Heinonen delights home fans to claim first Drift Masters victory

Much to the delight of his home fans at the PowerPark here in Alahärmä, Finland, Lauri Heinonen went all the way today in the third round of the 2024 Drift Masters season to take his first-ever Drift Masters event victory and, in doing so, extend his lead at the top of the championship table heading into the second half of the season.

Yesterday, the Finn also took home the victory in the Qualifying Showdown portion of the competition, having finished up in third overall in Qualifying, leading to him now holding a 34-point lead over his nearest championship contender, Duane McKeever, in second place. And it was Heinonen and McKeever who would be the ones battling it out in today’s Round 3 final battle, but Lauri would prove too strong for the Irishman to take home his first win in front of an incredibly loud roar from the home faithful.

Despite his dominance here this weekend, Heinonen certainly wouldn’t be dealt an easy path to the top step. First having to overcome Czech driver Michal Reichert in the Top 32, Lauri would then have to take down local wildcard driver Jarkko Jylha in the Top 16 before taking on Benediktas Cirba in the Top 8, where the Lithuanian driver would suffer mechanical failure and have to exit the competition before being able to put the fight to Lauri.

Then there was one man standing in the way of Heinonen and the final, and that man would be none other than James Deane. Fresh off a victory in Ireland, Deane would be a formidable opponent as always, but this time around, Lauri would have the last laugh as he pushed harder than the Irish driver to take his place in a home event final.

On the other side of the bracket, McKeever would then overcome his fellow countryman Jack Shanahan in a thrilling Top 4 battle to set up a dream end-of-day battle between the current first and second in the championship.

Before we got to that battle, though, we would have to see who would be taking the third and final step on the podium, in yet another all-Irish battle this time between Shanahan and Deane. Two amazing runs from two amazing drivers, but in the end it would be the Round 2 winner Deane, heading away happiest with his second podium in two events.

And then it was down to our final two. Two incredibly talented drivers who always leave nothing on the line, and whom we can always know will be giving it 200% on track … and that’s exactly what they did. Fans were on their feet for the entirety of the battle, and much to their delight it was the home fan favourite Heinonen who would go closest all throughout to take the win.

So that’s it – The first half of an incredible 2024 season is now in the history books and the championship fight is really hotting up, but with three rounds still to go and unpredictability hitting the driver grid at every turn this season, who knows what will be the tale of the fight when we hit the Grand Finale in Warsaw’s PGE Narodowy in September. All we do know is that next up we return to the incredible Bikiernieki Circuit in Riga, Latvia, for one of the fastest and perhaps most championship-defining events of the year. See you there once again on August 2nd & 3rd.

However, before we get there, here are our current Top 5 championship standings.

  • Lauri Heinonen (FIN) – 246 pts.
  • Duane McKeever (IRL) – 212 pts.
  • James Deane (IRL) – 190 pts.
  • Kevin Pesur (EST) – 164 pts.
  • Orjan Nilsen (NOR) – 138 pts.
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