Thursday, 2 September 2010

Female Flying Finns

For the latest post of the "female rally drivers around the world" series, where better to look than Finland? Some of Finland's more prominent drivers - Minna Sillankorva, Minna Lindroos, Eija Jurvanen, Marketta Oksala - have already been mentioned, but here are some more stars of the stages from after 1950.

Marjatta Aaltonen - rallied in the 1960s, around Europe. Her first big rally was the 1000 Lakes event in 1966. She drove a Saab, but retired after a crash. She also entered the RAC Rally, in a Mini Cooper S, but did not finish. In 1967, she drove a Datsun 1600, and travelled to Greece for the Acropolis Rally, although her brakes failed. Her last major rally seems to have been the 1969 1000 Lakes Rally, in which she drove a Hillman Imp. It is not clear whether or not she finished. She is the sister of multiple rally winner, Rauno Aaltonen.

Kirsti Airikkala - rallied in Finland from 1969, throughout most of the 1970s. Her first 1000 Lakes Rally was in 1969, driving a Renault Gordini with Ulla Mäkelä. She drove in the event twice more, in 1975 and 1976, and won her class in 1975, driving an Opel Ascona with Tarja Takanen. She also scored a class win in the Arctic Rally, in 1972, and was a career-best 18th overall, in an Opel Kadett. Later, her regular navigator was Ritva Rossi. In 1974, she also tried her hand at co-driving, partnering Jill Robinson in the 1000 Lakes Rally, in an Alfa Romeo. She was married to Pentti Airikkala.

Marianne Avomeri – rallied a number of cars in Finland in the 1970s. She entered the 1000 Lakes Rally at least four times, between 1974 and 1977. The best of these attempts was her last, in 1977, when she came 31st and won her class in a Ford Escort RS2000. Among her other cars was a Datsun. As well as driving, she navigated on occasion, for drivers such as Kirsti Airikkala. She later married WRC driver Markku Alén, and is the mother of Anton Alén, another WRC driver.

Tuulikki Bärlund (Sohlberg) – rally driver and co-driver from Finland, active in the 1960s. She drove a Peugeot in the 1961 500 Rally, but did not finish. Later, she co-drove in Finland for drivers including Laila Schou-Nilsen and Seija Keinänen. As a navigator, she took part in the 1000 Lakes Rally twice. At some point, she won an ice rallying championship in Finland, although details of this are not forthcoming.

Carita Ekroos (Toivonen) - Finnish driver from the late 1970s to the late 1980s, who entered six Rally Finlands in Escorts and Opels. Her best result was 29th, in 1982, driving a Ford Escort RS. In 1988, she won her only Finnish Ladies’ Championship, driving another Ford Escort RS.

Riita Grön – rallied in Finland in the 1960s, always driving a Saab. Her first major rallies were in 1962, in a Saab 95. She was 62nd in that year’s 1000 Lakes Rally. The following year, she improved this finish to 49th. In 1966, she upgraded the 95 for a 96, and was 44th in the 1000 Lakes, as well as coming 47th in the Riihimäki Rally. Her best results were achieved in 1966 and 1967, during her partnership with co-driver Anu Kosonen. She won her class in the 1966 Hankiralli, finishing 25th overall, and then scored two further class wins in 1967, in the Hankiralli and Riihimäki events. Her last year of competition appears to be 1968. As well as driving, Riita was active as a co-driver, and sat beside some of the other lady drivers in Finland at the time, including Marjatta Aaltonen and Taru Ketonen.

Eine Hukkanen – rallied in Finland in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Her car was normally a Sunbeam Avenger. In 1980, she was third in the Finnish ladies’ rally championship, following a second in class on the Jyväskylän Talviralli. She was 53rd overall.  Earlier, in 1977, she had won the Ladies’ class of the Sveitsin Rally. She also co-drove for others occasionally, including Carita Ekroos.

Hannele Linnankoski - rallied a Chrysler Avenger in Finland in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Her earliest rallies may have been in 1977. She competed in one running of the 1000 Lakes Rally in 1978, finishing 36th overall and second in class. This was one of the best results of her career and came as part of a season in which she was sixth in the Finnish ladies’ championship. Her last major event appears to have been the 1980 Teboil Rally, in which she was 42nd.

Seija Keinänen – rallied a Skoda in national-level events in Finland in the early 1960s. Her co-driver in 1962 was Tuulikki Bärlund. In 1961, she won her class in the 500 Ralli, and was 32nd overall. Her navigator was Kaija Aronen, and the car was a Skoda TS. There were several other Finnish drivers with the name “Keinänen” at the time, and she may have been part of a rallying family.

