Ford privateer Matti Rantanen defied the odds to score points on his home event, the Neste Oil Rally Finland last weekend, bringing his Focus RS WRC06 home in seventh place.
Rantanen, who was contesting the event for the first time in a World Rally Car - and only his fourth time in total, ran in points for almost all of the second day and in the end he took P7 with ease, more than 2 minutes up on Toni Gardemeister, who was eighth in the works Suzuki SX4 WRC.
It was a great performance and during the three-days he set 15 top-ten stage times, including two sixths, something that also earned him the 'Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally' award.
Speaking at the finish, he revealed that he is hoping to do more World Rally Championship events next season, assuming he can get the backing: "It is unbelievable result and I am very happy. It has been a dream weekend and I hope I have shown how fast I have been,” he stated after taking the 'privateer win'. “I hope to be in the WRC next year but I just have to get the money together first.
“I am very happy to have won the Spirit of the Rally Award too. It was a real surprise to win it and it really makes this whole weekend that little bit more special. Overall it was a good rally and we had some good stage times, which was what we were looking for. I am very happy.”
Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority director of promotions Ali Al Hosani meanwhile added that what Rantanen achieved really did deserve special recognition.
“The Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally award was created to reward exceptional talent and the performance of Rantanen this weekend was just that,” he continued.
“The efforts needed to simply contest a rally as a private entry are just immense, but to then capitalise on a place and record such a strong finishing position - in what is one of the most challenging rallies in the series - is just a tremendous achievement for him.”