Niemi Jnr rediscovers rallycross mojo for return to Crosscar with family team

by Hal Ridge |

Multiple generations of the same family competing in rallycross isn’t unusual – from the very top of the discipline down to regional and domestic series – and this weekend, 14-year-old Finnish driver Maiju Niemi is making her driving return.

Having reignited her rallycross passion, NiemiJnr has re-joined her siblings and father in the Peat Racing Team. Niemi acquired her first Crosskart on the day of her ninth birthday in 2015, at the Finnish Championship’s finale at Honkajoki, as a hand-me-down gift from older brother Iivari. The following year, she became the first female to race in the Finnish series. However, a switch to a bespoke 125cc machine for 2017 was plagued by engine issues, before the Crosskart categories were separated from the rallycross cars into different events.

With father Ari-Pekka and brother Iivari racing Supercars in the Finnish Rallycross Championship, Niemi lost interest in racing on her own in a separate series, and the Crosskart was ultimately sold.

However, last autumn during a standalone event at Hyvinkaa in the Coronavirus-hit Finnish rallycross season, the youngest of the Niemi clan was reacquainted with old friends who were racing Crosscars, and her passion for driving was reignited. So enthused was she to re-start her career that parents Ari-Pekka and Tarjabought the Speedcar Extreme Junior machine raced by Raoul Dahlqvist in RallyX Nordic last year.

Niemi made her debut in the car on Thursday at Holjes during the third round of RallyX Nordic and finished 14th. She’ll continue her learning through this weekend in the next Nordic round at the famous Swedish venue over Saturday and Sunday, before returning for her home double-header rounds at Oulu next month. 

The Peat Racing Team isn’t new to Crosskart/Crosscar, Iivari Niemi began his career in 2014 before graduating to the autokrossi class in a Toyota MR2 and then moving to the top-level Supercar category in the Finnish Championship in the team’s Skoda Fabia, previously raced by father Ari-Pekka.

That car was originally built by Skoda Motorsport for Finn Toni Gardemeister, and converted into rallycross trim by Reinsalu Motorsport in Estonia.

Ari-Pekka Niemi stopped racing the Fabia in 2017 when he acquired the Olsbergs MSE-built Ford Fiesta previously raced by Toomas Heikkinen and Joni Wiman to Global Rallycross Championship titles, then Niclas Gronholm in the Finnish Rallycross Championship. Last year Niemi Snr claimed a podium finish in Pori.

Also within the Niemi clan, Tarjais the team manager, 23-year-old Anu drives in folkrace and 27-year-old Nina competes in tractor pulling, but with free-to-air live coverage of the RallyX Nordic event this weekend at Holjes, all eyes are on Maiju.

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