Pirelli Star Driver reflects on British Rally Championship season's first half

After the opening three rounds of this year’s Pirelli-supported British Rally Championship, this year’s Pirelli Star Driver Jukka Korhonen is feeling confident going into the season’s second half.Korhonen, from Finland, is the latest in a long line of drivers to receive a fully-paid drive in the MSA British Rally Championship courtesy of the renowned Italian tyre firm. As well as competing on all six rounds of this year’s British Rally Championship at the wheel of a Skoda Fabia R2, Korhonen has also been taking part in rounds of his home championship back in Finland.Whilst competing on the British Championship’s curtain-raiser in February, Korhonen was close to claiming second place until a mechanical problem on the event’s closing stage halted his charge. On the Bulldog International Rally of North Wales, the Finn drove faultlessly to finish seventh overall and second in class. Then on last week’s Pirelli International Rally, Korhonen secured his best result of the season after finishing sixth overall, only 1.8 seconds behind fifth place. He is now tied ninth overall in the drivers’ standings alongside fellow Finn, Jussi Kumpumaki.We caught up with Pirelli’s protégé at the season’s halfway point as he relaxed in native Finland…Q&A with Jukka Korhonen, 2012 Pirelli Star DriverHi Jukka, how are you?JK: “Very good thanks. It’s a nice spring day in Finland and there is no more snow. Today it is 10 degrees Celsius.”How is your season going so far in the British Rally Championship?JK: “I’d say it’s going quite well. On the first round (Rallye Sunseeker), we had a mechanical fault and retired on the last stage so that was very disappointing. But the last two rounds have gone a lot better for us – we are learning more about the Skoda Fabia R2 on each rally and we are getting faster all the time. Now my strategy for the second half of the season is to improve on our second place finishes in the R2 class, we want to replace them with some class victories!”How are you finding the Skoda Fabia R2, and how do you find Pirelli’s K6 tyres?JK: “The Skoda Fabia R2 is relatively new in Europe and we are one of the first teams to be competing with this car on gravel. I have to say that it is a quality car, and when we find the right gravel set-up, it is an absolutely winner in its class. As for the Pirelli K6 tyres, they are working very well throughout the entire event so it is a big confidence boost. I also don’t need to worry about loose gravel on the road as the grip is very good.”What has been your favourite rally so far, and why?JK: “That’s not an easy question because I like them all for different reasons. I really like the roads on the Bulldog International Rally of North Wales because they are so challenging. It almost feels like you are on a rollercoaster sometimes as some sections are very, very fast. But I think my favourite so far has been the Pirelli International Rally because I love to drive flat out in fifth gear on the stages in the Kielder Forest. It is an incredible feeling!”You’re also competing in Finland, how does the British Rally Championship compare to your home championship?JK: “Well, this is my third season in the Finnish championship using Pirelli tyres so the experience from home has definitely helped me over in the UK. But in Finland, we drive only on snow and gravel and in Britain there is a mix of gravel and asphalt so this is probably the biggest difference. And of course the BRC is an international series so you have a lot of different European entries that can make the championship very competitive.”The next round of the British Rally Championship will be the Jim Clark Rally (1–3 June) on asphalt.  How will you prepare for a different road surface?JK: “Well, the Jim Clark will be my first ever event on asphalt so it’s going to be a big challenge. We are already doing one test in my Ford Fiesta R2 at home and we will have a couple more test days before the rally. We will be aiming to learn how to make the best use of the grip that asphalt and Pirelli tyres have to offer.”And finally, where do you aim to finish at the end of the season and what do you think of this opportunity from Pirelli?JK: “Our aim is to win the R2 class and to try to finish in the top three of the overall standings. This is an amazing chance that Pirelli has given me, and it shows how much the company is supporting young drivers at every level of the sport.”