A puncture kept Mikko Heikkila out of victory on his debut for The Racing Factory

After having led most of the Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho and Cabeceiras de Basto, the Finnish champion saw his luck run out on the closing Power Stage, after having suffered a puncture.
The inaugural race of the ERC – European Rally Championship and the Portuguese Rally Championship was not pleasant to the strong ambitions of The Racing Factory colors in the race organized by Demoporto.

Mikko Heikkila and Samu Vaaleri, current Finnish rally champions, were one step away from winning their debut in the Portuguese race, also giving the first overall victory in a rally from the ERC to The Racing Factory.

Not afraid of competing in terrain that they were completely unaware of and against opponents of the highest level and with much more international experience, the duo demonstrated from the first kilometer that they would have a say in the fight for the top places.

Always very fast and efficient with the Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo from The Racing Factory, they reached the lead for the first time after the 3rd stage, falling momentarily to second place, but recovering the top of the table before the end of the day, preparing to face Sunday’s decisive Leg with a 4.2 second advantage over the closest opponents.

In that final duel, their pace again proved that, under normal circumstances, it would be difficult for them to be dislodged from the lead and, consequently, from the final victory. But, in two moments, in the two passages through the iconic Lameirinha special stage, the gods of fortune decided differently.

In the initial passage, which corresponded to the final stage of the morning round, a stone damaged the steer of the Czech car and only Heikkila’s mastery allowed him to hold the lead, but now having two opposing teams within a tenuous interval of 4 .6 seconds, with still 4 stages to go.

But The Racing Factory driver showed nerves of steel, holding the advantage until entering the final Power Stage. There, everything was going according to plan until a puncture forced Mikko Heikkila to stop to change the tyre, losing the rally and falling to an unfair and frustrating 8th place at the close of the race.

Armindo Araújo and Luís Ramalho were victims of a serious accident on the 7th special stage of the rally, when they attacked the leadership of the competition reserved for the Portuguese Rally Championship, continuing a display that, until that moment, had been of a very good level. .

The Portuguese national champion duo had to be evacuated to a hospital unit, being discharged this Sunday. However, the tests carried out revealed three broken ribs, a fractured spine and left hand of Armindo Araújo, who will have to undergo two surgical interventions within days, while Luís Ramalho also fractured 3 ribs, with another fracture in the right foot.
Both have a delicate recovery period ahead of them, and it is not yet certain when they will return to competition.

At the end of the race, Aloísio Monteiro, CEO of The Racing Factory, did not hide “the deep disappointment that we all felt in the team regarding the outcome of this rally. First, the accident of Armindo and Luís, which deprived them of a more than likely victory in the accounts of the CPR and, much more serious, caused them injuries. It was a terrible moment for all of us. Fortunately, they were quickly assisted and now have the necessary recovery period ahead of them, with the certainty that they will come back even stronger and with even more will to win. We will be here to support them in everything they need!”.

Then, the victory that escaped…. For the TRF “boss” it was another moment “that hit us hard. But these are rallies and we all know that, up to the last meter of the race, anything can happen. We are sad for Mikko and Samu who deserved to win, as they had an extraordinary rally and, in my case, I feel particularly disappointed for all the members of our team, who did a magnificent job with both cars and deserved to leave Fafe celebrating two triumphs”.

However, Aloísio Monteiro emphasized that “despite everything, we cannot forget to highlight that Mikko, Armindo and the team proved that TRF has everything to win and we will do everything to continue on the path of victories this season!”.




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