On 29 August last year, Juha Rytkönen announced his arrival on the FIA World Rallycross Championship scene by finishing second to multiple World Champion Johan Kristoffersson at Kouvola – outpacing the likes of Timmy Hansen and Niclas Grönholm in the process. Fast forward ten months, and the Flying Finn is back for more.
Rytkönen debuted in rallycross as recently as 2018, but immediately, he marked himself out as one to watch. Contesting the autocross class of the Finnish Championship, he made history by taking maximum points from the campaign, winning every single race he started to lift the laurels at the first time of asking.
With that box ticked, the Suonenjoki native stepped up to the headlining Supercar category in 2019 behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta. Notwithstanding the inevitable period of adaptation, he was once more quickly on the leading pace, and victory in the final round at Honkajoki was enough to secure Rytkönen his second title in as many seasons.
Last year, he continued his progression, making his international bow in World RX’s double-header at Kouvola in a GRX-SET Hyundai i20. Stunning the series regulars with his turn-of-speed to grab fourth in the intermediate standings, he went on to win his semi-final and then chase Kristoffersson – on his way to his third World Championship crown – right to the chequered flag in the final.
It was a spectacular performance, and Rytkönen looked to have reached the final again the following day, only for a track limits penalty to rule him out – but his results over the course of the weekend were nonetheless enough to place him 12th in the end-of-season classification, despite only entering a quarter of the rounds.
Following a double podium finish in RallyX Nordic at OuluZone earlier this month – piloting a Betomik Racing-run Fiesta – the 29-year-old is now preparing for a World RX return with the Mikko Ikonen-led outfit, having confirmed his participation in the Catalunya curtain-raiser and Nürburgring rounds, with further outings to follow later in the campaign.
“You can imagine that the feeling is just awesome!” Rytkönen enthused. “It was a big relief to get everything sorted out, and it is fantastic to be back in the FIA World Rallycross Championship after such a great start last year. The tracks will be new for me so it will be a steep learning curve, but I’m ready to do my job.
“I don’t have any major targets, but of course it would be great to make it into as many finals as possible. The most important thing is to get all the kilometres and data out of the races. The results will come if we can drive solid races without big problems.
“We will definitely enter four events in World RX this season. The first two in Barcelona and at the Nürburgring are certain, and we will decide the remaining two later on. The aim is to drive even more rounds if we can make it happen...”