FIA European Historic Rally Championship – Round 7: Lahti Historic Rally

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Finnish World Rally Championship hero and Toyota GR World Rally Team principal Jari-Matti Latvala and his co-driver Enni Mälkönen claimed an emphatic victory in the FIA European Historic Rally Championship round in Finland on 11-12 August.  Fresh from making his WRC return on the previous weekend’s Rally Finland at the wheel of a modern Toyota Yaris GR Rally1, Latvala travelled south from Jyväskylä to Lahti in order to take part in the event at the wheel of a 1990 Toyota Celica GT-4 which he himself restored.

Fresh from making his WRC return, Jari-Matti Latvala was head and shoulders above the rest and took his 7th Lahti Historic victory Photos Merita Mäkinen/Meritapix

Although he already has several victories in the Lahti Historic Rally under his belt, they have not come from the race run as a part of the FIA European Championship.  This year Latvala registered in the Championship, joining the EHRC’s Category 4 contenders in a 43-car field.

Leading the pursuing pack early on was fellow Finn Jari Kankaanmäki in a Volvo 242 DL, but he was soon sidelined with mechanical problems, as was former FIA EHRC Category 3 champion and 2022 Lahti winner, Ville Silvasti, who swapped his regular Lancia 037 Rallye for an Audi Quattro to better tackle the gravel stages before engine problems also forced his retirement.

Having already won the 2023 Category 1 Championship Ernie and Karen Graham changed mount and Category and took third in their class

These dramas helped Hungary’s Tibor Erdi Jr, three times an overall winner so far in this year’s EHRC, to move up in his distinctive purple Ford Sierra 4×4.  Second place fell to fellow Finn Marko Uutela in his Opel Ascona 400, not part of the EHRC Championship, sealing his position after an enthralling battle with Erdi, who was nonetheless delighted to add to his points score as well as reaching the overall podium.  “Before the rally we would like the second place in Category 4 because we know that Latvala will be very, very much faster than me,” Erdi said at the finish, joined as ever by his Croatian co-driver István Kérek.  “The other goal was not to crash.  So we did both!  We have a lot of Finnish teams here who know the rally very well and we are third overall making a good result, so we are very happy.”

Read the full report in the September 2023 issue of Historic Motor Racing News

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