26 June, 2011

Giving it up for the kid

Eklund misses Norwegian chance after muddy test with Heikkinen.

Organising a two-day test at Höljes for his young Finnish protégé, Toomas ‘Topi’ Heikkinen, cost Per Eklund his chance of starting in this weekend’s Norwegian ERC round, but the veteran Swede is as philosophical as ever about it, and reckons the test was more than worthwhile.

“I promised Toomas a test before the season began but then we did not get the car finished in time because parts were late and since then it was race, race, race so there was no time for a test. We went to Höljes a couple of weeks ago and did two days with him but it rained a lot and there was so much mud that we had to strip the car completely afterwards and the time we lost doing that made the difference between finishing my car and not,” said Eklund who, true to form, worked marathon hours in a bid to race, “The shell was painted late on Sunday night and we took the shell from the paintshop on Monday and started to build it up. We needed another half-a-day and it would have been finished, I wanted to work through the nights but the rest of them needed to sleep! We could not have tried harder, we got here five minutes before scrutineering finished on Friday.”

Out of action since the end of last year, Eklund is eager to race, but also getting satisfaction from being team boss. “I miss driving but there is not the money for me to race. I know when the tank is empty, not like some of these Norwegians racing on borrowed money. It’s good working with Toomas. He listens to advice and learns fast but he still needs more experience. The test was good for him because these cars are difficult to race in the rain and Rallycross is not like Formula One or Touring Cars where it rains and the drivers say ‘Ooh, we can’t race in this’, they are, what do you call that? Gay!” said Eklund.

Heikkinen also rated the Höljes test as valuable. “It was good to have time in the car, I still need to learn about it and work with the setups. We had one dry day and then it rained so it was good to have different conditions, kind of perfect,” he said, “There’s no time to experiment in a race, you have to learn the track and go for it, so a test like that was very good for me.”

Depending on his progress in Norway and Sweden, and how the car comes through those events, Heikkinen may add the Finnish championship’s ‘Sambacross’ event to schedule. “Mikko Hirvonen will be in that event so it will have more attention and because of that it would be good for us to go there. We are thinking about it but will not make a decision until after Sweden,” he said.

By Tim Whittington, http://www.rallycrossworld.com/

Heikkinen with engineer Per Anders Eklund, son of Per Eklund.

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