What to expect next from ERC’s humble superstar

Mikko Heikkilä made a real impact on the first round of the ERC season, and he's planning on making it a regular thing

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I love speaking to rally drivers for the first time. It’s an opportunity to build a new relationship and get to know somebody beyond their stage times.

Ringing Mikko Heikkilä up earlier this week was no exception. Except it was, because I put the phone down even more impressed with everything he’s about than when I picked it up.

Heikkilä’s a humble superstar in the making, and there’s little more appealing than that.

The Finn is a well known quantity on his own soil after defeating WRC2 champion Emil Lindholm to the national title last season.

But he firmly introduced himself to the rest of Europe back in March with a sensational run on the European Rally Championship’s Rally Serras de Fafe.

Had he not picked up a puncture on the powerstage, he would have, at worst, finished second to Hayden Paddon but potentially would have won as he was defending a 2.8-second lead onto that stage.

Seeded all the way down at #38 for the event, it’s fair to say nobody saw it coming.

But what really impressed me was the 31-year-old’s immediate reaction to the deflation. There were no histrionics over a breakthrough result being flushed down the toilet, instead just an acceptance that this can happen in rallying.

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“It is what it is.”

That rhetoric hasn’t changed over seven weeks down the line.

“It’s just history, it is what it is,” Heikkilä tells DirtFish.

“In this sport you will face quite many times bad luck, and I think there was nothing new about having a puncture.

“I have had some bad luck before and I am quite sure that at some point bad luck will happen again. Hopefully not here, but it’s part of the sport.”

Here is Rally Islas Canarias, round two of this year’s ERC. We join Heikkilä early evening on the day of his pre-event test, expecting him to be done for the day.

How did testing go?

“We are still continuing!” he says.

“But so far not any damage, that is one of the most important things, and the feeling is getting better all the time but still quite a lot to learn. But that’s why we are here, so so far so good.”

Heikkilä’s a driver quite clearly in love with what he is doing. You’d assume that’s the case with all drivers tackling their first international campaign, but if it is they don’t all make it obvious.

Heikkilä does.

Tone always upbeat, he’s serious when needed but cheeky when he can get away with it.

Take this response for example, when I let myself down and reached for the rally journalist cliché book to ask if he has any sort of target for what will be just his fourth ever asphalt rally.

“At least I don’t tell it to you!” Heikkilä immediately smiles.

But then the serious head is back on.

“But not so much, to be honest I haven’t been thinking so much about the result,” he explains.


“I’m thinking more about my driving and the driving style I need to have on the Tarmac, so that’s more on my mind now than the results.

“Of course I want to be fast and of course I want to win every rally, that’s for sure, but I know that now we need some mileage.”

Heikkilä is therefore aware that any repeat of his Fafe heroics are unlikely this week. More eyes will undoubtedly be on him though as not just a feature of the entry list but one of the main draws.

“That’s nice to hear that people are talking positively about us,” he says.

“I would say greetings to the people who are doing that – but don’t expect the same here in Canaries!

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“For sure I am not here to lose, but I am realistic that I need some mileage to be competitive on Tarmac.

“I’m not expecting so much from the result side but I am expecting I will learn something during the weekend.”

And as for the rest of the season?

“Should I tell that also to you, I don’t know?” Heikkilä laughs. “Let’s say it like this that I want to be as high as possible, that’s the target.”

I eagerly await my second conversation with Heikkilä. It can’t be long before I’ll have an international rally winner on the other end of the phone.