We’ll find out at the season finale at the Mika Salo Circuit in Alahärmä.
In Finland, there are two significant drift series, the larger of which is Drift-SM. This series is held in four rounds across the country, with the finals hosted on the same circuit and layout as Drift Masters Round 3 a few weeks ago. The event can be considered the largest in Finland, with a grid filled with 90 competitors. These drivers compete in two separate championships: Pro 2 and Pro. We’ll focus on the Pro-class, which had 37 drivers present. What’s great about this class is that it will reunite us with a few wildcards as well as some regular starters of Drift Masters.
Let’s start with a glance at the grid!
Well, let me tell you, you won’t find such variety anywhere else. One thing is certain: the Finns rarely leave a car untouched! For example, looking at the Pro 2 class will take you back to the 1990s, with many drift-prepped cars from that era.
But that’s only the second-tier class; moving up to the Pro class, we’ll see some of the most stunning builds in the country.
Carnage in the wet – qualifying
When the sky opened its doors wide in front of the roller coasters, the drivers experienced some early drama. Multiple cars spun or smashed into barriers; only an excellent drive could keep you away from the concrete. The points were not very high with the track flooded and the rain not stopping.
In Pro 2, Camaro driver Jetro Airaksinen finished first with an 80-point run. Henri Rajala in his E39 BMW and Alvari Mäkinen in his large Benz followed.
After a break, we proceeded to the Pro class. The rain also didn’t stop here. Toni Ojatalo managed to take first place with a very solid drive and a total of 85 points.
Perhaps the husky on his livery drew him through? However, Juha Pöytälaakso and Juha Rintanen finished second and third, respectively, with 83-point runs.
It’s battle day, and we’ve got a dry track!
Yes, the weather suddenly shifted, and the surface dried up — perfect conditions for laying down some smoke. The Pro 2 division began again and did not disappoint. With some excellent battles in the Top 32, we had already found the season’s champion. While his primary rivals could not advance to the next round, Eetu Kusinen had already won the championship.
Nonetheless, the competition was not yet over, and we needed to decide who would be the winner of this event. Otto Björkskog in a gorgeous aged Benz and Tommi Rajala in a more common E36 BMW battled it out in the final. Following an intense battle, Rajala was chosen as the winner. Jetro Airaksinen finished third to round out the podium.
In the Pro class, a similar coincidence occurred when Jarkko Jylhä became the champion right after advancing to the Top 16, defeating Krisse Aalto, Finland´s best female driver.
Jylhä also defeated fan favourite Ville Kaukonen in the Top 8. Haanpää, on the other side, took down quali-hero Ojatalo, but to be honest, Ojatalo’s car was already in rough shape following a hard collision with the wall in Top16. This happened after Dennis Häggblom forced him into the mentioned after a mistake in the first turn.
On the other side of the bracket, Juha Pöytälaakso advanced following a thrilling battle with Swedish wildcard Albert Häggbom. They´ve got a fair OMT, where Juha succeeded.
Juha Rintanen defeated championship third Kim Koski in the Top 16 and got Välniemi in the Top 8, who was overwhelmed by Rintanen, Finland’s most decorated driver.
A thrilling final!
Rain was falling again on the track, and night had fallen. In the first semi-final, Henri Haanpää faced Jarkko Jylhä, where the latter spun right in the first clipping zone, giving Henri the advantage early on. Even a close chase wasn’t enough to help Jylhä anymore. After the decision was made, Haanpää advanced to the final, where he would face the winner of Juha Rintanen vs. Juha Pöytälaakso.
In the second semi-final, Rintanen made an unusual mistake, forcing Pöytälaakso into contact. This cost Rintanen the victory, and Pöytälaakso easily advanced.
Jylhä faced Rintanen in the small final, but the latter could not make it to the start, giving Jarkko the third step on the podium.
The final, on the other hand, was well worth the wait; both DMEC drivers fought hard and close. As the second run began, the rain became heavier. Poytälaakso’s straightening immediately after the first turn was likely due to this. But that was undoubtedly the reason why Henri Haanpää was able to win this final round.
In conclusion, Jarkko Jylhä is the year’s champion by a huge margin, followed by Niklas Wik in second and Kim Koski in third.
Thanks for reading.
Text: Peter Striesenow (@drift_europe) Photos: @loudlife_media /AKK Edit: Gediminas Astralas (@drift.news.official)