Mon 05 Feb 2024

ERC ace Heikkilä begins with a win

Mikko Heikkilä made a winning start to life behind the wheel of Toyota’s all-new GR Yaris Rally2 with victory on the Arctic Lapland Rally in his native Finland last weekend.

The former national champion, a points scorer and stage winner in the FIA European Rally Championship, was making his first appearance in the TGS Worldwide-entered Yaris and headed home Teemu Asunmaa by 7.3sec after setting four fastest stage times.  

“The feeling is like winning the Finnish championship in 2022,” Heikkilä said after the finish in Rovaniemi on Saturday evening. “This is definitely a morale booster for us. Winning the Arctic Lapland Rally is the most prestigious national event in Finland, and I’m glad we were able to win it.”

Competing alongside new co-driver Kristian Temonen, 32-year-old Heikkilä moved into a lead he wouldn’t relinquish on the fourth stage of the event, despite what he described as an “action-packed” final test.  

“I have to say that throughout my career I’ve rarely driven as action-packed stage as that last one,” he said. “We were kissing the snowbanks a lot, but we pushed hard as well. I’m happy it was enough. Big thanks to Kristian, it feels nice to begin our relationship like this.”  

Heikkilä is set to continue his GR Yaris Rally2 adventure on Sweden’s FIA World Rally Championship round from 15 - 18 February, switching from Michelin to Pirelli tyres for the occasion in line with the WRC regulations. He’s due to start his ERC campaign on the season-opening Rally Hungary from 12 - 14 April.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC Challenge Program drivers Hikaru Kogure and Yuki Yamamoto, who impressed during selected ERC appearances last year, were also in action on the Arctic Lapland Rally, successfully completed their first events in the GR Yaris Rally2, finishing eighth and ninth among headlining SM1 category contenders.  

Meanwhile, Miikka Anttila – the FIA’s sporting delegate in the ERC – made a rare return to competition to co-drive Benjamin Korhola to fifth position in the SM1 division.  

Photos: Taneli Niinimaki/AKK Ralli SM

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