Mon 13 Mar 2023

Heikkila looks ahead after Fafe ERC heartbreak

Mikko Heikkilä is determined to look ahead to the next round of the FIA European Rally Championship after he suffered late heartbreak on Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto yesterday (Sunday).

The Finnish champion was leading  the ERC season opener by 2.8sec starting the event-deciding Power Stage but dropped to eighth in the final order stopping to change a damaged front-left tyre approximately halfway through the 14.9-kilometre Lameirinha test.

It was poor reward for the 31-year-old, who’d shown great speed and composure to lead from the seventh stage of the challenging gravel event in northern Portugal.

“I was quite surprised with my pace, I wasn’t expecting this because I had not driven before in the [wet and muddy] conditions we had on the first day,” said the Michelin-equipped Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo driver. “But, okay, when we saw we could do [the times] we wanted to push and keep fighting so I’m quite disappointed after two days going flat out all the time that this happens on the last stage.”

Heikkilä, who took his maiden ERC podium on Tet Rally Liepāja last season, continued: “Always the second loop was really, really rough with so much hitting all the time so thanks to Michelin that we had a really fast and strong tyre. Okay it’s a shame we got one problem, there was maybe something in the ruts seven kilometres before the finish. I tried to drive with the flat tyre, but I saw it came out of the rim and I didn’t want to break the car because it’s €10,000 to fix the corner and I didn’t want to do that. It’s disappointing.”

Along with co-driver and fellow Finn Samu Vaaleri, Heikkilä will soon start to prepare for his next ERC appearance on Rally Islas Canarias from 4 - 6 May and is determined to bounce back.

“It’s true this is only the first round so no need to worry but at the moment I’m really disappointed and that’s quite natural,” said Heikkilä. “When you are driving in rally you will face the disappointment many times and I have learned this so you need to keep going and look forward to the next event but at the moment it’s quite difficult to accept.

“But I want to say a very big thanks to the team, The Racing Factory from Portugal. “Everything was working really, really well and everybody was so happy during the week, it was nice to see happy faces in the service. Everything worked really well with the car, it was the perfect driving all the time a really fast car. Thanks to the boys.”

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