The Rally Team Kasing duo Jukka Kasi and Henri Ania took their rally experience to the next level by competing in World Championship Neste Rally Finland in the end of July. They commanded their Ford Fiesta S2000 on the renowned Jyväskylä gravel stages with firm touch and finished the rally at 12th place in the RC2 class. Jukka and Henri were the highest placing S2000 car in the entire RC2 class with most of the other thirty cars that hit the road in the same class representing the more powerful R5 engine. Rally Team Kasing placed at the 26th place in the overall competition with the British driver Kris Meeke taking the victory.
The Neste Rally kicked off with the traditional 2.4 km Harju street stage in Jyväskylä city center on Thursday evening after the long recce session. The perfect whether favored the thousands of rally enthusiast populating the roadsides and sheering for their favorite drivers on the only special stage of the day.
“The Harju special stage was an unforgettable experience for a WRC first-timer with the slopes populated by spectators, flags waving along the stage and surface alternating from asphalt to gravel. I really felt the nerves before the start, but once we hit the road the butterflies flew away and all the notes matched perfectly. I guess we both were surprised by our speed. Especially the climb to the “Harju” hill went smoothly giving us a good start for the special stages to come” says Jukka Kasi.
The good feeling translated into a good time for the special stage as Jukka and Henri stopped the clock at the exact same time with the current Finnish Championship leader Juha Salo and only 0.1 seconds behind WRC –trouper Janne Tuohino who in the past had come close to the podium.
On Friday the route headed towards the legendary gravel special stages of Jyväskylä. The eleven stage day got its finish on the same Harju special stage as on Thursday.
The first run was about finding the right mind and rhythm. We drove carefully, but despite doing our best to avoid hitting the rocks we experiences a tire puncture on the fourth Surkee special stage. Fortunately this happened close to the finish even though the flat tire turned into a few extra seconds.
On Friday afternoon we changed “the nature of our driving”. We made a conscious decision to learn from the tracks of the WRC top cars which differed bit from what we were used to. By trusting the tracks of the world professionals we were able to increase our speed and tackle the curves more aggressively. Towards the evening we had a good touch and were able to cut few seconds off our previous time on Harju SS.
The talk of the day on Saturday was Kris Meekes impressive time on the opening Ouninpohja special stage, which however was later on interrupted due to a crash.
On next Päijälä SS we found the same good rhythm as on Friday and managed to keep up the speed the entire Saturday. On the course of the day we noted we were able to increase the difference to Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta from Tommi Mäkinen Racing while keeping the difference to Janne Tuohino roughly same. After the eight special stages on Saturday, the last day comprised on only two special stages that were both driven twice.
The first SS on Sunday was still a serious competition and we drove faster than Tuohino and Katsuta. However, the last three special stages we took it safe knowing that we had no real chance of improving our position and at the same time had no competition from behind either. While we already had close to 300 km of rally behind, on Sunday the SS kilometers added up to only thirty.
“The Neste Rally was an unforgettable experience. We accomplished more than what we set out to do – a race without any technical problems gave loads of confidence and speed for the upcoming rallies. Thanks to Eero Räikkönen and his PrintSport Racing team our Fiesta worked perfectly during the entire rally. Jyväskylä offered fast SS –kilometers worth three Finnish Championship rallies. We head towards the next rally a little wiser than before” says Jukka Kasi while summing up the Jyväskylä World Championship Rally.