One year on from his World Rally Championship debut, Justus Räikkönen is back where he started: topping the Rally4 class at Rally Finland.
It wasn’t quite the same level of domination as 2022, his winning margin was pegged back to a mere nine minutes this time.
Being Formula 1 champion Kimi’s nephew naturally brings interest. Two WRC outings, two class wins. That reminds DirtFish to ask Justus: has Kimi tagged along to keep an eye on things?
“No, he’s home,” comes the brief Kimi-esque reply.
Right, err. He’s not here. But has Kimi been guiding his nephew along away from the rallies?
“Yeah, we’ve been talking about driving, but that’s all,” 18-year-old Justus summarizes.
Whatever advice Kimi might have provided, it seems to be working. In his first full season of Rally4 competition, Justus is in the thick of a battle for the Finnish SM3 championship title.
It wasn’t quite foot-to-the-floor stuff in Jyväskylä though. Even without a championship on the line, it was a bit too risky out there.
“This is one of the toughest weekends of my rally career so far because weather and the heavy rains, the road was very rough,” Räikkönen explains.
“Especially Vekkula, second loop, that was so crazy. We just had to drive so carefully and hope that everything works and we don’t break our car!
“With the Rally4 car you cannot do flat out all the time. Of course, the bigger road sections you can do flat out but on the narrow sections you just have to keep over all the rocks and ruts and drive safely.”
The path ahead looks a bit less rough. Räikkönen has one of the best seats in Finnish rallying right now as the junior driver in Secto Labs’ line-up, behind former F1 ace Heikki Kovalainen.
Last year Räikkönen said his target was to win the Finnish championship before moving on upwards. He currently leads it but Tuomas Välilä looks set to push him all the way. Which way the title fight goes may not even matter in the end, though.
“Next year I don’t know what car we will drive but we have still next year open. But something new and something exciting,” Räikkönen admits.
New and exciting. That’s got to be four-wheel drive, then. Does Junior WRC beckon in 2024?
“I can say nothing, I can say nothing now,” he retorts.
For now, he’ll let his driving in the remaining Finnish championship rounds speak for him instead. But come Rally Finland 2024, he probably won’t end up back where he started. His march towards the WRC continues in earnest.