Flying Finn Future Star Programme winner to drive the FIA World Rally Championship

28.9.2018 17:30The Future Star Award which brought Teemu Suninen to the absolute top of the rallying world, undergoes through great changes in the years to come. The 2019 winner will still receive the traditional package to the Finnish round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Neste Rally Finland, but already one year from now a second winner will be awarded with a seat in the FIA Junior WRC or an equivalent WRC class for the 2020 season. At the same time the new programme created by AKK, M-Sport and Pirelli will be changed into the more dynamic Flying Finn Future Star Award.

AKK Sports Ltd. founded the Future Star Award originally in 2014 in order to support promising young rally talents on their path to an international breakthrough and to the very top of the rallying world. The drivers who have been fortunate to obtain this award have made their journey all the way to the very top.

- The Future Star Programme was a unique opportunity for me to take the next step forward. After our participation and win in Neste Rally Finland 2014, we were noticed by the major motorsport organisations and I think we wouldn’t be here where we are now without the award. I am extremely grateful for AKK for their support with this programme. It’s also nice to hear that the winner has more than one opportunity to show his skills in the future. Of course, you would still have to be very good at every round of the FIA Junior WRC. For most of the Finnish rally drivers this can be their only chance to move to international rallying, as they are constantly fighting to get their budget even for the Finnish Rally Championship, says Teemu Suninen, the 2014 Future Star winner and current WRC works driver for M-Sport.

Many other Finnish drivers have followed Suninen’s steps. 2015 winner Jari Huttunen is a WRC2 driver for Hyundai Motorsport in their driver development programme. Juuso Nordgren (winner of 2016) is a works driver for Skoda whereas Emil Lindholm (2017) and Henri Hokkala (2018) are currently driving in the Finnish Rally Championship for the top three positions.

- The Future Star award has given an enormous boost to the Finnish motorsport which can be seen when looking at how our young drivers have risen to the world elite. Starting from 2020 this new concept will be associated ever so strongly with the Flying Finn Driver Academy’s top training as a part of a bigger entity as the Flying Finn Future Star winner will be a member in the National Junior Rally Team. In the future the ”Flying Finn” term describes the whole concept of driver development to the top-level of rallying. This vision will cement Finland’s position as a leading nation in the discipline. We are still after all the “fastest nation on earth”, explains Tatu Lehmuskallio, the CEO of AKK-Motorsport and AKK Sports Ltd., regarding his views on the Flying Finn concept and the Future Star reform.

As the programme expands and changes entirely in its nature, also AKK Sports Ltd. and its partners support will grow. If the winning candidate drives with M-Sport’s Ford rally car and Pirelli tyres in the Finnish Rally Championship class SM3 next season, will all partners support the participation to the WRC with a total of €90 000.

In rallycross, AKK already has an equivalent RX Academy Award Programme, in which Jesse Kallio was given the opportunity to race in the European Rallycross Championship already this year. There are concrete plans to create a similar kind of an award programme also to circuit racing in the near future.

In terms of the concrete development and support for the young drivers on their path to the top of karting, AKK has already set its target towards organising international championship events and thus creating chances for young Finnish drivers and organisers to get the important international experience they need. In 2017 the European Championship race took place in Alahärmä and AKK has applied with the FIA for a World Championship race to be organised at the very same location in 2019.

The flow of Finnish drivers to the world elite has already been in the international spotlight for years.

- When new Finnish drivers rise to the top of their discipline on an international level it of course creates a certain amount of interest outside of Finland as well. Around us there seems to be this positive kind of a buzz of wondering: “what is it that they do so exceptionally well there in Finland”. We are not performing any magic tricks, but we have paved our path through the grassroots to the top in ways that might be a bit more developed than in other countries. In addition, we strive to offer everybody a real chance to succeed. The Flying Finn concept will enhance this work even more and the Future Star Award is an excellent example of this, Lehmuskallio ponders on the concrete steps made.

Photo: Taneli Niinimäki/AKK