by Ian Bruce, Kent Se7en's
On Friday 15 February 2008 a group of seveners from the Se7ens List known as “Tour Se7en”, departed Stansted UK airport at 17.50 to land at Tampere airport in Finland at 22:30, where a bus was waiting to transfer us to a hotel in Jyvaskyla (About 1.5 hours away).
That was the beginning of a fantastic winter driving weekend, organised by one of the Tour Se7en members Andrew “Vinnie” Barriskell. Andrew was working with Marcus Grönholm and through that connection had been introduced to or worked with pretty much all of rally royalty!
Saturday morning arrived quickly, and we were taken by coach to spectate at a stage of the Peurunko rally organised Lauken Moottorimiehet (Moottori miehet literally = motor men…. Petrol heads…) www.lmm.fi
Laukaa is the area where a large number of the “Flying Finns” have originated - Tommi Makkinen, Juha Kankkunnen, the current Kalle Rovenperä (we met his dad Harri ex WRC driver at the restaurant that evening) to name just a few.
It had been planned to make the journey to the rally stage on a fleet of snowmobiles but sadly there wasn’t quite enough snow, although there seemed like plenty to us!
Seeing a variety of rally cars of the period, as well as historics, competing flat out on snow covered tracks winding through the trees, which seemed very close, was a fantastic experience.
We later moved on to a local club rally event where the locals demonstrated amazing car control; but I guess when you are brought up in such conditions it becomes natural.
Sunday dawned and this was our “main event”. We boarded the coach and travelled about 45 minutes further north into the Laukaa region and turning down an unmarked private road we emerged from the dense woodland to a clearing beside a huge frozen lake – so large that you couldn’t see the far end!
The property and lake belonged to a certain Mr. Juha Kankkunen, and we were going to be driving a selection of rally cars on a 1.5km course that had been prepared on his private lake!!
Andrew had arranged for the members of a local Rally Club to bring their own cars to the lake, and very bravely allow us to drive them! There were instructors on hand to give some advice, and demonstrations, but we were allowed to try all the cars for ourselves, which included (Rally class is shown in brackets):
Honda Integra (N2)
Opel Kadett Rallye (Historic)
BMW M3 (F2)
Polo Trophy (A1)
Mitsubishi Evo 8 (N4)
All the cars were set up for rallying, and fitted with studded tyres, essential for driving on ice, and we were joined by a Caterham Seven belonging to (not very) “local” Tour Se7ens member Kristoffer Lawson. He’d driven his seven over 100 miles to come and join the trip and play with his studded tyres on the lake.
As there were more of us than cars, in the periods between driving there were some snowmobiles (c120kph!) and quad bikes to play with around the perimeter of the lake. As I and a few others can attest, it is relatively easy to roll a snowmobile, particularly with a passenger as they are quite top heavy!
We had a break for a BBQ, rather alarmingly made by creating a firepit in the ice on the lake, and continued the fun in the early afternoon.
For part of the day we were joined by professional Rally Driver Aki Teiskonen demonstrating how it should and could be done in his rally spec Mitsubishi Evo IX (group N). Aki’s first win in the PWRC was Wales Rally GB a few years earlier in 2005. Here’s a short clip of him giving passenger rides on the day.
The effortless one-handed control of the Evo, which was never pointing directly ahead at any time, at speed on the ice while chatting to each of us as a passenger was an experience never to be forgotten!
Then, as if the trip hadn’t been amazing enough, we were given a tour of Juha Kankkunen’s private car collection housed in a custom climate-controlled museum building on the site.
And what a collection it was! There was everything from probably the worlds fastest Ford Model A, with wooden spoked wheels, a hall of Ferrari’s, lots of classic rally cars, to all of Juha’s championship winning rally cars, as well as hundreds of toy model cars, and walls of trophy cabinets from his illustrious career at the peak of rallying.
Rather than try to describe it I would urge you check out some photos and videos that exist online (links below).
At dusk we boarded our coach back to Tampere airport, and arrived exhausted and elated in equal measure at Stansted at 23.45.
Huge thanks to Vinnie for the organisation, and his amazing connections – a trip that will be remembered for a lifetime!
Tuned Ford Model A
Juha talking about his cars (in Finnish)
Documentary with glimpses of the lake and his collection (in English)
Juha talking about the art and skill of ice driving at his lake.