A dominant force in the history of the European Rallycross Championship’s 1600cc front-wheel drive division, SET Promotion, will make its return to the category when the 2020 seasonm finally gets underway. After a year of absence it will be running a revised Renault Twingo for RX Academy prize drive winner Rasmus Tuominen.
Not since 2018, when the Turku-based squad ran the first RX Academy champion (and now RX2 International Series front-runner) Jesse Kallio in a Twingo alongside Russian driver Timur Shigaboutdinov has the squad been seen on the Euro RX Super1600 grid.
But, while Volland Racing’s Skoda Fabias and subsequently Audi A1s may have held the championship’s limelight in recent years, SET Promotion, run by brothers Jussi and Kalle Pinomaki has been the longest serving top-level outfit, and statistically the most successful.
One of the first truly commercial teams, both in the category and the European Championship overall, SET has been largely responsible for pushing the boundaries in Super1600, much like the Volland outfit has done more recently.
Having entered the European trail in the Group N-based Division Two category in 2003 with a Renault Clio, Jussi Pinomaki finished on the podium in the first round at Lousada in Portugal and went on finish third overall. In the next two seasons, the Finn claimed the title and, in 2006, stepped up to the category for cars based on Super1600 rally machines, then called Division One-A.
Just as it had in Division Two, Pinomaki’s tenure in the class began with a second-place finish at Lousada, a result matched later in the year in Norway on his way to third in the points, as the SET Promotion team got on top of running the higher-specification machine.
With the Clio now dressed in Silver, more podiums followed in 2007, but so did a number of technical challenges for the team. It did however expand to two cars for the final two rounds of the year, as Kalle Pinomaki, renowned for his exuberant and fast driving on rally stages, joined his brother in a doubled-up Clio effort. His debut in Poland was most notable for a roll during the event. Jussi Pinomaki then beat Frenchman Olivier Bossard, and newly-crowned champion Micheal De Keersmaecher to victory in the final round at Sosnova in the Czech Republic, the team’s first of 40 Super1600 wins.
Bossard would play a significant role in the 2008 campaign, as main rival to Pinomaki for the title. The pair shared the victory spoils in the opening three rounds of the year, Bossard driving his new Citroen C2, but while the Frenchman would win at Valkenswaard in Holland in the second half of the campaign, Pinomaki dominated and with eight wins from 11 events, claimed SET’s first Super1600 crown.
On the crest of a wave, Pinomaki sought a new challenge for 2009, and while the Finn signed to drive to a Citroen C4 in Supercar with Kenneth Hansen Motorsport, SET recruited a promising young Russian driver, Timur Timerzyanov, who had contested a pair of events the previous year in a Jaroslav Kalny-run Peugeot 206. The Russian’s year got off to a difficult start at Lydden Hill, when a substantial crash on the opening day gave the team work to do. But by the third round in France he was on the podium, and repeated the success in Austria. At Holjes in Sweden for round six, Timerzyanov claimed his maiden European win, and finished the year third in the standings.
Timerzyanov began 2010 as he meant to go on, with victory in round one in Portugal, before he again won in Sweden mid-year. A further two wins in Belgium and Poland, and second in the season finale was enough to secure the crown. By the end of the campaign, SET had expanded to two cars. First, Pinomaki had returned to the division for the Swedish and Finnish rounds, and finished on the podium in his home event, joining Timerayznov, who was second, on the rostrum. While also giving arm’s length support to another Russian, Ildar Rakhmatullin, who ended up second in the standings, SET signed another promising young driver, Norwegian Andreas Bakkerud, for the final two events of the season. Switching from his family-run Peugeot 206, Bakkerud was second on his SET debut in Poland, then claimed an emphatic victory in the Czech finale.
SET had a busy winter ahead of the 2011 campaign, developing the new Renault Twingo for the class, now officially called Super1600. While Bakkerud remained with the team and raced the tried and tested Clio, Rakhmatullin signed to drive the Twingo and gave the car its debut in a national race in Holland before the start of the European campaign. Initially plagued with technical difficulties, SET got on top of the Twingo gremlins after the early rounds and Rakhmatullin won in Norway. By this time Bakkerud had already claimed victories in the UK and Portugal, and been second in France. He then finished second to Rakhmatullin in Norway in a historic day for the team, as a third car, a Clio driven by Jussi-Petteri Leppihalme, completed the podium. Leppihalme would go on to finish second again in Holland and Poland, while Bakkerud won the same event at Valkenswaard, then in the Polish round, he wrapped up the title. Having done enough to secure the crown in qualifying, Bakkerud’s sponsors re-wrapped the blue Clio into a gold livery before the A final, where went on to finish third.
