Neste Oil Rally Helsinki Battle
Almost 20 000 rally enthusiasts gathered to sunny Hietalahti in Helsinki on Saturday for the first ever Neste Oil Rally Helsinki Battle street circuit race. The Finnish rally legends challenged the current stars, yet the young Mads Östberg took the victory of the good spirited showcase. In the final yielded the two-time World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm.
Sun soaked Hietalahti offered a unique thrill of sports for the audience gathered along its’ streets. As the title sponsor of Finnish Grand Prix for 20 years, Neste Oil got the best possible prize for their anniversary showcase.
– The best thank-you was to see such a great audience and to get the excessively positive feedback from the teams and the drivers. The happy mood was easy to see and feel alongside the track and in the team paddock, Neste Oil’s Marketing Director Sirpa Tuomi described the atmosphere as the day came to its’ end.
Stars speedier than legends
In the battle of the day, the legends and the stars measured up against each other for their superiority. The fastest man of each of these groups proceeded to the final battle.
The fastest rally legend was the man of 30 Grand Prix victories, Marcus Grönholm. He left behind his successful colleagues Tommi Mäkinen, Juha Kankkunen and Markku Alén. Current stars had a tight challenge in their time trials. All the drivers were under two seconds, but Mads Östberg made it to the final. Even though no GP points were available, took the Norwegian an especially sweet victory. Östberg cut the WRC top riders Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala along with Mikko Hirvonen, Juho Hänninen and Thierry Neuville to the qualification.
Youth was an asset in the final of the Neste Oil Rally Helsinki Battle as 26 years old Östberg didn’t leave any chance to his twenty years older idol. Grönholm wasn’t disappointed for his loss, but cheered joyous in the finish.
– I thought, it would have been more difficult to find the rhythm, but it was fast to settle into the WRC car. In the final I tried a little bit too much, the champion of the legends added.
The winner of the day had enjoyed the ride.
– I was able to actually play with the car. For me it was a greater victory over Grönholm than the current WRC riders, Östberg commented and assured he gained good self-confidence out of this victory for Neste Oil Rally in Jyväskylä.