- Emil Lindholm & Reeta Hämäläinen [Copyright: MRF Racing]

Ralli SM: Team MRF's Lindholm secures podium as Gronholm crashes out

Team MRF managed to put one car on the podium after multiple stage wins.

Day 1:

Team MRF Tyres are back in action in the Finnish Rally Championship (Ralli SM) this weekend with the SM Mad-Croc Länsirannikon Ralli which takes place from 28-29 May. Two cars are competing for Team MRF Tyres with Emil Lindholm being joined by new co-driver Reeta Hämäläinen and Niclas Grönholm being joined by regular co-driver, Antti Linnaketo. Both drivers are in Skoda Fabia Rally2s.

The Länisrannikon Ralli sees the Finnish Championship move from winter to summer conditions. Team MRF Tyres with Lindholm enjoyed podium finishes in the winter and the entire team is looking forward to the challenge of rallying in the Finnish summer. The rally consists of 101.61km competitive spread over 13 stages.

Lindholm and Hämäläinen got the event underway in the best possible style on Friday, taking the stage win on the 7.5km Halisoja test. Grönholm and Linnaketo came home third. The good times from SS1 were backed up on SS2 with Lindholm and Hämäläinen taking the stage win on the 9.49km Ohensaari test. Grönholm and Linnaketo were in the top 10 too, coming home in seventh on stage.

The final stage of the day was the 6.29km Hujala test and it was a third stage win from three for Lindholm and Hämäläinen. They lead the rally by 3.7 seconds ahead of Mikko Heikkilä and Topi Luhtinen. Meanwhile, Grönholm and Linnaketo sit in fourth, just 23.4 seconds off the lead after the first day.

Interestingly, the Friday stages were held on tarmac, with a total of 23.28km held on tarmac before the crews move to the gravel stages on Saturday. The 10 stages gets underway early in the morning with the 6.42km Vintala test before moving to the 8.13km and 14.21km tests of Mahlio and Saukonoja. These stages are used just once.

The remaining stages see two runs through the 5.15km Vanha Karuna stage, 13.40km test of Pöylä, and the 5.27km test of Juntola. The final stage is a short 1.93km shootout at Avanti. There is a high-quality entry list for the Länisrannikon Ralli with 124 starters, including 22 in the top class.

Typically, any Finnish rally is a hard-fought affair, and this one is no different. The team at MRF Tyres has continued the aggressive development program in an effort to continually improve the product MRF Tyres brings to the market. The first of the Saturday stages gets underway at 11:01am if you are in India or 8:30am if you are in Finland.

Emil Lindholm – Driver, Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo, 1st , said: "It was a great start to the rally with the stage wins. Tomorrow we are back on gravel and I am looking forward to the challenge. It is fun to drive at home on gravel. We have a new MRF tyre for summer weather. I think this is a good tire we worked hard on. We are aiming high this weekend."

Niclas Gronholm – Driver, Skoda Fabia Rally2, 4th , said: "I am happy that we set some competitive times today. I am looking forward to the rally. It has been quite some time since I did rallying so will take some time to get used to it again but it will be a good challenge, no expectations really but we will do our best and see what we can do!”

Day 2:

The Länisrannikon Ralli saw the Finnish Championship move from winter to summer conditions. It was the first time that Team MRF Tyres has competed on Finnish gravel after achieving podium finishes in the winter conditions. The rally consisted of a planned 101.61km of competitive action spread over 13 stages.

Lindholm and Hämäläinen got the event underway in the best possible style on Friday, taking the stage win on the 7.5km Halisoja test. Grönholm and Linnaketo came home third. The good times from SS1 were backed up on SS2 with Lindholm and Hämäläinen taking the stage win on the 9.49km Ohensaari test. Grönholm and Linnaketo were in the top 10 too, coming home in seventh on stage.

The final stage of the day was the 6.29km Hujala test and it was a third stage win from three for Lindholm and Hämäläinen. They lead the rally by 3.7 seconds ahead of Mikko Heikkilä and Topi Luhtinen. Meanwhile, Grönholm and Linnaketo sat in fourth, just 23.4 seconds off the lead after the first day.

The Friday stages were held on tarmac and the rally moved to gravel on Saturday for 75km of action. The first loop consisted of the 6.42km Vintala test before moving to the 8.13km and 14.21km tests of Mahlio and Saukonoja. These stages are used just once.

It was an ultra-competitive morning on the fast gravel stages with Lindholm and Hämäläinen demonstrating that the MRF Tyre could compete at the front and that a top result was going to be possible. Even though this was the first rally that Team MRF Tyres has competed on Finnish gravel, the duo strengthened their grip on the podium in what was a very competitive field.

However, the team would be down to one car after a crash for Grönholm and Linnaketo. After showing great pace, they carried a little too much speed into a corner late on the third stage of the day. The crew was uninjured, but their rally was over. The remaining stages see two runs through the 5.15km Vanha Karuna stage, 13.40km test of Pöylä, and the 5.27km test of Juntola. The final stage is a short 1.93km shootout at Avanti.

Lindholm and Hämäläinen continued to set top times through the day, achieving a top-five result on each of the remaining stages. MRF Tyres is competing in Finland to test ourselves against the fastest rally drivers in the world and this was evident with the tough fight for the podium positions.

By the final loop, Lindholm and Hämäläinen were in a three-way battle for third with Aleksi Röyhkiö/ Ville Mannisenmäki and Juha Salo/ Mikko Markkula. It was a tight finish and coming into the final loop, the final 1.93km stage was cancelled. This meant that SS12 would host the last stage of the rally and Team MRF Tyres was able to achieve a podium, 0.6seconds ahead of Röyhkiö/ Mannisenmäki and 8.3 seconds ahead of Salo/Markkula.

Team MRF Tyres has now achieved two third-place finishes and a fourth-place finish in the Finnish Rally Championship in 2021 with Emil Lindholm. The next round of the Finnish Rally Championship takes place at Seinäjoki with the SM Pohjanmaa Ralli on 18-19 June.

Team MRF Tyres will be rallying next weekend in the Italian Rally Championship – Gravel (CIRT) with a three-car effort for Paolo Andreucci/ Francesco Pinelli, Simone Campedelli/ Gianfrancesco Maria Rappa, and Tamara Molinaro/ Piercarlo Capolongo.

Emil Lindholm – Driver, Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo, 3rd , said: "Team MRF Tyres and I did well on the asphalt. I think driving gravel rally tires on the asphalt is what it should be like to drive a rally on asphalt: fun. Gravel tyres prefer asphalt than on a hard-coated gravel road, and still, you get to drive a lot and skate a car in curves. A fun experience!”

"We aimed for the podium and we got there. This morning's special stages were challenging when the ground was a bit damp. The setup worked better for us in the warmer afternoon stages. The development from MRF Tyres is impressive. In just over a year, we have reached a situation where we can compete to win the rally, and once again we took stage wins and a podium. It's a great achievement and the development will continue!”

Niclas Gronholm – Driver, Skoda Fabia R5, DNF , said: It was really difficult today, I really didn’t have the confidence and couldn’t maximize the potential of the car and the MRF Tyres. In the end, I heard a pace note wrong and went a bit too fast into the corner and ended up on some loose gravel and drifted into a tree. But at least it was fun and we had good pace while it lasted!”

[Image courtesy: MRF Racing] [Note: The above is as per press release with no changes made]

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