The first stage of this year’s Neste Oil Rally in Finland saw a special zero car when four-time rally world champion Tommi Mäkinen opened the Harju Special Stage in Jyväskylä with a Valtra tractor.
In rallying, zero cars open the track for the competition cars. Their purpose is to alert the public that the race is about to begin and to check the security of the track.
Mäkinen crossed the finish line at 3:45.2, around 117 seconds slower than the winner of the stage, current rally world champion Sébastion Ogier on Volkswagen Polo R WRC. “I have driven competitions with rally cars many times, but never before in a tractor. Luckily there was no plough attached to the tractor”, Mäkinen comments.
Serving as co-driver was Harri Salonen from Jämsä, Finland, who had won the job by participating in a Valtra Facebook competition and who got married on the day after the race. “This was a once in a life time experience and also a different kind of wedding gift. The driving speed didn’t make me nervous, but still there wasn’t much time to take in the scenery”, Salonen comments.
The rally tractor, a Valtra T234, was the same model in which another former world champion, Juha Kankkunen, broke the tractor world speed record with 130.165 km/h earlier this year.