Title: WRC co-driver to Mikko Hirvonen
Residence: Lahti, Finland
Marital status: Married to Tanja
First rally: 1988
First world rally: 1997 Rally Finland
World rallies started: 90
World rally wins: 7
Jarmo Lehtinen cannot remember when rallying was not a feature in his life. His father took a young Jarmo and friend Jari Mikkola to rallies almost as soon as they were old enough to walk. They became addicted to the sport and spent every spare moment spectating and dreaming of the day when they would be old enough to compete. So it was no surprise when in 1988 Mikkola asked Lehtinen if he wanted to co-drive his first rally car—a Ford Escort.
Both were surprised to find themselves leading their first event as they went into the last stage before a roll dropped them to 10th overall, but they still won their class. They progressed to the Finnish Junior Championship in 1989 in their trusty Escort and moved to an Ascona for the 1990 season. In ‘91 and ‘92, the pair concentrated on the Group F Cup, which consisted of national rallies. Without financial backing, they ran the car on a tiny budget and obtained good results.
At the age of 24, Lehtinen was drafted into the Army for one year of compulsory training. Luckily he was posted to the car division with responsibility for logistics, which allowed him to develop the skills learned as a co-driver. After completing his training, an advertisement in his local newspaper caught his eye. It was seeking interest in a newly established Rally Coaching School for co-drivers. Lehtinen applied and was one of only six people chosen to participate. His reputation as a co-driver grew and he assisted a number of drivers for the remainder of that year and in 1996.
His partnership with Marko Ramanen in a Group N Honda Civic started a three-year affiliation that saw them take on the Finnish Championship in 1997. Despite leading their Group N class for most of the year, they finished second—beaten by just one second on the last stage of the last round.
The following year they finished fourth in their Group A class in the Finnish Championship and also tackled the Rally of Great Britain. Their WRC outing saw them lead the S1600 class on the first day before dropping to the bottom of their class with a broken driveshaft. The duo put up a great fight to climb to third, only to retire on the penultimate stage with gearbox problems.
In ‘99 Lehtinen partnered Ramanen in the British Championship and accompanied Jouni Ampuja to sixth in Group N in the Finnish Championship. The partnership with Ampuja extended into the following two seasons and they finished second in Group N in the 2001 Finnish Championship.
Lehtinen began ‘02 with Ampuja, again competing in the Finnish Championship, but he had also met Mikko Hirvonen who had set himself such a busy development programme that he needed two co-drivers. They joined forces for international events and Lehtinen also took up a new role in the gravel crew for Skoda driver Toni Gardemeister on the world championship. He worked on every event from the Safari Rally, gaining a valuable insight into the championship rallies.
Since ‘03 Lehtinen has partnered Hirvonen on all his WRC outings—at Ford in ‘03, at Subaru in ‘04, as a privately-entered driver in ‘05 and with Ford from ‘06 to the current day.