Drift Masters Rd3: A Wild Ride In Finland

After Sweden got its own round in 2022, Finland finally made it onto the Drift Masters European Championship calendar for 2023. Huvivaltio PowerPark – the country’s largest theme park – played host to the sold out event last weekend, and it was a real rollercoaster ride in more ways than one.

Before I delve into DMEC 2023’s third round, let’s recap on what happened at Round 2. Piotr Więcek may have easily won the first round, but the Pole had a tough time in Sweden, dipping out in the Top 32. Meanwhile, Juha Rintanen raced to the top step of the podium.


I really don’t know why Drift Masters took so long to schedule a round at this venue. Huvivaltio PowerPark is home to the Mika Salo Circuit, an outdoor kart track designed by the F1 driver it’s named after. While the backdrop is amazing, the track layout itself is tight and technical, and it caught more than a few drivers out over the weekend.


The wildcard Finnish drivers in attendance started strong with high qualifying scores, each result from the judges accompanied by a roar from the fans. The support for the locals was so solid that I’d compare it to an important football match.


But once the Finnish wildcards passed and drivers from other countries took to the start line, the chants didn’t stop. It was great to see and hear the fans support for everyone. 


If the course wasn’t tough enough, a torrential downpour during qualifying – which actually stopped play for a while – made it even tougher.


Off the back of a round win at Formula Drift Japan – on debut no less – WRC world champion Kalle Rovanperä was looking for a big result in his homeland, but it did not go to plan. Kalle came in very hot and hit the wall hard in his first qualifying pass, dislocating a rear wheel. The team got the car repaired, but Kalle’s second qualifier was on a very wet track and he ended up placing 32nd.


As Kalle mentioned in an interview, it’s okay to make a mistake on a rally stage where you have 300 turns and have an opportunity to make up for lost time, but it’s very different on a short drift course, where you only have four or five corners to impress the judges.


The 32nd spot result saw him go up against the #1 qualifier in the first round of battles – Kalle’s Red Bull teammate and friend Conor Shanahan.


Kalle went strong, leaving nothing between his Supra and the Irishman’s 86 as he chased Conor down. A small shortcut in the lead was noticed by the judges however, and an OMT battle was awarded. The second time around, Kalle was a little too brave and hit Conor on the initiation. Despite that, the Irishman did continue the run, so his win was deserved.

So much drama, and this was just the first battle pairing!


Juha Rintanen, Lauri Heinonen, Mika Keski-Korpi and wildcard driver Jarkko Jylhä in the most beautiful Toyota Chaser JZX100 ever seen in a European drift championship event, all beat their Top 32 opponents to be greeted by more than 8,000 fans during the Top 16 parade.


One more Finnish driver, Ville Kaukonen, snuck into the parade, but he was there for a very different reason – to ask a girl to marry him. She said yes! Another first for Drift Masters.


As I mentioned earlier, Piotr Więcek didn’t have a great Round 2, and Round 3 didn’t go much better with mechanical issues thwarting his progress. I’m sure he’s itching to get into his soon-be-finished new Supra.


Piotr lost to Diogo Correia, who made it all the way to the third step of the podium. It was a first for him, and any Portuguese driver in the Drift Masters European Championship.

The two strongest Finnish drivers lost to the Shanahan brothers, Jack and Conor, in the Top 8, bringing a bit of sadness to the fired-up crowd.


After a drama-filled day, the Shanahans met in the final. I can’t believe that Jack is only 23 years old, but more so that I photographed him drifting in an international competition a whole 10 years ago now!


Conor won the tandem and the event, but the family went home with two new trophies and a weekend to remember. The Red Bull driver is currently sitting first in the DMEC 2023 driver standings, while Jack holds third spot.


With Round 3 in the books, the Drift Masters European Championship enters into the second half of its 2023 season with the Riga, Latvia round – a fan favorite – happening in just a couple of weeks. Given what we’ve just seen, who knows what will happen there.

Vladimir Ljadov
Instagram: wheelsbywovka