Friday, 20 November 2015

Sanna Pinola

Sanna Pinola was a front-runner in Finnish and Nordic Formula 3 during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Born in 1975, she got into motorsport at an early age, and was karting by 1983, when she was eight. Her lengthy karting career took her up to 1992.

At seventeen, she moved up to cars, and gravitated towards single-seaters. She did at least some races in Formula 4 in 1993, and drove in the Finnish Formula 4 Championship for the Sami Pensala team in 1994.

Her activities are less clear for 1995 and 1996. She remained in Formula 4 with her 1994 team in 1995, and had a heavy crash at the Botniaring, which she came through unscathed. The following year, she may have stayed with the same team, and seems likely to have still been involved with Formula 4.

In 1997, she posted at least one win in Formula 4, in the first round at Hämeenlinna. Her final championship position is not forthcoming.

Her final season of Formula 4 was in 1998. She was ninth in the championship. After that, it was time to move on to the next level.

Sanna’s next challenge was Formula 3. Her season in the Nordic championship had a steady start, with an eighth and sixth place at Anderstorp, in Sweden. By the next meeting, also at Anderstorp, she had learned the car, and scored two third places. In August, at the Jyllandsring, she finished on the podium again, and was then second in the second race. Her home races, at Alastaro, were a slight let-down, as she only finished one of them, but she was still a strong fifth overall in the championship.

A move to the Vaisanen F3 team for the 2000 Scandinavian championship did not go completely smoothly, and she missed some races at the start of the season. Throughout the summer, she struggled to reach the top three, until the Hämeenlinna race, which she won. This took her up to fourth in the Scandinavian series, and fifth in the Swedish championship.

In the summer of 2000, she became part of a tiny group of women who have driven modern Formula One cars, albeit not in a standard race setting. She drove a Minardi two-seater in a demonstration run at Kemora.

She stayed with the same team in 2001, and registered in the Finnish F3 Championship. As expected, she was immediately on the pace, and was second in her second race, at Alastaro. The first meeting at Hämeenlinna was underwhelming, but she won again on her second visit, from pole. A pair of DNFs at Botniaring was a disappointment, but she was on the podium again at Alastaro, in second place. A final visit to Hämeenlinna was a damp squib; although Sanna qualified on pole, she could only finish tenth in the first race, and did not start the second. This was only a minor disappointment, however, as she won the Scandinavian championship, and was seventh in the Finnish.

In 2002, she concentrated on the Finnish championship. This year, she was stronger than ever, and won three times, and finished on the podium on two further occasions. She was in the lead for much of the season, and would have won the championship had it not been for a crash involving Jari Koivisto, which allowed Jussi Pinomäki to leapfrog her on the leaderboard. Koivisto was third, just behind her.

After this, Sanna had a race seat fall through on her, and sadly faded from the motorsport scene. She had been set to contest the German F3 series, then the premier European F3 championship, but fraud by one of her managers meant that she lost her funding, and could not take part.

She carried on with some TV work for a little while, having been part of an MTV Finland stunt/prank show since 1999, but then retired from public life completely. She is apparently now working in a field unrelated to motorsport.

Sanna clearly had pace, and the ability to qualify and defend a lead. The ongoing debate over female drivers in Formula One would have been much more interesting, had she been able to progress further.

(Image from

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