*Hokkanen plans full season in young driver category in Pirelli-shod Peugeot
*Twenty-one-year-old will also join ERC Junior Experience training programme
*Big competition in store and big prize fund up for grabs for promising student
Miika Hokkanen will become the latest Flying Finn to transfer his talent from national level to the international stage when he contests the FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship this season.
The winner of the Finnish championship’s highly competitive SM3 class in 2017 has joined Slovenia-based Oktan Sport to pilot a Peugeot 208 R2 in the Pirelli-equipped young driver category alongside long-term navigator Jukka Pasenius.
But having never rallied outside Finland before, Hokkanen admits he has plenty to learn: “ERC Junior is the best next step for me, it’s perfect with a great variety of races. Of course it’s a big learning curve for us and every rally will be new, and so will the car and team. Hopefully we are quick learners because even though we were very good in the Finnish championship, we now have the next step to take.”
Born and raised in Lahti, Hokkanen, 21, now lives in Jyväskylä – home of Finland’s round of the world championship – where he is in the second year of the engineering degree he’ll combine with his six-event ERC Junior campaign.
“I’m very happy to come to this series,” said Hokkanen, who tried karting before switching to rallying. “I did some karting and it went very well but rallying is a big thing in Finland. I started rallying when I was 15 and I really love the sport. Before that I did football and ice hockey but after I found rallying it has been my passion ever since.”
Several Finnish drivers have achieved success in the ERC, including Juho Hänninen and Esapekka Lappi, champions in 2012 and 2014 respectively. Finn Jari Huttunen was an event winner in ERC Junior Under 27 last season, eventually finishing runner-up to Briton Chris Ingram.
As well as being a contender for the 100,000 euros career progression fund that goes to the eventual champion to use towards an ERC Junior Under 28 bid in 2019, Hokkanen will be enrolled onto the ERC Junior Experience training programme.
“We are very pleased Miika has picked ERC Junior Under 27 to step up from national to international level,” said Jean-Baptiste Ley, the ERC Co-ordinator. “As well as the opportunity to build his knowledge in a highly competitive environment, Miika will be able to learn plenty as part of the ERC Junior Experience, which is an invaluable resource for young drivers.”
Hokkanen begins his ERC Junior U27 adventure on next month’s Azores Airlines Rallye (22-24 March).