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Mon 11 Mar 2024

Heikkilä underlines ERC title contender status with Italian win

Mikko Heikkilä underlined his status as an FIA European Rally Championship title contender with victory on Rally Città di Foligno in Italy last weekend.

The Finn’s triumph on the opening round of the Campionato Italiano Rally Terra, the Italian Gravel Rally Championship, was his first driving for Step Five Motorsport, which will run his Michelin-equipped Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 in the ERC this season.  


With new-for-2024-recruit Kristian Temonen co-driving, Heikkilä overtook Alberto Battistolli for the lead on stage two with his first of eight consecutive fastest times. Battistolli secured the runner-up spot, 40.9sec behind Heikkilä, to signal a strong start of his alliance with MRF Tyres.



“It took the first leg to get around the varying levels of grip,” 32-year-old Heikkilä said afterwards. “As the rain stopped for the second leg, we were able to push a bit more. On the third loop of stages the conditions became extreme with heavy rainfall. Especially on the last two stages there was a lot of water in the grooves. It was brilliant practice for these kinds of conditions in the future.”  


Of his partnership with Step Five Motorsport, Heikkilä added: “It was great to see how passionate, committed, and well organised the team is. A big thanks to the team. I knew the Rally2 Toyota to be strong on these stages, and the car truly showed its strength in these difficult conditions. Our Michelins also worked brilliantly in all the varying conditions we saw today. A massive thanks to Kristian also, he is very good at his job and it’s a pleasure to work together with him in the future as well.”



Heikkilä, the top Finnish championship finisher on Arctic Lapland Rally last month, is set for more Italian Gravel championship action when he contests Rally della Val d’Orcia on 7 April ahead of V Rally Hungary opening the 2024 ERC season from 12 - 14 April.  


Meanwhile, FIA Junior ERC Championship contender Liam Müller impressed by finishing ninth aboard a Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo.