A childhood dream, 1969 – 1988
It is no surprise that Jarmo Lehtinen grew up fascinated by rallying – he was spectating on rallies as soon as he was able to walk!
Born on 3 January 1969 in the Finnish town of Helsinki, Jarmo spent the majority of his childhood dreaming about competing in rallies alongside his friend Jari Mikkola. At the age of 18, Jarmo’s dream was to become a reality when Jari asked his friend to join him behind the wheel of a Ford Escort to contest the Savitaipale Rally. The duo rolled, won their class and finished tenth overall. Jarmo has never looked back.
The early years, 1989 – 1995
The childhood friends progressed to the Finnish Junior Championship in 1989 where they spent two seasons competing in a Ford Escort. The following two years saw the duo take part in national rallies and in the Group F Cup.
At the age of 24, Jarmo was requested to join the army for a compulsory year of training. He was posted to the car division where he gained experience learning about logistics which would prove a valuable skill in his future co-driving career.
Rally Coaching School and the next step, 1996 – 1997
In 1996, Jarmo attended a Rally Coaching School for co-drivers of which he was one of only six accepted. The following year he was back in the co-driver’s seat where he finished second in the Finnish Rally Championship piloting a Group N Honda Civic.
Finnish Championship, 1997 – 2001
Jarmo partnered Marko Ramanen in a Group N Honda Civic in 1997 and despite leading the Finnish Rally Championship for the majority of the season, the pair finished second – beaten by only one second on the last stage of the last round. Jarmo’s break into the FIA World Rally Championship was approaching reality. His 1998 season would see him finish fourth in the Finnish Championship (Group A) and finally compete at Rally Great Britain in 1998.
In 1999, Jarmo partnered Ramanen in the British Rally Championship while simultaneously accompanying Jouni Ampuja in his home championship. The partnership with Ampuja continued for another two years and they finished second in the 2001 Finnish Championship (Group N).
The world stage, 2002 – 2011
Pairing up with Mikko Hirvonen in 2002 was the opportunity Jarmo had been waiting for and they made their mark on the WRC by contesting three events that year – Finland, Great Britain and Italy. Jarmo also took up a new role as ‘safety crew’ for fellow-Finn, Toni Gardemeister on six rounds, gaining more valuable experience.
Jarmo’s partnership with Mikko was moving fast and the pair participated on all rounds of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship in a privately-supported Ford Focus RS WRC, their best result being sixth on Cyprus Rally.
Their results were enough to convince the Subaru World Rally Team to sign them as team mates to Petter Solberg for the 2004 championship.
Following a difficult season with the Japanese mark, the duo spent 2005 on the side-lines once again. However, a career-best podium in Spain of 2006 was enough to convince M-Sport’s Malcolm Wilson that they deserved a seat in the Ford team.
A full factory seat at Ford saw Jarmo co-drive Mikko to 14 world rally wins between 2006 and 2011. Alongside Finnish team mates Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen they claimed back-to-back manufacturers’ titles for Ford in 2006 and 2007.
2011 was to be Jarmo’s last at Ford, signing a new contract with Mikko at Citrӧen Racing for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
WRC legend Sebastien Loeb and his co-driver Daniel Elena welcomed Jarmo into the French way of life at Citrӧen Racing. An intense testing and development programme saw Jarmo acheive 10 podiums including one win on the Italian island of Sardinia in his debut season for the French brand alongside Mikko. Their strong results enabling Citrӧen to win another Manufacturers’ title.
A second season for the French brand was quickly upon them. With Loeb and Elena stepping back from full-time involvement, the Finns are partnering the Spanish duo of Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio. 2013 is set to be a busy and exciting season!