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Feature Friday: Johan Ahokas
Story by Dan Miller
It's been a very busy week here at U.S. Legend Cars International. The 2014 Road Course World Finals are going to be held this weekend at VIRginia International Raceway and our production facility has been a home away from home for several teams from overseas. One group in particular caught our eye for their dedication and confidence; the Finns. They made the long journey from Helsinki, Finland to race this weekend at VIR.
All week long they've been tinkering on their cars in the shop, and getting them in top notch shape for the upcoming race. They definitely have a taste for the flashy. They'll be racing 3 solid matte-black sedans, with an exotic assortment of stickers and logos bearing the names of their Finnish sponsors. The cars are also receiving brand new sets of Aero color chromed wheels, 2 red sets, and 1 black set.
Throughout the week, not only have we been building their cars and supplying parts for the World Finals, we've also taken time to make sure our guests feel at home. We've assisted with everything from booking rental cars, to finding a hotel in Miami Beach for a vacation weekend, to giving them advice on the best places in Charlotte for an authentic American meal. Needless to say, we've grown quite fond of our Finnish guests!
I had the chance to sit down and interview one of their best drivers, Johan Ahokas, who also happens to be our dealer in Finland. With the sport of Legend Car racing growing at a rapid pace overseas, it's always nice to get the chance to speak with them and share it with our American audience. Read on to see the interview with Johan and gain some insight into the sport of Legend Car racing in Europe!
Interview with: Johan Ahokas
DM: Who is on your team of racers this year?
JA: Me, Joni Nelimarkka, and Henri Tuomaala. Henri and I are running in the Pro division, and Joni will be in the Semi-Pro division. We also have a group of mechanics and crew here with us as well.
DM: How long have you and the other drivers been racing Legend Cars?
JA: I have been racing since 2007, Henri since 2008 and this is Joni's first year.
DM: Is this your first time racing in the World Finals here in the US?
JA: No, for me it's my 2nd time. This will be Henri's 3rd time, and Joni's 1st at the World Finals in the U.S.
DM: How do you think you'll do in the race at VIR? Is there any advantage that you think your team has over American racers?
JA: Of course we have an advantage! We Finns have always been known as fast on road courses. Our level of competition in Finland is very high. I hope that we take the win in both the Pro and Semi-Pro category. I wish the best of luck to everyone, but if the Americans want to win…they'll have to be very fast!!!
DM: Do you race outside of Finland a lot?
JA: Yes I do! I have been racing in Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, and also in Poland. The competition in these countries is growing, but it's not near the same level that we have in Finland.
DM: You primarily race road courses, how many races do you have a year in Finland?
JA: We have 14 races for points in Finland. Our top 12 finishes will determine our points standing. This year I won, and Henri came in 2nd! The competition was extremely tight, and 3rd and 4th places were decided by only 1 point each!
DM: How many Legend Car drivers are active in Finland?
JA: Total, about 50. But at most races we have around 40 racers.
DM: Do racers from other countries come to Finland for Legend Car races?
JA: Yes they do, they have come from Sweden, Latvia, and Russia. No Americans have come yet, although we would like to set something like that up!
DM: How did you get started with Legend Cars in Finland?
JA: I have been racing all my life, my father was a racer since 1972. I grew up in a racing family. I started off in Karting. After Karting, (I did that for 10 years) I had to make a decision on the next step I would take. Legend Cars was the class that I was most interested in. The cars look great, and they offer good performance. Also, the cost of owning and racing the cars is very good compared to other types of racing in Finland. Legend Cars are also the biggest class of road racers in Finland right now.
DM: What is the Legend Car market in Finland like? Do you see it growing?
JA: Yes, it's growing all the time. For now, I'm trying to get more young guys who are coming up from karting. Next season we have 10 new drivers coming on board! With an already active base of 50 drivers…that's a lot of new racers to add! In all of the Scandinavian countries the sport is growing rapidly. The same is true of the Baltic countries like Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. We are having a promotional test drive day in Poland next summer, and the interest in the sport there began last year. Overall, I see the sport growing very well over the next few years.
DM: What makes the Legend Car special to you?
JA: The look, the sound, and the speed!
DM: What is your advice to people who are thinking about racing Legend Cars in Europe?
JA: It's the cheapest, the fastest growing racing class. And with the same car, you can race in many different countries across the world. That's probably the coolest thing about it. We get to race in lots of places and the rules are basically the same in every country.
DM: What differences have you noticed between US and Finland?
JA: The racing here seems more rough. There is a lot more contact between cars here vs in Europe. The rules are stricter in Europe in regards to contact between cars. The first time I raced here in Las Vegas was a shock to me. But now I know how the cookie crumbles!
After the interview Johan showed me their youtube channel and coverage of the season championship race in which either he, or Henri had to come in 1st place to decide the 2014 champion. The video is awesome! Shot with helicopters, and multiple camera angles. There was even a face-to-face stare-down between Johan and Henri reminiscent of heavyweight boxers before the championship bout! Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-lMWoMrmuA . You won't be disappointed!
With the amount of experience and skill the Finns bring to the table, I'm sure all of the racers at the 2014 Road Course World Finals will be on the lookout for these guys!