To conclude the campaign, Bakkerud won again in the Czech Republic, and was again joined on the podium by the team’s Twingo. Remember the name Bossard? Olivier’s son Steven had made his debut in the French round in their own car and won, before joining SET for the season finale – a relationship built in part through the Finnish team using the Bossard family’s BOS suspension – and drove straight to the podium.
Bakkerud remained in Super1600 for the following year, switching to the Twingo, and dominating. While he would only win three times, he was also only three times off the podium all year and wrapped up the title in the penultimate round in Finland. Leppihalme had stayed too, and led the standings after the opening two rounds thanks to a win at Lydden Hill and second to Bakkerud in France. He won again at his home round in Finland and finished third in the points. 2012 was arguably SET’s busiest year in the category, running no less than four cars for the final four rounds of the year, with rising Finnish stars Joni Wiman and Teemu Suninen racing Clios in Belgium, Holland, Finland and Germany.
Suninen starred, winning at Valkenswaard and in Germany, and was second in Finland, while Wiman was second in Belgium. Chaos ensued for squad in the infamous Estering turn one scrum however, when in the A final, half the field was made up by SET-run cars, and Wiman dropped out of contention after race-ending contact.
If SET had experienced dominant seasons before, it was nothing compared to 2013. As Bakkerud had done, Latvian teenager Reinis Nitiss stepped from his own family team into the SET fold for 2013, the new era of rallycross under the leadership of new promotor IMG. Having made the final in the opening two rounds, Nitiss won round three in Hungary at the wheel of a Clio, then was only once off the top step for the remainder of the campaign, when he finished second in Sweden. A consistent season of finals and podiums for the returning Rakhmatullin gave the Russian second in the standings, while Bossard also returned to the squad for his home event and finished second behind Nitiss at Loheac. Fellow Russian Timur Shigaboutdinov also rejoined to the team having made his debut the previous season, finished second in Germany and was fifth in the standings.
Another young driver to make a big impression was Kevin Eriksson, son of Olsbergs MSE team owner Andreas, who made his European Championship debut with SET in the first round at Lydden Hill and was instantly quick. However, his maiden outing was marred by a roll. He struck back in round two at Montealgre in Portugal by claiming victory. Another podium followed in Hungary, but he stopped racing the Clio after his home round at Holjes.
Another Latvian, Janis Baumanis, signed for the team for 2014 and finished third in the standings. He won three events and was on the podium a further three times, but problems and misdemeanours in the UK, Sweden and France meant he wasn’t able to challenge for the title. Shigaboutdinov piloted a Twingo for the 2014 campaign and finished second in Belgium on his way to sixth in the standings, while Bossard again showed up for his home event, and this time claimed victory, in a trusty Clio.
Baumanis was the class of the Super1600 field for 2015 and put experience both good and bad from the previous campaign to good use, making the final in all but one round, finishing on the podium four times and twice claiming victory, in Belgium and Sweden, to scoop the crown. Shigaboutdinov reverted to a Clio and scored three podiums on his way to sixth in the points, while Norwegian Magnus Bergsjobrenden made a trio of starts in a Twingo and joined Baumanis on the podium in Sweden.
Baumanis’ brother Artis, who had been contesting other events with SET around Europe, stepped up to a full-time European campaign for 2016 and he finished second in round two at Lydden Hill driving a Twingo, but didn’t match the result in a lean year for the squad and he finished fifth. Switching back to a Twingo, Shigaboutdinov also started the year well with a podium in round one, but finished third in points some way off the leading contenders, Krisztian Szabo and Ulrik Linnemann.
Finn Leppihalme re-caught the international rallycross bug for 2017 and re-joined SET. He finished on the podium on a trio of occasions and finished third in the standings, his undoing not making the final in France. Shigaboutdinov was a regular finalist in the now all-Twingo outfit and ended up seventh.
In 2017 SET had also begun the RX Academy concept, and as prize for winning the series, Finn Jesse Kallio won a prize drive in Euro RX Super1600 for 2018. In a challenging year for the squad, Kallio claimed victory in Norway and finished third in the final round in Germany. Shigaboutdinov had a difficult campaign, and only made a single semi-final start with the Twingo in France.
SET sat out the 2019 Super1600 season, choosing to focus on other elements of its business which has seen it become a front-running competitor in RX2, winning the FIA European Championship for Supercar with Nitiss, and the engineering powerhouse behind Gronholm RX in the FIA World Rallycross Championship as well as developing a successful esports arm – SET Esports. Work has been undertaken on the team’s Twingo ahead of 2020 and it will again fight for the front-wheel drive honours. Together with the latest RX Academy title-winner making the most of the prize drive, Rasmus Tuominen, the Finnish squad will be pushing hard to add to its impressive tally of 97 podiums, 40 wins and six titles in the European Championship’s front-wheel drive division.« Previous Post Next Post »