Between water battles and hot laps: A visit to the Porsche Club Festival Finland
Alastaro Circuit, two and a half hours north of Helsinki, one and a half hours east of Turku. In the middle of Finnish nowhere, a former drag raceway, now a well-booked motorcycle race track and the venue for the Porsche Sprint Challenge North European Zone. We meet Erkki Mattila and Timo Jantunen at the Porsche parking field in the heart of the festival. In front of the Porsche Club Finland tents, the drivers' briefings for the next track sessions are taking place. Opposite, we see Porsche fans and visitors on the grandstand, the buzz of voices from the hospitality tent next to it fills the air. All around us, the cars gleam in the bright sun. In the queue to the raceway, one or two cars have their doors open to cool down. Everyone waits patiently until the lights turn green and the cars are allowed out onto the track.
Pictures above: Teamworkers - Club President Erkki Mattlila and Timo Jantunen
Water sports - Pekka Myllykangas and his 992 GT3 RS (right)
Yesterday the world looked completely different up here: Rain, rain, rain. Monsoon-like conditions on the racetrack. Between the sporadically parked vehicles: umbrellas and people wrapped in rain capes. "We take it as it comes.“ At least that's how President Erkki Mattila sees it. "But did you notice the good mood yesterday? Our Club members carried the sunshine in their hearts. They were looking forward to the festival and now had an exciting race in the sprint challenge." Yes, the rain battle was gripping right to the end. "We combine racing and Club life in one event here," says Timo Jantunen who is responsible for organising the festival. "The Porsche Racing Club Finland brings the race series to the track on Saturday, we as Porsche Club Finland host one of our track days, and the Classic Club Finland hosts its Concour d'Elegance. For that it’s a festival for all Porsche fans in Finland." Around 400 vehicles from the 2,200-member Finnish Club will be on site over the two days. "Half of them come to meet friends, the others use the weekend to take their cars to the track," explains President Erkki. Of course, he was also at the track with his GT4, doing practice laps on the wet track. "That was a hell of a lot of rain."
A few cars further on, we meet Matti Kylämarkula and Pekka Myllykangas. For years, Matti was the President, the driving force of the Club and the one who extended the contacts to Europe, the wider world and the other Porsche Clubs.
Much of what we experience here today was initiated by him: the Racing Club, the Classic Club, the racing series, the festival. Today he is at the festival with his 996 GT3 and after all the active years in the Club, he has passed on the duties and can now enjoy the festival as a visitor, has time to chat with the numerous Club friends. Like with Pekka Myllykangas, for example. A long-time companion of Matti's and a racing specialist who has accompanied the Club's developments in his race cars. He was part of the rain battle yesterday with his new 992 GT3 RS. Now he proudly brings home a trophy. "The rain and the slippery track just demanded everything." Today it's sunshine driving, the track is dry and he's looking forward to that.
Photo above: Mastermind: Matti Kylämarkula has shaped the Club
Iiris Vuorma is ensuring that the Club is not only racing the track, but also the social medias. She is the young face of the Club and lives out her affinity for Porsche in the social media with great verve. And in such a way that Porsche also took notice of her: As part of the 75th anniversary campaign, Iiris has become one of the faces and stories behind Porsche. Today she is on the track with her white 997 Turbo.
As a licensed aircraft technician who looks after the A320 Airbus family at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport for a living, Iiris fulfilled her dream of owning a Porsche sports car a year ago. Her passion for technology and engines led her directly under the rear hood of her turbo. It now produces an impressive 700 hp. So it's no wonder that the Finnish 911 enthusiast is now flying low over the track and as usual for the first rounds, with an instructor as co-pilot on board.
Photo above: Iiris Vuorma is the young face of the Club, Club member and race team owner Raimo Niemi with rookie Matias Salonen who did 3rd on the weekend (above and right).
Today, the Club has around 30 of its own instructors on the ground, something the Club is proud of. Even President Erkki and Vice-President Timo are skilled instructors. In the end, the instructors are the ones who determine the levels 1 to 3, evaluate and classify the Club members. „Riding on the track should be safe for everyone, from the first lap as a beginner to the experienced participant in PRCF Club Racing or Time Trial,“ says Timo, who was in charge of the track days for several years. „In Level 1, there is always an instructor on board – and we strictly follow the set rules.“ As a result, the Club attracts with each track day something like 20 newcomers.
An easy entry, without barriers and with a lot of safety. "Safety first is our top priority in the Club," explains Timo, who drives a 944 Turbo S himself and has been in the Club for 23 years.
Photo above: Junior explorer - Classic Club President Sebastian Lindström with son Christian (right)
That's something Classic Club President Sebastian Lindström also agrees with. Today he is sitting as an instructor next to Iiris in her low-flying 911 Turbo and is himself on the track in a well-running 911 ST Nachbau. His 17-year-old son Christian is also doing his first laps in Level 1 – first with his father as instructor and then all by himself behind the steering wheel of his red 944.
Getting young Porsche enthusiasts out on the track is a topic that is also close to Raimo Niemi's heart. On Saturday, during the rounds of the Porsche Sprint Challenge North European Zone, we meet the long-time President of the Racing Club Finland. Raimo is a Club legend. He co-founded the Porsche Sports Cup Finland, raced 944s and 968s, owned one of the first 911 GT3 Cup cars in Finland and founded his own racing team in 2005: Relaa Racing. Together with the Porsche Club Finland, his racing team set up a junior programme that has so far brought out seven rookie talents and started some successful careers. And ultimately, it binds the youngsters to the brand and the Club.
Marko Granholm is a member of Classic Club Finland and is part of the 15-strong organising team of the festival. The iron air-cooled enthusiast has registered a golden 914 for the Concour d’Elegance. He was able to complete the restoration just in time for the festival. The classics are a strong fraction in the Club; they have had their own Classic Club founded in 2015 as a club within the Club. Ex-President Matti also cultivates his love for the classics; in addition to his air-cooled racing 911, he is currently working on a ’56 365 A Carrera 1500 GS. With a Finnish racing history, of course. Matti's love for Porsche is a lifelong story. He traded one of his first cars for a wrecked 356 – yes, the ’56 365 A Carrera 1500 GS he is now owning for fourty-plus years –, drove his first ’77 911 while studying in the US, raced air-cooled 911s in historic races and has been able to pass on his Porsche passion to his two sons. "Porsche is the story of my life and the Club has become a second family. Porsche has given me a lot in my life." But anyone who knows Matti also knows how much he has given back to the Porsche Brand and the Porsche Club family.
Whether President Erkki Mattila, Vice-President Timo Jantunen, retired mastermind Matti Kylämarkula, GT3 RS racer Pekka Myllykangas, Classic Club President Sebastian Lindström and classic owner Marko Granholm, the grand seigneur of Finnish racing, Raimo Niemi, Christian, the youngster in the 944, or aircraft specialist Iiris with her 700 hp 997 Turbo, they are all part of a fascinating Finnish Porsche community, a sworn Club family of friends – 2. 200 enthusiasts, fans, brand fanatics and Porsche ambassadors. The largest Club of its kind in Finland, the oldest Club in Scandinavia. Porsche friends with whom you can go through good times and bad with ease. Even through the rainy battle of Alastaro.