Taru Ketonen (Kinnunen) – one of a group of Finnish female drivers who often competed together, in both seats, including Kirsti Airikkala and Riita Grön. Taru Ketonen was active for much of the 1960s, and appears in the 1965 Finnish championship, driving a Volkswagen. She won her class in the Pohjola Rally, finishing 23rd. In 1966, she and Riita Grön did the Monte Carlo Rally together, in a VW, but did not finish. This was Taru’s only major international rally outside Finland. She did enter that year’s 1000 Lakes Rally, and was 41st. In 1967, she had a best finish of 22nd, in the Itäralli. After several seasons of VW power, she switched to a Renault 8 Gordini in 1968, and scored the best 1000 Lakes result of her career, a 19th place. She also won her class in the Salpausselkä Rally. After that, she competed less often. She was married to Leo Kinnunen, a Formula One driver.

Marja-Liisa Korpi - five times Finnish Ladies' Champion between 1978 and 1982, usually driving a Ford Escort, although she had some drives in a Sunbeam Avenger and Saab V4. She drove in four 1000 Lakes Rallies too, between 1978 and 1981. Her best finish was 28th in 1978. As well as Finnish rallies, she travelled to the UK in 1979 for the RAC Rally and finished 34th.

Liisa Lammin-Koskinen – one of the leading female drivers in Finland in the 1960s. She almost always drove a Saab 96. In 1962, she entered her first 1000 Lakes Rally, and got to the finish in 61st place. In 1963, she managed a class win in the Riihimäki Rally, and had a best overall finish of 17th, in the Kuopio Rally. The following year, she achieved two more class wins in Finnish rallies, and her best finish in the 1000 Lakes event, a 22nd place. She did her last 1000 Lakes Rally in 1965, and was 31st, third in class. In 1966, she abandoned the Saab for a Mini, which she used for limited rounds of the Finnish championship. Liisa was also a co-driver, including at least one rally alongside Simo Lampinen. Photos exist of her which some claim to have been taken during the Monte Carlo Rally, but this seems unlikely on the balance of evidence; Liisa only rallied in Finland.

Anne-Mari Kovalainen - 2000 and 2001 Finnish ladies’ champion, driving a SEAT Ibiza. In this car, she entered two editions of the Rally of Finland. In 1999, she crashed out, but in 2000, she was 45th. Both years, she also drove in the Arctic Tunturi Rally, and was 39th in 1999. She also finished the Osuuspankki Rally in 2000, in 69th place. In 2001, she drove in the Lahti, Urku and Sparco rallies in Finland, winning the ladies’ award in each. However, her overall results are not forthcoming. 

Tuire Lipasti – rallied in Finland in the 1980s. She drove an Audi Quattro for at least some events in 1987, including the Teboil Rally, in which she won her class and the ladies’ prize. She was 57th overall. The same year, she also drove a Volvo 240 Turbo. That year’s Talviralli was among the events in which she used it. Earlier in her career, in 1983, she took part in ice racing, driving a VW and finishing second in at least one race.

Marjatta Mäkëla – competed extensively in Finnish rallies in the 1970s. Initially, she and co-driver Maj-Britt Råback favoured Gordini-engined Renaults, using a Renault 8 in 1970, and a 12 in 1973. That year, she was 35th in the 1000 Lakes Rally and 36th in the Hankiralli, in which she also won her class. She was third in the Finnish ladies’ championship. In 1974, she was the second-fastest Finnish lady, driving an Opel Ascona. Her last event seems to have been the 1975 Arctic Rally, driving an Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV. She was 31st overall.

Jonna Olkoniemi – one of the younger wave of female Finnish drivers. In 2014 and 2015, she rallied a Volvo 240, mostly in rallysprints. She managed a few class wins. Her first full stage rallies were in 2015, and she was a respectable 35th out of 53 in the Vuokatti Rally, with a class win. Her best outright result was 28th, in the Runni Rock Rally. Since the start of 2016, she has been driving a Ford Fiesta, and now concentrates on stage rallying. She has scored one class win, in the Pohjola Rally. Her best overall result was 36th, in the AutoGlym Rally. After a problematic start to 2017 in the Fiesta, she switched to a Citroen DS3, which was more reliable. Her best result was 17th, in the Teijo Talot Rally. Most of 2018 was spent in the DS3 and she was 22nd in her first international event, the Talinn Rally. She also had a one-off drive in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX for the Rakarautaranni rallysprint event, and was eighth.  2019 was a very quiet year, with just one outing in the Loydon-Kartanon rallysprint. She drove a Skoda Fabia and won her class, finishing 23rd out of 129 finishers.

Jaana Pajula-Ihaksi – rallied a Toyota Starlet in Finland in the 1980s. She entered at least two 1000 Lakes Rallies, in 1987 and 1988. She did not finish in 1988, but was 46th in 1987, seventh in class. The best result of her career seems to have been an eleventh place in the NSM Kaakkoisralli in 1987, where she was seventh in class, and second lady behind Minna Sillankorva in fifth. Her co-driver was Anu Mylläri.  

