Up north: third weekend of the Northern European Cup Formula Renault 2.0 in Alastaro, Finland For its third race weekend of the 2008 season, the Northern European Cup Formula Renault 2.0 (NEC FR 2.0) will be exploring unknown territory.
Up north: third weekend of the Northern European Cup Formula Renault 2.0 in Alastaro, Finland
For its third race weekend of the 2008 season, the Northern European Cup Formula Renault 2.0 (NEC FR 2.0) will be exploring unknown territory. After the season opener at Hockenheim and the second meeting at Zandvoort, now the circuit of Alastaro in Finland will be hosting the series for season rounds five and six. It will be the first event for the NEC FR 2.0 in the country that brought forth so many motor racing greats, including current Formula 1 world champion and Formula Renault graduate, Kimi Raikkonen.
The Alastaro circuit was built near the eponymous small city in the south- western part of Finland at the end of the 1980s and has since attracted all forms of motorsport, from truck racing at European level to drag racing, tractor pulling and rally sprints, plus various motorcycle events. The circuit that will host next weekend's races is three kilometres long. The circuit is particularly friendly for spectators as they have a good view of the entire track from many viewing points.
Finnish driver, Valtteri Bottas (Motopark Academy) is the man to beat in the 2008 NEC FR 2.0 so far. With four victories from as many races, he comes to his home event as the leader in the points' standings while his most recent win in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 at Silverstone, his maiden victory in that series, gave him another boost prior to his home round. The second driver from Finland to compete in this year's NEC FR 2.0 is Daniel Aho, whose entry is being looked after by the Finnish Koirainen Bros outfit. Aho retired from the first race at Zandvoort and came home 16th in the second race, so he definitely wants to score a better result in his domestic event. As this weekend's two races at Alastaro will be the only rounds in Scandinavia for this year's NEC FR 2.0., the meeting can also be considered as the home event for the three Swedish drivers currently competing in the series, Philip Forsman and Daniel Ivarson (both Trackstar) and Kevin Kleveros (KEO Racing), as well as for Motopark Academy's Danish driver, Johan Jokinen.
Teams and drivers from the NEC FR 2.0 already have a chance to familiarise themselves with the Alastaro circuit during several test sessions on Wednesday and Thursday and in an official free practice session on Friday. Qualifying takes place on Saturday from 9.20 till 10.10 h in two heats, separated by a 10 minutes' break. The first race starts on Suturday at 14.35 h, the second race is on Sunday at 12.40 h. The two races are running over a duration of 25 minutes each. TV-footage can be watched later in the week on the internet via www.raceworld.tv
Q & A with Jari Koirainen, team principal of the Koirainen Bros. team, a regular entrant in the NEC FR 2.0
Can you tell a little bit about the background of your team and the participation in the NEC FR 2.0?
In the past few years, we have mainly been working with rookie drivers and it has become quite obvious that participating in the NEC FR 2.0 is the best way for them to learn and to hone their racing skills. Previously, we have also entered cars in Scandinavian Formula 3 and the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, but at the moment, we are considering the NEC FR 2.0 as the best series for our team to race in.
Operating a team from Finland to race in a championship that has most of its races in continental Europe must be quite a logistical challenge.
Yes, it is a challenge indeed, but a great help for us is the fact that we are using a workshop in Halver near Cologne, Germany, where our cars are located during the season. That workshop is owned by Udo Lohmann, a well- known personality in Formula Renault, and having the possibility to operate from Europe, where all the action is and the races are taking place is much easier for us. It saves us all the ferry trips back and forth to Finland and a great deal of money as well.
How do you rate the current situation of motorsport in Finland in general and single-seater racing in particular?
Interest for circuit racing is increasing. Of course, rallying has always been very strong in Finland, but circuit racing is becoming more and more popular. National Formula Renault in Finland, new for this year, is getting on quite well and there are also some plans for a new circuit, although that will take a few years.
What can you tell about Alastaro?
The circuit is different from tracks in Belgium, Germany or The Netherlands, for instance because there are no grandstands, but it is a great place for people to come and watch because you can see the entire circuit, so you don't have to miss anything of the action. I hope the weather will be nice, so that everybody can enjoy the nice Finnish landscape. And at this time of the year, it hardly gets dark at night!