Juho Valtanen is currently one of the top Finnish kart drivers on the international scene. Racing in OK, he has just won the first event of the French Championship and managed to mount the second step of the podium at the opening of the FIA Karting European Championship in Angerville.
Under the colours of the team Kohtala Sports, he has started an ambitious programme in 2019 with a specific goal: to win the next FIA Karting World Championship in Alahärmä, very close to his home in Finland!
JUHO, YOU ARE STILL YOUNG, BUT YOU HAVE BEEN KARTING FOR ALMOST 20 YEARS
Yes, I got into a kart at the age of three, and I’m about to celebrate my 23rd birthday in June 2019! My father, who was himself a kart racer, put me in a seat while I was still very small. I even found myself in races with other very young drivers from four years old! At first, it was really a “hobby”, but I wanted to climb the ladder. First in Finland, then internationally.
TELL US ABOUT THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER?
While I was racing in KF-Junior in our family team with my father as a mechanic, I was lucky enough to be selected to participate in the FIA Karting Academy Trophy in 2011. I loved it, it was a good way to learn, progress and discover international races. I finished the year in 3rd position, which was a very good result. I also have a great memory of the 2017 FIA Karting World Championship in England, where I was on the third step of the podium in OK.
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION OF OK?
This is an excellent category. I had already enjoyed KF2 and I admit that I am a little nostalgic for the manual front brake. It was very useful for overtaking. On the other hand, the OK has the advantage of being lighter and very powerful.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CIRCUIT?
Alahärmä. Not just because it’s in Finland, not far from my house. But especially for its very exciting and very fast track. An FIA Karting European Championship competition took place there in 2017 and I would have liked to be on the podium. I was well placed after the heats, but unfortunately I went off in the Final.
IN THE PAST, YOUR INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMME WAS NOT AS FULL AS IT IS TODAY. WHAT WERE THE REASONS?
Before, I raced more in Finland at the national level, because the international scene takes a lot of time and flying to other countries frequently. From now on, with the Kohtala Sports team, we really want to get great results in the FIA Karting Championships. We are trying to give ourselves what we need.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR TEAM AND TEAM MANAGER?
Jussi Kohtala is a former driver who manages his team perfectly. Sometimes it’s very hard, but that’s the way you progress and become more rigorous and professional. He wants us to give our best on track, but we must be as focused in the awning. I am happy to progress in this team. With our Redspeed-IAME karts and our own engines, we are enjoying a very competitive technical package.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS IN 2019?
The FIA Karting European Championship started well for me with a podium. Why not try for a win? But the big goal of the year is the World Championship. It’s close to home, in Finland, so I do not want to miss this opportunity. We have already worked hard since the beginning of the season, we have shown our ability to run at the front of the pack. The season is long, we will keep up the same level of performance, or even better, to beat our rivals in the World Championship. We are getting ready for this event.
HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT KZ?
Not for the moment. My goal is to compete in OK, then to try to find the best solutions for my future.
THERE ARE NOW VERY YOUNG DRIVERS IN THE OK CATEGORY. WHAT DO FEEL ABOUT THIS?
Some young people sometimes make silly mistakes, or tend to try too daring maneouvres. They have to mature, that’s normal. But the more we move forward, the better it goes.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PENALTY REDUCED TO FIVE SECONDS IN CASE OF INCORRECT POSITION OF THE FRONT FAIRING?
Personally, I prefer it and I think a lot of drivers agree. No driver likes to be penalised. On a track like Angerville where the gaps are quite small at the finish, you can quickly find yourself at the bottom of the ranking with a 10 second penalty. It is always regrettable to miss a place in the Final because of a fairing out of position. Especially if the driver is not responsible for the impact, as can happen during a sudden slowdown on the formation lap.
THE EXPRESSION “FLYING FINN”, IS JUST IT A LEGEND?
No, just look at the number of Finnish champions who have won track or rally titles. I think for many fans, motorsport is a religion in Finland. We take this very seriously and are determined to get the best results possible.
DO YOU FOLLOW FORMULA 1, DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE DRIVER?
I always follow the results of my compatriots more closely.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR FUTURE?
I hope I can become a professional driver one day. I think that opportunities could open up to me if I win the World Championship. If it can be in cars, I would be delighted, but I would be happy in karting.