We interviewed Team Bleekemolen’s Jonne Rautjärvi to discuss about his racing experience prior to joining EuroNASCAR, his impressions of the series and how he felt about his debut season in NASCAR Whelen Euro Series’ top division.

NASCAR Whelen Euro Series welcomed several drivers that made their debut in the series’ top division this year. One of them is Jonne Rautjärvi, the 23-year old driver from Finland who had just finished his first season in EuroNASCAR PRO with Team Bleekemolen’s No. 44 team.

Rautjärvi, like plenty of Finnish and Scandinavian talents that have made it to EuroNASCAR, came to the series after a successful career in the V8 Thunder Cars championship where he finished third and second in his two seasons at V8TC. 

The transition to EuroNASCAR has been a tough one as he was only able to finish 20th in the standings, but given his young age and his ambition to stay in EuroNASCAR, expect plenty more to come from Rautjävi in the foreseeable future.

To help fans get to know more of Rautjärvi, World of EuroNASCAR have interviewed the young Finnish driver to discuss his previous racing experience, his impressions of the EuroNASCAR championship and how he felt about his debut season in the series.

Photo courtesy of www.jonnerautjarvi.fi

To start off, can you tell us a bit of your previous racing experience before moving to EuroNASCAR in 2022? 

“I started with karting in 2006. Until 2017, I drove national series’ like the Finnish championship in karting. In 2017, I moved to BMW 325 Cup and I drove it for three years in Finland and Baltic. In 2020, I moved to drive more powerful racing cars called V8 Thunder. Those cars are also stock cars and also reminds a lot of NASCAR and it’s very popular in Finland and Scandinavia.”

Where did you first find information about EuroNASCAR and why do you decide that EuroNASCAR would be the next destination for your career? 

“I followed other Finnish drivers who drove EuroNASCAR, so that is how I came familiar with it. After V8 Thunder, it felt like a natural step for me. We pointed out that there were a lot of drivers on the grid and it also made it interesting for me as a driver.”

What is your first impression of the EuroNASCAR cars when you received the opportunity to drive them for the first time? How challenging is the car when compared to the other cars you have driven? 

“My first impression was very familiar because the cars that I was used to driving were pretty much the same size and as powerful. What surprised me was that you can’t drive the NASCAR car the same way as the other cars that I have driven, so it made the whole season difficult.”

What are the things about EuroNASCAR that have impressed you the most so far, be it on-track or off-track? 

“The whole race weekend is organized very well and because of the big fan base, it’s always amazing to race when there are people watching and cheering for us. The atmosphere is crazy. One personal thing that I was excited about was that we got to race in so many different countries.”

You had the opportunity to work together with a very solid team in Team Bleekemolen this year. How is the experience of working together with a team of their caliber? 

“First of all, Team Bleekemolen offered me a very very good chance to develop as a driver. The best thing was the cars were always ready and in good condition. If something came up, there were a lot of skilled mechanics. They were great and we got everything fixed really fast. Team Bleekemolen gave me memories for a lifetime. I hope that we can continue working together for the next season as well.”

Over the course of the 2022 season, the series went to six different tracks in which each track presented different challenges to the teams and drivers. Which track gave you the biggest impression on and why? 

“Brands Hatch in England. Crazy amount of fans and the track was very short, so there was a lot of action on the track. I have never driven that kind of a circuit before. The Brands Hatch track is the one that I am most excited about for next year also.”

How would you rate your performance this year? What are the moments that you choose to be the highlight of your debut EuroNASCAR season? 

“I hoped that I could have been little bit faster this yea, but I am very happy that there where progress and the results got better. Biggest highlight of the season was when I started from P25 or something in Zolder, Belgium and finished P5. I think it was also best Finnish result ever in EuroNASCAR PRO Division.”

Do you find it challenging to compete against some of Europe’s best drivers as a rookie in EuroNASCAR’s top division? 

“Yes, it was really a big challenge. But it was amazing to see that I left very big names behind us in many races as a Rookie without any experience about the tracks or the series.”

Based on your performance this year, what key points do you think you would need to improve for the future? 

“I need to understand and explain better on how the car setup worked on the track. After I get better at this, we can do more detailed setup changes and practice sessions can be done more efficiently. I also think I simply need more time in the car. We are planning to maybe do some test days before the next season starts.”

If it’s okay to ask, what are your plans for the next season? Do you plan to stay in EuroNASCAR or would you be planning to explore other opportunities elsewhere?

“I will definitely stay in EuroNASCAR, no doubt!”

Disclaimer: Unless noted on the photo, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Bart Dehaese / Klemen Sofric.

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