FRC Alastaro Long 2023- Alastaro Circuit (FIN) 1.-2.9.
Final event of PSCNEZ 2023 was organized together with Finnish Racing Championship. Top classes from car and motorcycle racing got to race on the new layout of Alastaro Circuit for the first time ever. Track is extended from 2,8km to 4,3km and the new part has two big braking zones bringing more overtaking opportunities.
Thursday practise was on wet track and on Friday morning the track was damp. However during qualification the track was dry and the drivers had to quickly adapt to slick tires and dry lines. Most interesting drivers for the weekend were of course Junior Drivers Valters Zviedris (Čapkausko Autosportas) and Matias Salonen (Relaa Racing) separated by just 13 points in the overall standings. Thomas Kangro (Porsche Estonia) and Henri Tuomaala (Iceboys Racing) were tied for third with a chance to win if both Zviedris and Salonen would have at least one DNF. A big question was could Tuomaala finally take a win? He finished first in Alastaro in 2022, but his best result so far in 2023 has been second.
Qualifying was extremely tight with top-5 separated by just 0,7 seconds. Robertas Kupčikas (Porsche Baltic) took a win in opening race, but this time he could only manage fifth in grid. Kangro was fourth behind Zviedris, who missed the new pit entry and had to drive around the paddock to get back to pit lane to check tire pressures. This cost him about a minute and therefore one fast lap on the track. Salonen missed pole position by just 0,2 seconds from Tuomaala, who now had all the cards in his hands to take the win.
Race 1 had a dramatic start with Tuomaala losing three positions before first corner. This was checked from in-car cameras but it was just a perfect start from all other drivers. Tuomaala missed the starting light by a blink of an eye and with cars this fast this was the result. Salonen was the biggest winner, having a perfect line to T1 with the other drivers competing for positions meant he was able to build a comfortable 4 second lead. Zviedris was pressuring Jani Käkelä (39 Racing Team) for the second place and this meant others started catching them. On lap 3 he was able to force Käkelä to take defensive line on the transition from new to old track. This part of track has an elevation change that makes the car run slightly wide if speed at the crest is too high. Käkelä managed this but was running wide in the last corner and spun in the middle of the track at the slowest point. Tuomaala and Kangro went right, Zviedris, Kupčikas and Olli Kangas (SPP-Racing) went left. All managed to avoid Käkelä, but Tuomaala benefitted most this time. He got a good gap to Zviedris who did not want to risk his lead in the points to challenge Tuomaala. Zviedris also did a trick most would only notice after the race. Since grid for Race 2 is decided on the lap times of Race 1, all drivers must also think of setting one clean lap during the race. This is exactly what Zviedris did. Cooling his tires and setting a perfect exit from last corner he was able to improve his time by almost half a second. Critically this meant he beat Salonen's best lap time by 0,1 seconds. In the end Salonen did what he had to do, took the win and Zviedris led by only 5 points before the final race. Tuomaala was second, faster than Salonen but the lead Salonen had built early was too much to catch.
Race 2 pre-grid was tense. All teams realized Salonen and Zviedris would end the season in the next 20 minutes and only one driver could win the championship. If Salonen wins, he is the champion, otherwise he needs at least one competitor between him and Zviedris. And in the case of even points, Salonen would have advantage with better race positions. A fourth position from the opening race of the season felt insignificant in May, but since all podium positions were equal, this could ultimately give him the advantage.
Start was again dramatic, this time it was Salonen who was on the outside line and lost two positions in turn 1. P6 was a disaster, but the next laps showed why Salonen was chosen as Junior Driver for Relaa Racing. Käkelä had a small lockup, and Salonen was there to take the position. The track had damp patches outside of the racing line and Salonen used this to his advantage, forcing Kangro to be careful on the damp outside line from last corner on lap 2. Thomas was side to side on the main straight but could not risk braking on the damp side and had to let Matias take the corner at full speed. The chase was on. Tenth after tenth Zviedris's brake lights were closer and closer. Neither could take risk in overtaking and pressure for both was huge. After a few tries Salonen was finally able to overtake Zviedris on lap 7. This would still give win to Zviedris by two points, so Salonen started chasing after Tuomaala. Catching Tuomaala by over 3 seconds within the last laps he finished 0,95 seconds behind Henri. Valters did what was needed and calmly finished fourth. The crowd was amazed that after an entire season of racing, the championship was decided by less than one second!
After the race car #15 was taken to technical scrutineering, but as always, Čapkausko Autosportas had prepared the Porsche perfecly and Zviedris could get the Latvian flag from the audience and start celebrating. Salonen took off his helmet in Parc fermé and looked stunned leaning to his car. Other drivers went to congratulate him after a while, they knew just how he felt at that moment and that we had just witnessed the tightest championship race in years between two outstanding competitors. Both Junior Drivers showed how much they had developed during the season by keeping their head cool under pressure and taking maximum points from the final, but it was Zviedris who took the overall win in the series.
In Masters class Tommi Haru won both races and in Approved Cup Daniel Skurnik improved his times in each session racing already in midpack during race 2. He however lost the position when his old tires lost all grip in the end and missed the braking in the famous turn 5, Las Palmas. Kupčikas took the win in the last race of the season, but his achievement was overshadowed by all eyes being on Zviedris. Significance of his win would be evident only after all points were counted. In the end, Porsche Baltic took third place in Team Standings by one single point! 39 Racing Team took victory with Relaa Racing being second.
Season awards were handed in an evening gala in Porsche Hospitality with Valters Zviedris arriving with his team recieving huge applauses from the entire organization, other drivers and teams. This showed the great atmosphere between all Porsche teams when the pressure of competition is not on. After a nice dinner a set of Michelin tires was raffled and calendar structure for season 2024 announced. Lady Luck is cruel and this was demonstrated perfectly when the set of tires went to D-Sports. Daniel Skurnik was held back by worn tires in race 2 and now he had ticket for a brand new set in his hand. SPP-Racing won team quiz and was visibly happy about the prize PSCNEZ team had brought from Stuttgart.
We wish to thank all our fans for a great season and we'll meet again in 2024!