Under the Lid – Kari-Pekka Laaksonen

News | May 19, 2021

Despite being only a decade into his racing career, Kari-Pekka Laaksonen’s motorsport CV makes for interesting reading. Having made his debut aboard a Volkswagen Polo in the 2010 Finnish V1600 Cup, the Pirkanmaa native spent two years in the Xtreme BMW Cup before making the jump to Porsche GT3 Cup Finland for 2013. In the three seasons that followed, he picked up five podiums in his maiden campaign, his first two wins the next season, and even a victory in 2015, despite only entering four rounds. 

 

TCR though is where Kari-Pekka Laaksonen has made his mark. After explorative stints in TCR International and ADAC TCR in Germany, ‘KP’ made an astonishing debut in the 24H SERIES at the Hankook 12H SPA in 2017, winning the TCR class with LMS Racing first time out. One year later, the Finn was crowned the Overall TCE Drivers’ champion in the 24H Series Continents and was that year’s TCR class winner at the Nürburgring 24 Hours as well. 

 

Kari-Pekka Laaksonen also has plans for when his countryman, Kimi Raikkonen, calls it a day in Formula 1…

Name?

“I’m Kari-Pekka Laaksonen, but people call me ‘KP’.”

Age? You can lie about that if you want…

“In that case, I’m either 35 or 53!”

Where and when was your first ever car race, and how old were you?

“That was actually only 10 years ago. I got into racing fairly late, in 2010, so I was 43 years old. It was in Finland at, I think, the Alastaro Circuit, and I was driving my first year in the Finish V1600 Cup, which is basically touring cars at a low level. Then I went from that to BMWs and Porsches, and finally into TCR.”

What is the best moment of your racing career so far?

“In 2018, it was really fantastic to win the Nürburgring 24 Hours in a TCR car. That was a really hard race in very difficult conditions, so that win felt good. And obviously that same year, 2018, I won the 24H SERIES Continents title as well. I’m very proud of those two.”

Which is your favourite circuit and why?

“2020 was my first time at Mugello and I really enjoyed that. But if I need to name one outside the Nordschleife, which is also one of my favourites, I like [the Circuit of the Americas]. COTA is a combination of everything. It feels unique and I enjoyed racing there two or three times.”*

 

*Alongside Ronny Jost, Antti Buri (who also sealed the Overall TCE Drivers’ crown in 2018) and Olli Parkankangas, Kari-Pekka took TCE victory at the 2018 Hankook 24H COTA USA for LMS Racing by Bas Koeten Racing.

Describe the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a motor race …

“There have been a lot of incidents, but after a few years racing in Finland, I really wanted to do the VLN. And the strange thing is, I went to the VLN three times without doing a single lap of racing. The first time my teammate crashed the car before my stint. The second time I went there, there was fog. And the third time, it was freezing cold, below zero degrees. So I travelled there three times for basically nothing!”

Describe your helmet design to us, and what it signifies…

“I got a new helmet this year, so I just have a basic Stand21 black helmet. But I used to have a painted helmet with an earlier teammate. We both came from Finland and we wanted to emphasise that, so we both had ‘Northproof’* on our helmets. I need to do something about a new design next winter.”

 

*Fittingly, KP’s 2011 and 2012 campaigns aboard a BMW E36 325i in the Finnish Xtreme BMW Cup were as part of Team Northproof.

What is your greatest strength?

“It has to be the age! [Laughs] On top of that, I endlessly want to improve myself. I’m just always trying to find things I can improve by analysing how I’ve been driving.”

If Hollywood made a movie about you, who would play you and why?

“If you ask my wife, she would probably say Ryan Gosling! But I don’t think that would work.”

What would you like to achieve before retiring?

“Obviously I’m waiting for Kimi Raikkonen to retire from Formula 1 so I can move in. Once one Finn is out, we need another one in! 

 

“But seriously, I’d like to race in Australia. I’ve raced in Asia, in the USA, and in Europe but it would be fantastic to go to Bathurst at least once.”

 

CREVENTIC - "And after that, Formula 1?!"

 

“After that, Formula 1. Just give me a few years!”

Tell us a random fact about yourself that your fans might not know…

[Pause] I’ve had a teammate from Finland for a long time – Antti Buri – and I really enjoy going through data with him, especially before races. I don’t really have any funny [pre-race routine] but that’s something I always try to do.”

Finally, what do you enjoy most about competing in the 24H SERIES?

“I like endurance racing. You get to drive a lot, and as you get older, it’s not quite as aggressive. It’s nice to enjoy the speed of racing and still be able to fight like hell. But it’s not a sprint race, so you can run so many laps. You get to drive a lot of fantastic race tracks too. If I was still doing sprint races in Finland, I’d always be going to the same circuits. With CREVENTIC, I really enjoy travelling to different places.”

* Kari-Pekka Laaksonen was speaking with Quinten Kentie and James Gent at the 2020 Hankook 12H MUGELLO. Images courtesy of Petr Frýba. You can also check out this story in the 2021 Hankook 12H CIRCUIT PAUL RICARD magazine, available for download at the link below.

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