Sinikka Parkkinen - driver and co-driver active in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1970 and 1971, she won at least two championships for 1300cc cars in Finland. However, she does not seem to have entered Rally Finland until 1986, when she retired her Toyota Starlet late in the rally. She managed to finish in 1987, and was 49th. Her navigator both times was Eeva Koivisto. Later, in 1989, she returned to the 1000 Lakes as navigator to Pasi Hokkanen. They were 61st in a Starlet.

Kirsti Pätiälä – rallied in Finland in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1969, she drove a Ford Escort in the Finnish championship. After that, she mainly rallied a series of Sunbeam/Hillman Imps. In 1970, she had a best finish of 24th, in the Itäralli. The following year, she was third in the Finnish ladies’ championship, with a best finish of 28th, in the Kesoil Rally. That year, she rallied a Volwswagen as well as the Imp. In addition to driving, Kirsti also co-drove occasionally, and partnered Jill Robinson on the 1972 Arctic Rally.

Kirsti Piironen – rallied in Finland in the 1960s and 1970s. Her first appearance in the 1000 Lakes Rally was in 1967. She drove an Isuzu, and was navigated by her sister, Kaarina. The car she is most associated with is the Gordini R8, which she used between 1967 and 1969. Her best finish was 20th, in the 1967 Tampere Rally. She entered the 1000 Lakes Rally at least three times, in 1967, 1969 and 1974, but does not appear to have finished any of them. Her car in 1974 was a Datsun 180B. At around the same time, she also navigated for a number of other drivers, mostly Finnish and female.

Marjo Salonen - competed in the 1980s. She entered Rally Finland three times, coming 55th in 1986, driving a Citroen Mille Pistes for the Siemens Lady team. In 1987 and 1988, she drove a Lancia Delta HF and failed to finish. Earlier in her career, in 1984, she drove a Toyota Corolla in the Finnish championship. Her navigator for her WRC outings was Tuula Karkkulainen.

Laura Suvanto - former circuit racer, now involved in rallying. She began rallying a Volkswagen Golf in 2013, in Finnish championship events. Her best result was a class win in the Turku Ralli. She was 44th overall. She was also second in class in the Pohjanmaa Ralli, and 50th overall. In 2014, she tackled the winter rallies in Finland, but did not finish any of her three events. On the circuit side, she did at least one season in the Finrace V1600 Cup touring car series, in 2011, possibly in another Golf. She is a member of a working group promoting women’s motorsport in Finland, and also takes part in road safety campaigns. In 2014, she rallied both the Golf, and a Skoda Fabia R2, in the Finnish championship. Unfortunately, she only finished two of her six rallies. Her best finish was 54th, in the Turku Rally, in the Skoda. In 2015, she moved to Germany, to compete in the ADAC Opel Rallye Cup. Her car was an Opel Adam. Her season seems to have been ended early by an accident early in the Wartburg Rally. She returned to Finland in 2016, and rallied a Skoda Fabia, in which she was 69th in the Tahko SM-Ralli. In 2017, she switched to co-driving, although she did come back to the driving seat for a couple of rallysprints in 2018, driving an R2-spec Fabia.

Sanna-Kaisa Tiilikka – mainly competes in rallysprints in Finland, driving a Toyota Starlet. She began as a junior in 2010, aged sixteen. She is one of the leading female drivers in the Finnish Rallysprint championship, and has also secured several class wins in 2014 and 2015. She also drives the same car in Finnish stage rallies, co-driven by her brother, Jussi-Pekka. In 2015, her best result was 31st overall, in the Vuokatti Rally. She was seventh in class. In 2017, she scored class wins in the Pohjanmaa and 4-Revontull Rallies. She was fourteenth in the 2018 Velkon Kone Rallysprint, driving a Honda Civic, and won her class. Driving the same car, she picked up three class wins in 2019, including a 24th place out of 160 in the Keuruu Rally. 

Seija Tyni – rallied in Finland in the 1960s and 1970s, often in a Datsun. She was probably most successful in a Datsun Sunny, which she drove in 1968. Her best finish in this car was a seventeenth place in the Pohjola Rally, with a class win. The Renault 8 Gordini she drove in 1969 and 1970 also suited her driving style. She won her class three times in 1969, the best of these being a 22nd place in the Tunturi Rally. She entered the 1000 Lakes Rally twice, in 1969 and 1970, finishing the second time. She was 39th, in a Datsun 1600.

Meiju Viitanen - rallies both modern and classic cars in Finland, mostly in sprint events. She began in 2015 with a Ford Escort RS2000, which she changed for an XR3i in 2016, as well as using an unusual Toyota MR2. In 2018, she used both the XR3i and a Citroen C4, with her best result coming from the C4: ninth in the Graceville Sprint. She scored class wins in both cars. In 2019, she added a Toyota MR2 to her list of cars and won her class in the Raahen rallysprint in it.

Anne Vuorio - twice Finnish Ladies' Champion, in 1990 and 1992, driving Toyota Celica GT4s. She participated in her home WRC round twice, in 1989 and 1990. the first time, she drove a Mazda 323, but retired mid-way through. The second time, she was 39th in the Toyota.

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