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From RallySport Magazine, April 2003

Young Finnish driver Juha Kangas will trade the ice and snow of his homeland for the dusty reaches of our island continent when he joins the 2003 Australian Rally Championship with Les Walkden Rallying.

(You can read our interview with Kangas' former co-driver, Julia Rabbett (Barkley), who is now with Team Citroen Australia, HERE.)

Kangas (29) who has driven for factory teams as well as privately run operations, has had stints with Mitsubishi Ralliart, Prodrive (Subaru) and as a driver with the Suzuki Junior World Rally Team in the past few years.

Like most Finns in rallying, Kangas grew up on a farm and began fine tuning his skills on the family tractor from the age of five. But it wasn't until much later that Kangas tried his hand at rallying, at first in a 1600cc rear wheel drive Escort.

Kangas-NZ-98Juha Kangas driving for the Subaru World Rally Team at Rally New Zealand in 1998.The young Finn is looking forward to extending his skills in what has become the most competitive regional Group N Championship in the World. Group N at world level has taken on a life of its own and competition in the Australian production car category is equally exciting at the top.

Kangas is already looking forward to the concept of competing in Australia and will arrive here next week to begin his preparations for the season.

"Australia has a reputation as a competitive series and I think it will be good to be competing against guys that are considered some of the finest Group N drivers around," Kangas explained from his hometown in Finland.

"Australian drivers have always been hard to beat at Rally Australia (Australia's world round) which shows the skill level here. I have known Les now for a few years through our Rally-Rent Europe contacts and think this is a great opportunity to compete against some very fast rivals.

Team Manager Les Walkden expects that Kangas, who has a depth of experience in European competition, will adapt well to the Australian championship.

"We're pretty pleased to have Juha driving with us this year. He's been a round the block and will fit into Australian competition very well. The car itself will turn up just a couple of days before our first round in Western Australia so it will be a big job to have it all ready for the Forest Rally,"Walkden explained.

"The car is a left hand drive Evo 7 (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7) and Juha tells a great story about towing the car through Europe to get it on a boat to Australia in time.

"Our plan for the Forest Rally is just to go reasonably quietly for the first round and then improve the car before we go to the next round."

For Kangas, it will be a steep learning curve as he comes to terms with the dramatic changes in Australia's road surfaces. He will luckily have Australian co-driver Julia Rabbett with him for the season, who will provide a valuable local link.

Compared to Europe, travelling interstate is like travelling to a different country, where each event has very different topography and road surfaces.

Kangas-Finnish-driversJuha Kangas (right) and the other Flying Finns at Rally New Zealand in 1998.While Australian conditions might be a lot to get his head around, Kangas has had experience in several different types of rally cars, both front and rear wheel drive, in countries throughout the world and in a variety of conditions.

Coming from Finland, he has a lot of experience driving on ice and while Australia is not known for icy surfaces some ARC events can sometimes deliver slippery and challenging driving conditions.

The Australian Rally Championship will welcome Kangas into its fold and Team Manager Les Walkden says that having Kangas in the championship may well open for more interest in Australian rallying.

 

PROFILE  - JUHA KANGAS
Name: Juha Kangas
Date of birth:   December 23 1973
Born: Yliharma, Finland (250kms NW of Jyväskylä)
Occupation:  Rally driver/Farmer
Marital Status: Lives with his Girlfriend
Interests: Jogging, Skiing, Gym
Languages: Finnish (native), English (fluent)
Debut year:  1991
 

Cars Rallied:
Ford Escort RS 1600/2000
Mitsubishi Galant
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 2,3, 4 and 6
Suburu Impreza WRC
Toyota Corolla WRC
Toyota Celica GT
Suzuki Ignis S1600

Achievements in rallying:
2002 - Junior World Rally Championship driver with Suzuki

2001 - 4th Group N, WRC Australia (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI)

2000 - WRC Australia Gr. N

1999 - 3rd Group N, WRC Portugal (Suburu Impreza)

1998
Awarded contract with Subaru's Prodrive
3rd Group N, WRC New Zealand (Suburu Impreza)
5th Group N, WRC Great Britain (Suburu Impreza)
3rd Group N, WRC Sweden (Mitsubishi Carisma GT)

1997
3rd Group N, WRC Sweden (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3)
5th Group N, WRC Finland (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3)

1996 - 5th Group N, WRC Sweden (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 2)

1995 - Rally debut. Entered Finnish rallies and WRC 10 times


PROFILE - JULIA RABBETT
First Name: Julia Rabbett
Height: 5ft 6ins
Date of birth: December 12 1970 (33)
Occupation:  Rally co-driver
Rally Career: 13 Years
 
Achievements in rallying:

2002
1st overall, Asia Pacific Formula 2 Championship
Australian Rally Championship with Michael Guest

2001
1st, Asia Pacific Super 1600 Championship
7th, Australian Group N Rally Championship

2000 - Australian Rally Championship

1999 - British Championship Production Cup

1998
3rd, Middle East Championship
2nd, British Championship Production Cup
3rd, Middle East Group N Championship

1997
1st co-driver overall, British Championship Group N Production Cup
4th, Dubai International Rally

1996 - 8th, UAE International Rally

1995
BTRDA silver star - winning co-driver.
1st, Lady co-driver and 1st British - Jordan Rally
12th, Drove again in Qatar

1990 - Competed first road rally

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