Another quick young Finn set for WRC debut: Henri Hokkala named Future Rally Star of Finland

18.6.2018 19:48Emerging talent Henri Hokkala has been chosen as this year’s Future Rally Star of Finland, and will make his World Rally Championship debut on Neste Rally Finland from July 26-29.

Hokkala is the latest winner of the fully-funded drive awarded annually by AKK Sports, the promotional arm of Finland’s motorsport federation and organiser of Neste Rally Finland.

He follows in the footsteps of Teemu Suninen, who was the first ever Future Rally Star of Finland in 2014 and is now a podium finisher in the WRC with M-Sport, as well as Jari Huttunen and Juuso Nordgren, who compete in WRC2 with the backing of Hyundai and Skoda respectively.

Hokkala was chosen after a selection process held at the Kuortane Sports Institute in the two days following the conclusion of the nearby Pohjanmaa Ralli, round five of this year’s Finnish Rally Championship. The finalists, all aged under 25, earned their places in the selection by being among the top six drivers in the SM3 class for R2 machinery, with Hokkala joined by Samuli Vuorisalo, Niko Mäkinen, Jussi Lindberg and Lauri Joona.

The process tested the drivers’ reconnaissance and pacenote-making skills, mental strength, physical fitness, and ability to give an interview in English. Their performances were judged by a panel comprised of Tapio Korjus (Olympic champion, Chairman of the Finnish National Sports Council and Principal of the Kuortane Sports Institute), Kai Tarkiainen (Clerk of the Course, Neste Rally Finland), Tommi Pärmäkoski (Performance Coach, formerly with Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel), Maciej Woda (Junior WRC Manager), Jani Backman (Promoter of Neste Rally Finland) and Minna Sillankorva (Rally Coach).

Hokkala began rallying in 2015 and stepped up to the Finnish championship this year, claiming his first class win just last Saturday on the Pohjanmaa Ralli. He will now make the next step in his career when he contests Neste Rally Finland behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R2, competing against other young talent from around the globe in the Junior World Rally Championship.

As Hokkala comes from Tikkakoski, just 20 kilometres north of host city Jyväskylä, it will be a true home event for the 23-year-old.

“Of course, it is a great honour to win the title of Future Rally Star of Finland,” said Hokkala. “I’m very excited to make my debut in Junior WRC at Neste Rally Finland in my home town, Jyväskylä.

“Pohjanmaa Ralli was big success for us and we took our first victory in the Finnish championship. From there, we went straight to Kuortane for the Future Star assessments. It has been a busy few days but I have enjoyed it very much.

“I must remember that Neste Rally Finland will be my first JWRC event, but I have never started a rally without a will to win. This is really a big dream-come-true for me. It is important to make it to the finish of the rally, but I also want to show my speed to everyone else.”

Photo: AKK/Taneli Niinimäki