Mikko Heikkilä finished twelfth in the fifth round of the European Rally Championship, the Royal Rally of Scandinavia in Sweden. Heikkilä, who had been fighting for third place for most of Saturday, suffered a puncture on the third to last stage of the final day, dropping the Skoda driver far from the top.
Mikko Heikkilä and Samu Vaaleri finished in twelfth place in the fifth round of the European Rally Championship, the Royal Rally of Scandinavia. Competing with The Racing Factory team, Heikkilä was firmly in contention for third place overall until a puncture during the third to last stage caused the Finn to slip down the rankings as a Skoda driver.
Entering the final day of the event, Heikkilä started in fourth position but quickly climbed to third after fine-tuning of the settings following Friday's stages was proven successful. During the last service break, Heikkilä maintained a grip on the third podium spot.
"Some stages went well, while others were a bit more challenging, with varying grip levels. Compared to yesterday, our times have improved. We'll need to push quite hard to stay ahead, as it seems that quite a few drivers are keen on claiming the third spot," Heikkilä commented during the midday service break.
On the last loop of four stages, Heikkilä held a 2.2-second advantage in securing a podium finish. He extended his lead on the first stage of the afternoon, but unfortunately, a stone on the side of the road struck the rim, causing a puncture on the third to last stage.
"For the first time this year, I made a mistake, when everything else was going reasonably well. It wasn't a major error; it was one of those moments where you are going flat out in fifth gear, flying over a crest. The line should have stayed the same at full speed, but it shifted just a few centimeters, enough for the stone on the side of the road to clip the rim and cause a puncture. We've been quite lucky with our lines in this rally on several occasions, as we are pushing for every tenth of a second, but this time the rim happened to hit the stone," explained Heikkilä.
Heikkilä's debut season in the European Championship has been plagued by setbacks, and the promising rally in Sweden adds another unfortunate chapter to his challenging year.
"It's difficult to put into words. In gravel rallies, the speed could be enough, and it would potentially be enough for a podium finish. But the pieces have never fallen into place. It's frustrating, not only for myself but also for the cooperation partners, the team, co-driver Samu, and friends – they all have the same expectations as I do, and it just doesn't seem to work out. Nonetheless, I want to thank everyone who makes this possible. It's a great privilege to be here and compete. We must remember that this is the dream of many young boys, even though it's admittedly quite hard to remember that at this moment," lamented Heikkilä.
The European Rally Championship will continue with the Rally di Roma Capitale in Italy on July 29th-30th. Mikko Heikkilä will also participate in the Finnish round of the World Rally Championship from August 3rd-6th.
Overall results of Bauhaus Royal Rally of Scandinavia:
1. Oliver Solberg 1:24:53,4 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 NOR
2. Hayden Paddon +25,7 Hyundai i20 N Rally2 NZL
3. Martins Sesks +1:10,0 Skoda Fabia RS Rally2 LVA
4. Nikolay Gryazin +1:12,5 Skoda Fabia RS Rally2 ANA
5. Lauri Joona +1:30,4 Skoda Fabia RS Rally2 FIN
12. Mikko Heikkilä +4:28,7 Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo FIN