Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Female Drivers in Touring Cars: Finland



Karoliina Leppihalme

In the past two or three years, a number of Finnish drivers have appeared in their domestic touring car series. Their numbers seem to be on the increase, and some are reaching out further into international motorsport.

Martina Backfält – races in the V1600 series in Finland. Her car is a Honda Civic. It looks as if 2015 was her debut season on the circuits, and she was not yet quite on the pace. Her best result in 2015 was an eighth place, at Kemora, and this scored her her first championship points. She was eighteenth in the championship. Martina’s family is involved in the automotive trade in Finland.   

Noora Lähteenmäki – races in the V1600 championship in Finland. Her car is a Honda Civic. 2015 appears to have been her first year of competition. It looks to have been a steep learning curve; she was not among the leading drivers in the series, and has already endured at least one crash. Her best result was eleventh, achieved at Vauhtiajot. She returned to V1600 in 2016, driving a Civic again, a much improved driver. She was second in the championship, with two wins each at Alastaro and Ahvenisto. She is not to be confused with a Finnish actress of the same name.

Karoliina Leppihalme - races touring cars in Finland, in the Finrace 1600cc Cup. She first raced in the series in 2012, joining for the second part of the season. She was a solid finisher, not quite on the pace, but with a best finish of twelfth, at Motopark. Her car was a Honda Civic, which she raced again in 2013. This time, she was on the pace immediately, with a fourth and eighth place at Motopark. She had another good round at Kemora, finishing sixth, and she was eighth overall. At the end of 2013, she was chosen for the FIA Women in Motorsport Comission’s VW Scirocco-R Shootout, and attempted to win a season’s Scirocco racing, but she was not among the leaders. In 2014, she raced a VW Polo in Finrace 1600. She had rather an up-and-down season, but managed some good finishes, including a second place at Kemora. She was ninth in the championship. In 2015, her car for the Finrace series was a SEAT Ibiza. She was twelfth in the championship, with a best finish of sixth, at Vauhtiajot. As well as circuit racing, Karoliina also took part in rallycross, racing in the Super 1600 class of the World Rallycross Championship. Her car was a Renault Twingo, and raced in Portugal, Spain and France. She concentrated on rallycross in 2016, driving a Toyota MR2.


Nea Liikamaa - raced in the V1600 championship in 2016. She did half a season, entering the first and last two rounds, driving a Honda Civic. Her best result was a sixth, which she earned in the first race, at Botniaring. She won an award from her motor club for her performance in the series that year.
Emmy Lindholm - raced in the Finrace 1600cc Cup in Finland in 2013, as a team-mate to Karoliina Leppihalme. This seems to have been her first season of motorsport, and she drove a Honda Civic, like her team-mates. She showed some speed, finishing eighth in her first race at Motopark and tenth at Ahvenisto, but she could not find the consistency to challenge at every meeting, and suffered too many DNFs towards the end. Her final position in the championship was thirteenth. She is the daughter of former international rally driver, Sebastian Lindholm, and therefore a cousin of Marcus Gronholm.


Sari Luoto – raced in Finrace in 2014, in the V1600 series. Her car was a Honda Civic. She was not among the frontrunners, and had a best finish of fifteenth, at Ahvenisto. She scored another point for her 16th place in the second Ahvenisto race. 2014 seems to have been her first racing season. She appears to come from a motorsport family, and may have been racing alongside a brother. In 2015, she took part in some Folkrace competitions.


Emma Mäkinen – competed in Finland’s V1600 touring car series in 2014, aged 16, following some testing. Her car was a Honda Civic. Her best finish was a fifth place at Alastaro, and she was sixth in the other round at that track, making it her best circuit. Her other results were not quite so impressive, and she was fifteenth in the championship. 2014 was her first season of racing. In 2015, she had an up-and-down season, driving a Mini in the V1600 series. She repeated her fifth place, at the Botniaring this time, and finished in the top ten on three more occasions. She was fifteenth overall again. In 2016, she drove the Mini again, and took her first series win, at Kemora. This helped her to sixth in the championship. Emma is from a motorsport family; her father is a racer, but she is no relation to rally driver Tommi Mäkinen.

Mirella Nurminen - races in the Finrace 1600cc touring car championship in Finland. Her car is a Honda Civic. In 2012, she was eleventh overall, although she achieved at least two top-ten finishes, with a best of seventh, at Häminleena. In 2013, she drove for the Uusimaa Car Athletes team. Again, her best finish was seventh, at Motopark, but too many DNFs and lower placings meant that she was thirteenth overall. In 2014, she did some rounds of the championship, but it was a difficult year for her. Her best finish was twelfth, at Pärnuand she was unable to start all the races she entered. She ran a full season in the Civic in 2015, but had too many non-finishes to make an impact. Her best finish was eleventh, at Alastaro, and she was 20th overall. In 2016, she raced the Civic again, but only did a part-season. This meant she was not eligible for championship points, although she drove well, and had a third place at Alastaro as her best finish. She is the daughter of Jari Nurminen, who raced in Formula 3000.

Janina Österholm - switched to cars in 1987, after a successful karting career that saw her as a regular rival to Mika Häkkinen. She was fifth in the Nordic Formula Ford Championship in 1987, behind Häkkinen and Mika Salo. After that, she raced more in touring cars and saloons, including three top-ten finishes in the Kemora 500 Midnight Sun race. In 1988, she was seventh, in a Bornebusch Racing Rover Vitesse, with Eva Bornebusch and Catta Lindgren. In 1989, she was tenth, in a Lasse Lehtinen’s Volvo 240 Turbo, with Lehtinen and Robert Koistinen. In 1990, she was sixth in a BMW M3, with Esa Salonen and Peter Elgaard. That year, she also raced the M3 in the Finnish Touring Car Championship, where she was third in Group A (over 2000cc). Despite having a reasonably high media profile at times, and family support, she disappears from the entry lists after this.


Linda Vekka - raced in most of the 2015 Finnish V1600 championship. Her car was an Alfa Romeo 147, and she had a best finish of sixteenth, at Pärnu. She was unplaced in the championship. The following year, she returned with the Alfa, and ran for the whole championship. She was sixth overall, with two fourth places as her best results. The Alfa was sold at the end of 2016, and Linda seems to be involved in rallying in 2017.

Veera Virtanen - had her first season of senior motorsport in 2008, when she competed in most of the Finnish Formula Ford Zetec championship. Her best finish was sixth, at Ahvenisto, and she was ninth overall. After a long time-out, she returned to the circuits in 2013, in the Finrace series. Her car was a Honda Civic. She entered the Botniaring and Alastaro rounds, and had a best finish of eighth, at Botniaring. In 2014, she contested the Finrace series in a BMW Mini, running strongly. When she finished, she was mostly in the top ten, and she had three podium places, including a second at Pärnu. Her less-than-perfect finishing record dropped her to seventh in the championship. In 2015, she was tenth in the V1600 championship, probably due to missing some of the rounds. She was most successful aPärnu, her favourite track, where she was second and third. Her car was a Volkswagen Lupo. She has also done promotional work for the Mini in Finland. In 2016, she took a new sporting direction, and started racing snowmobiles. 


(Image from http://www.l-sport.fi/uutiset.html)

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