Matias Salonen gained momentum for the Porsche Sprint Challenge NEZ title bid
Relaa Racing competed in the penultimate round of the Porsche Sprint Challenge NEZ in Pärnu, Estonia. Team’s junior program driver Matias Salonen scored two podium finishes, elevating his chances for the series’ title. Salonen is now second in the championship, trailing the leader by 15 points.
Finnish Porsche team Relaa Racing competed in the penultimate round of the Porsche Sprint Challenge NEZ series in Pärnu, Estonia. Relaa fielded a two-car effort for the two races held in the Porsche Ring.
Driving the fastest time in qualifying, Relaa’s junior program driver Matias Salonen was forced to start from P4 after receiving a three-place grid penalty for overtaking under yellows. The 20-year-old successfully climbed to the final podium place when the chequered flag fell. The experienced Raimo Niemi, driving the team’s second car, started from tenth on the grid, but his experience shined in the intermediate conditions, and his efforts were rewarded with a P8 finish.
“The start was quite calm, but when the leader spun halfway into the first lap, I was forced to dodge to the outside and lost a bit of ground. That’s when the top three gained momentum. As the track dried out, our pace increased, and during the latter stages of the race I was gaining the lead pack by almost a second per lap. We only managed to gain one position, however. If the race was just a bit longer, I’m sure we could have mounted a bigger challenge. Nevertheless, I’m happy to be on the podium,” Salonen iterated.
Salonen started again in P4 for the second race of the weekend, but the young talent did not wait around for overtaking, but instead pushed past for P3 into the first braking zone. After this, Salonen put pressure on the second-placed driver, and after a mistake done by the co-competitor Salonen set his sights for the race win. Despite mounting up pressure for the remainder of the race, the young prodigy was forced to settle for second with a four-second margin. Raimo Niemi´s fine form in the first race did not continue in the second, as his race was cut short one lap before the flag by being collected in a three-car crash.
“We knew before the start that we needed to push past two drivers not involved in the championship fight. We moved past them quite quickly and set our focus on the fight for podium spots. On the last lap I almost got alongside the leader, but nothing came of it. I also made a small error by locking the brakes and flat-spotting a tire, which lead to us slowing down a bit on the last lap. We scored some good points for the championship this weekend. Thank you to the team and our cooperation partners, the championship is on the table in Alastaro,” Salonen recapped the events of the second race.
“Unfortunately, I got involved in a crash on the last lap of the race, but these things happen in motorsports. The main thing is that nobody got hurt. A solid weekend from Matias, and the championship will be decided at the final round in Alastaro,” Niemi commented after the day.
Relaa’s race weekend continues today with the Baltic Endurance Championship’s BEC4H race. Sharing the driving duties of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup 992 are Salonen and guest driver Miika Panu.
Pärnu Summer Race results:
1. Olli Kangas 16 kierrosta FIN
2. Jani Käkelä +0,651 FIN
3. Matias Salonen +2,588 Junior FIN
4. Valters Zviedris +11,626 Junior LVA
5. Jukka Eerola +14,661 Masters FIN
8. Raimo Niemi +59,119 Masters FIN
1. Thomas Kangro 16 kierrosta Junior FIN
2. Matias Salonen +4,067 Junior FIN
3. Olli Kangas +14,035 FIN
4. Eduardas Klepikas +17,657 LTU
5. Henri Tuomaala +17,881 FIN
12. Raimo Niemi DNF Masters FIN
Porsche Sprint Challenge NEZ point standings 5/6 rounds:
1. Valters Zviedris 177
2. Matias Salonen 162
3. Thomas Kangro 144
3. Henri Tuomaala 144
5. Jani Käkelä 133