Henri Hokkala, AKK Sports’ Future Rally Star of Finland for 2018, has got his Neste Rally Finland debut off to a strong start with the 12th fastest time in the WRC3 category through the opening stage, the 2.31-kilometre Harju superspecial.
Hokkala, an ex-ice hockey player, is making his FIA World Rally Championship debut on his home event – his prize for winning the young driver prize shootout – and is also driving his JWRC-specification Ford Fiesta R2 in competition for the first time.
“I do my best but this is a long rally and the real rally starts tomorrow,” said Hokkala, who lists four-time world champion Tommi Mäkinen as his hero. “Of course it’s a really good chance for me, it’s my home town almost and it’s my home rally.
“We drove the Fiesta in Poland for 100 kilometres but the road was different, not like Finland. It’s also a big difference from the Peugeot I usually drive with the turbo. But I learn so much and we see what happens.”
Hokkala, a 23-year-old plumber by trade, is targeting a class podium on the event. But after completing Harju in semi-damp conditions, the Finn was 5.7s adrift of category pacesetter Ken Torn. Emil Bergkvist and Terry Folb were second and third fastest.
Photo: Toni Ollikainen / AKK