some work to do before we can say that we will go there. I want to go because I need to be seen there and to keep my name known, so we’ll see how it goes.”

A puncture on Saturday afternoon left Heikkinen with a lot to do and no margin for error on Sunday and while his second heat brought a respectable ninth place the third taught him a harsh lesson of ERC life: exclusion after a run-in with Marc Laboulle bringing his event to a swift and pointless end.

by Tim Whittington, Rallycross world

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