For decades, the Finnish rally drivers are considered as the best in the world. The number of WRC titles which they took is a proof. Many of world known Finnish champions and rally aces started their careers in the national championship and later proved themselves in international competitions.
Some of the Finnish champions never achieved something outside Finland but they are still worth to be glorified as exceptional world-class drivers. The number one among those is Juha Salo, the ten-time Finnish rally champion in different categories, including five general classification titles in the national championship between 2010 and 2016.
Finnish Junior rally champion in 1996
Born in February 1976, Juha Salo started his rally career at the age 18, participating in the Black Rocket Rally in 1994. Two years later, Salo captured his first championship title, becoming the best junior. That year, he was driving a Toyota Starlet.
Next year, he switched to Opel Astra GSi 16V and made a WRC debut, participating at 1997 Neste Rally Finland. He didn't finish because of an accident. He was back to Finland's WRC round in 1998, driving a Volkswagen Golf GTI, but he retired again.
Switching to Mitsubishi in 1999, first title in 2002
In 1999, Salo started to drive Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III, reaching the finish line in his third attempt at Rally Finland. He was 26th overall and 7th in PWRC class.
In the following two seasons, he competed in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III and Mitsubishi Carisma GT, switching to Lancer Evo VII in 2002 and taking his first championship title in a Group N. The overall champion that year was Sebastian Lindholm who is the most successful Finnish rally driver with eight championship titles in the general classification.
Juha Salo at 2001 Rally Finland
Three more Group N titles in 2004, 2005 and 2008
Salo was second in the points in 2003, still in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII, but his greatest success that year was an N4 class victory at Rally Finland. In 2004, he was again the best Finnish rally driver in Group N, still driving a Lancer Evo VII. In 2005, he switched to Lancer Evo VIII and captured his third Group N national rally title.
In the next two season, Salo was among the front-runners but he finished third in Group N in 2006 and second in the points in 2007. The champion in both seasons was Jari Ketomaa. And then, in 2008, Juha Salo was again on the top podium spot of Group N, taking a title in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.
Juha Salo at 2008 Rally Finland
Three championship titles in a Lancer Evo X
A new Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X came in 2009 and that year Salo finished second in the overall standings behind Jari Ketomaa. In 2010, Lancer Evo X was a championship-winning car for the first time and then one more time in 2011.
Salo finished second in the championship behind Esapekka Lappi in 2012 and then captured one more title in a Lancer Evo X by winning the 2013 Finnish Rally Championship. The season 2013 was the first in which he was driving for Hannu's Rally Team, for which he still competes today.
Two WRC starts in 2011, SWRC podium at 2012 Rally Finland
While driving a Lancer Evo X in national events, Juha Salo recorded two WRC starts in 2011, at Rally d'Italia Sardegna (30th) and Rally Finland (8th in SWRC).
In 2012, he achieved his greatest international success by climbing on a podium at Rally Finland. He finished third in SWRC classification in a Proton Satria Neo S2000. In 2013, he finished sixth in WRC2 standings at Rally Finland in a Subaru Impreza STI R4.
Juha Salo in 2015
Two championship titles with Peugeot 208 T16
Juha Salo spent his last full season with Mitsubishi in 2014, ending a season third in the championship. In 2015, he started a season with a victory at Arctic Lapland Rally in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX but he then switched to Peugeot 208 T16. He added three more wins to his account and won his ninth championship title in a career.
In 2016, he was a winner three times in a Peugeot 208 T16, grabbing the championship trophy for the tenth time. In 2017, he was a winner once in a Peugeot, finishing second in the points behind Teemu Asunmaa.