› Emil Lindholm (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) from Finland survives last minute scare to claim WRC2 Drivers’ title at Rally Japan, finale of the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship
› ŠKODA Motorsport supported team Toksport WRT takes first and third overall position in WRC2 Teams’ classification
› Italian Mauro Miele (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) is the first ever WRC2 Masters champion
› Former Formula One driver Heikki Kovalainen (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) from Finland ends his world championship debut with fourth position in WRC2
Aichi/Gifu (JPN), 13 November 2022 – Emil Lindholm (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) is the new WRC2 Drivers’ champion. He succeeds his Toksport WRT team mate Andreas Mikkelsen as title holder of the FIA World Rally Championship’s main support category. With Mikkelsen second and Kajetan Kajetonwicz third in the final standings, ŠKODA drivers claimed the top three position of the 2022 WRC2 Drivers’ championship. ŠKODA Motorsport supported team Toksport WRT takes the WRC2 Teams’ championship as ŠKODA driver Mauro Miele wins the WRC2 Masters title.
Two ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo drivers started into the 2022 FIA Word Rally Championship’s finale at Rally Japan with the mathematical chance to overtake season-long WRC2 overall leader Andreas Mikkelsen and become the new drivers’ champion: Emil Lindholm from Finland and Kajetan Kajetanowicz from Poland.
Lindholm and co-driver Reeta Hämäläinen powered into the WRC2 lead right from the start. Only for one stage during the Friday leg only, their Toksport WRT team mates Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen had the upper hand. Until Sunday morning the two Finnish crews dominated the category with Lindholm/Hämäläinen leading Pajari/Mälkönen. Then rain changed everything. After selecting the wrong tyres for these extremely difficult conditions, Pajari/Mälkönen lost considerable time eventually reaching the finish fifth in WRC2. During the penultimate stage, Lindholm/Hämäläinen survived a spin with no damage to their ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo. But more than one minute was lost. They immediately went into safe mode and reached the finish still third in WRC2 – enough for Lindholm to become the new WRC2 Drivers’ champion and for Reeta Hämäläinen to win the WRC2 Co-Drivers’ title.
It’s the second title in one season for Lindholm, who also became WRC2 Junior champion. “Honestly, it will take a while to sink in. We have had difficult times but I am so grateful for the people who have continued to support us. It finally seems to be paying off,” the 26-years-old from Helsinki said. He succeeds Toksport WRT team mate Andreas Mikkelsen as title holder. The defending champion from Norway was absent from Rally Japan, because he had reached his personal maximum of seven rallies already before the finale. Mikkelsen finishes the season second overall in the WRC2 Drivers’ standings.
Unfortunately, Kajetan Kajetanowicz was out of contention for the WRC2 title already after two stages. The former FIA European Rally Champion and co-driver Maciej Szczepaniak hit a wall exiting the famous Isegami’s tunnel. The team ORLEN ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo was too heavily damaged to continue. “Maybe, I was taking too much risks. But if you are fighting for the championship, you have to take risks. Today, we ran out of luck,” said Kajetanowicz. “But I’m a happy man nevertheless. I’m third overall in der WRC2 Drivers’ standings. That’s a very good result for our small team.”
The points collected by Mikkelsen and Lindholm during the season so far as well as Lindholm and Pajari during Rally Japan saved ŠKODA Motorsport supported team Toksport WRT the WRC2 Teams’ title. The Germany based outfit’s second division Toksport WRT2 ended the season third in the teams’ classification.
The title of the new for 2022 WRC2 Masters class for drivers 50 years and older also went to a driver of a ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo. Italians Mauro Miele and Luca Beltrame usually contest the series in a car run by Team Dream One Racing. For logistical reasons, they changed to Toksport WRT for Rally Japan only – and celebrated class victory. That was exactly what they needed to pip German ŠKODA driver Armin Kremer from P1 in the final standings.
A stunning drive by a former Formula One driver also caught the attention. Heikki Kovalainen, winner of one Grand Prix back in 2008, is no newcomer to rallying. Sharing a team Aicello ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo with co-driver Sae Kitagawa, the 41 years old Finn just won the Japanese Championship. The crew finished their first ever FIA World Rally Championship event a fine fourth in WRC2. “What an amazing experience! I would like to do some more of this in the future,” Kovalainen said.
Result Rally Japan (WRC2)
|1. Munster/Louka (LUX/BEL), Hyundai i20 N Rally2||2:51:41.1 hrs|
|2. Suninen/Markkula (FIN/FIN), Hyundai i20 N Rally2||+21.6 sec|
|3. Lindholm/Hämäläinen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||+34.8 sec|
|4. Kovalainen/Kitagawa (FIN/JPN), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||+1:09.1 min|
|5. Pajari/Mälkönen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||+1:10.0 min|
|6. Johnston/Kihurani (USA/USA), Citroën C3 Rally2||+3:02.7 min|
Number of the rally: 11
ŠKODA drivers posted fastest WRC2 times on eleven of the 16 stages actually contested. Seven stage wins went to Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen, three to fellow Finns Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen. Newly crowned WRC2 Masters champion Mauro Miele and co-driver Luca Beltrame won the season ending Power Stage.
WRC2 Open/Drivers (final top 5 after 13 rounds)
|1. Emil Lindholm (FIN), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||116 points|
|2. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||109 points|
|3. Kajetan Kajetanowicz (POL), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||104 points|
|4. Yohan Rossel (FRA), Citroën C3 Rally2||98 points|
|5. Nikolay Gryazin (ANA), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||85 points|
WRC2 Teams (final top 3 after 13 rounds)
|1. Toksport WRT||188 points|
|2. Hyundai Motorsport N||182 points|
|3. Toksport WRT2||159 points|
WRC2 Junior (final top 3 after 13 rounds)
|1. Emil Lindholm (FIN), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||136 points|
|2. Nikolay Gryazin (ANA), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||104 points|
|3. Chris Ingram (GBR), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||92 points|
WRC2 Masters (final top 3 after 13 rounds)
|1. Mauro Miele (ITA), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo||129 points|
|2. Armin Kremer (DEU), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo/Citroën C3 Rally2||125 points|
|3. Jean-Michel Raoux (FRA), VW Polo GTI Rally2||95 points|