Relaa Racing’s Salonen charged up the field in Pärnu
Relaa Racing, hailing from Kauhajoki, took on the challenge in the Porsche Sprint Challenge NEZ’s third race of the season in Pärnu, Estonia, over the weekend. It wasn’t a smooth ride for the team, but Relaa’s Junior Program driver Matias Salonen’s championship lead remains intact as they head into the latter half of the season.
The Kauhajoki-based Porsche team, Relaa Racing, entered the third race of the Porsche Sprint Challenge NEZ series at the Porsche Ring in Pärnu with two cars. Young talent and rising star of Relaa’s junior program, Matias Salonen, teamed up with seasoned driver Raimo Niemi behind the wheels of their Porsche 911 GT3 Cup 992.
The weekend got off to a challenging start for the team as one of Salonen’s cars experienced a wheel hub failure during free practice. Despite the team’s mechanics working tirelessly to fix the issue, they couldn’t get the car ready in time for qualifying, forcing the promising driver from Lempäälä to start the opening race from the back of the grid. Raimo Niemi secured the tenth spot on the starting grid with his Porsche.
In the opening race, Salonen displayed a true Finnish grit as he climbed up the standings from fourteenth place to a remarkable fifth position. Although Salonen’s race was filled with overtakes, he managed to clock the second-fastest lap of the race, securing a front-row starting position for the second race.
”The opening race was mainly about setting up for the second race. We took it easy at the beginning, aiming to secure a good starting position for the next race. The pace turned out to be even better than expected, and in the final laps, I was already fighting for fourth place,” Salonen recapped his eventful opening race.
For the second race of the weekend, Salonen started from the front row, second on the grid. Whilst the leader managed to create a gap after start, Salonen put up a fierce challenge to the leader at the second half of the race, and even though the last lap turned into a duel between Salonen and the race leader, Salonen had to settle for second place, with a minuscule 0.152-second margin at the checkered flag.
”The start was really intense, but I managed to hold my position, although the leader pulled away slightly. I caught up to the lead around the halfway point of the race, but the track and the leader didn’t offer any overtaking opportunities until the final lap. I gave it my all on the last lap, but it just wasn’t quite enough today,” summed up Salonen.
”All in all, I’m really satisfied with the weekend, despite some bad luck along the way. Once again, we showed what we’re capable of as a team, and we can now turn our focus to the next weekend with confidence,” Salonen expressed his gratitude.
The team’s second driver, Raimo Niemi, kicked off the weekend with a 13th-place finish and improved to 11th in the second race. The Pärnu track holds a special place in the experience Porsche driver’s heart.
”Overall, it was a positive weekend, even though we struggled a bit with technical issues. A big thanks to the team for their excellent work throughout the weekend. I really enjoy the Pärnu track, and we had some great battles on track, even though the young drivers outpaced us,” Niemi reviewed the race weekend.
The Porsche Sprint Challenge NEZ continues at Alastaro’s Porsche Festival on July 28th and 29th.
Porsche Sprint Challenge NEZ Porsche Festival Estonia results:
1. Thomas Kangro 18 kierrosta EST
2. Henri Tuomaaala +0,606 FIN
3. Valters Zviedris +1,853 LVA
4. Alex Reimann +5,650 EST
5. Matias Salonen +5,759 FIN
13. Raimo Niemi +51,230 FIN
1. Valters Zviedris 18 kierrosta LVA
2. Matias Salonen +0,152 FIN
3. Jani Käkelä +1,406 FIN
4. Alex Reimann +1,430 EST
5. Jukka Eerola +8,355 FIN
11. Raimo Niemi +43,957 FIN
Unofficial Point Standings after 3/6 races:
1. Matias Salonen 113 FIN Junior
2. Valters Zviedris 106 LVA Junior
3. Henri Tuomaala 92 FIN
4. Thomas Kangro 90 EST Junior
5. Jari Käkelä 80 FIN