Joona Haatanen has finally delivered his first win of the Euro Offroad Series, the Team Associated driver winning the season opening 2WD encounter at the Nurburgring in Germany. Putting himself into contention for the overall victory after winning A2, after just 3-laps it looked like both his and Michal Orlowski’s challenge for the win was over as they made contact and slow marshalling left them both down the order as Haatanen waited having made the contact with the Schumacher driver. Up front this all played perfectly into the hands of Top Qualifier Lee Martin, the third of the drivers fighting for the overall win. Holding a huge advantage, a mistake at the double before the straight on lap 7 would cost Martin 2-seconds and allow a brief challenge from fellow Brit Neil Cragg. Able to quickly re-establish his lead, the penultimate lap would see another much smaller error at the same piece of track but the 3/10ths lost was to prove costly. With Haatanen getting back up to second, all three drivers ended up on 3-points but with a winning time of 5:16.068 compared to Martin’s 5:16.317 the race was Haatanen’s who kept up Finnish motorsport tradition by taking his achievement completely in his stride. With his A1 time the slowest of triple finals reigning champion Michal Orlowski had to settle for third place points to open his title defence.
‘My first win, I finally did it’, was Haatanen’s reaction, as he gave Team Associated what is only their third EOS win. The 15-year-old continued, ‘I was too rude as I crashed Michal. I waited but the marshal didn’t put his car down so we were last. I went maximum because I knew I needed to get back to the front because Michal and Lee both had second places to count.’ Asked about the contact with Orlowski, the pair good friends off the track, he said, ‘I hit him at the corner table after he had a bobble. I was carrying more speed than he was’. One of the young stars of the sport to come up through the ranks of the EOS, Orlowski another of them, Haatanen had a disappointing Season #7 but says that is now behind him. Having secured his first TQ the previous season, marking him as one to watch, he said, ‘Only half of the races went good for me last year so this is a good start to a new season for me’.
Reacting to his second place Martin said, ‘Close but no cigar. I’m pretty gutted’. He continued, ‘I got lucky when they had an alternation but crashed myself at the double and then over jumped it at the end. It was this that cost me the win’. The Yokomo driver said, ‘at least we showed we can rock with the kids. The car is definitely good enough to win. I’m pretty gutted I didn’t to be honest. It would have been nice to start the season with a win but the performance shows we have improved from last season. I am looking forward to the next round’.
A disappointed Orlowski said, ‘I don’t know. I felt the car was good but I had a small error in the corner table and that lead to contact with Joona. I tried to come back but I was way down and then I got caught in others’ crashes. It was just bad luck I guess. I did everything the best I could’. Behind Orlowski, his 3rd one place better than his opening result last year, it was Neil Cragg who finished fourth ahead of the best of the Xray cars which was driven by another of the EOS’ emerging talents Daniel Kobbevik.