Reeta Hämäläinen: From frightened kid to world champion

Her first experience of a rally car was scary – but decades later she began a journey towards becoming WRC2 champion

Reeta Hämäläinen is leading the way for women to succeed in rallying.

During DirtFish’s most recent episode of SPIN, The Rally Pod, Hämäläinen was joined by fellow Finns and World Rally Championship co-drivers Enni Mälkonen and Janni Hussi. Of that trio, Hämäläinen was the first to start her career and thus blaze the trail for her compatriots.

Listen closely and you can feel the dynamic; Hämäläinen is like the older sister of the trio, protecting and reassuring the rest of the group. She did it quite literally at last month’s Rally Sweden, assuaging Hussi’s nerves before shakedown with a reassuring: “you got this”.

It’s been a long journey to get there. But as a world champion in WRC2, plenty of people are now looking up to her.

It’s quite a contrast to the first time she was in the passenger seat of a rally car. Back then she was much smaller and much younger: “I was four years old and I was sitting in the rally car,” said Hämäläinen. “I couldn’t see out, I just saw trees like this,” she added, her head tilted upwards to the sky.

“That was the moment that I didn’t decide to come to rally. Actually, I was totally frightened and like, oh s***, I want to get out! But 10 years later the rallies started to interest me more. And finally, I was actually pretty old, about 19 or 20 [years old], when I realized I wanted to go rallying.”

It’s quite a contrast to the Hämäläinen of today, who still navigates for Emil Lindholm, the driver with which she achieved her WRC2 title success.

Sat alongside her WRC2 co-driving colleagues, the topic of her unique cadence to reading pacenotes came up. It appears not everyone likes it – but those opinions are irrelevant, as she explained on the podcast.


Hämäläinen remains in WRC2 for now with Lindholm – but the goal is to make the step up to Rally1

“I got a lot of publicity because of my pace note reading. It’s different. Some people love it and some don’t. There’s nothing wrong with it; only Emil needs to like my pace note reading, to be honest.

“It’s not easy to get bad feedback; if you get feedback that is some s*** that isn’t something that you could learn anything from…if someone is just saying your voice is s***, there’s not too much to do. You cannot change your voice. But, to be honest, for me nowadays I’m so strong that I don’t need to listen to it. I don’t need to take that s***.”

With a world championship to her name, she’s certainly earned the right to dismiss the naysayers.

Words:Alasdair Lindsay