Simracing since: 1997
iRacing since: 2015
Current series: GT1, GTC
Favourite car(s): “Anything I’m fast with”
Favourite track(s): Nürburgring Nordschleife
February 2015. One month on iRacing, mostly driving Mazda MX-5 and Skip Barber. “Do you think you can ask (Joni) Bäckman if I could join Glacier?” “Glacier? Don’t you think it’s a bit soon?”
Less than a week later, he was in.
Joni Takanen arrived to the scene with the subtlety of a rock festival, and he’s continued to make noise ever since. And it’s not his mouth that does the talking, it’s his driving.
March 2015. Two months on iRacing, still mostly driving Mazda MX-5 and Skip Barber. “I just bought the Williams FW-31. Next season, it’s F1 for me.” “F1? Don’t you think it’s a bit soon?” And once again, the naysayers were proved wrong. It wasn’t easy, and in the end, he didn’t become a Pro, but it wasn’t for the lack of effort. By the time most drivers start to get the hang of cars like Skip Barber or Ford Mustang, he had proven he can tame the wildest beast out there. From someone completely unknown to challenging established veterans wheel-to-wheel, Takanen’s quick climb up the racing ladder certainly raised eyebrows. “What will this man do in a year? Or in three?” Very soon, it was clear that this is no ordinary Sunday driver. He finished 30th overall in class A iRacing Grand Prix Series, definitely not something to scoff at, and occasionally matched the laptimes set by teammates Joni Bäckman and Petteri Kotovaara.
July 2015. Six months on iRacing. Glacier Racing takes on Star Mazda. While no F1, it’s certainly no easy car to take on, but once again Takanen’s pace was simply outstanding. He was not only the fastest driver on his team, but arguably one of the fastest drivers in the series. Justin Brunner of Vortex Simracing ended up with his second consecutive title, but Takanen earned the Rookie of the Year -honours in AOR Pro Mazda series, a league known for its high class, large fields and fierce competition.
In just six months, he had gone from a no-name rookie to someone who can make a bid for a series title. Don’t you think it’s a bit soon? He didn’t, and nor did anyone else. Not any more.
Many wondered what the next step would be for the obviously quick Finn, but it soon became clear with the announcement of iRacing GT World Championship Series. Glacier Racing fielded four teams to take on the best that the world of simracing has to offer. As for Takanen, he found himself alongside his Star Mazda teammates, Teemu Valkeejärvi and Joonas Puhakka. Quickly getting the hang of the McLaren MP4-12C GT3, it was Takanen who once again spearheaded his teams effort.
He would turn in a competitive lap after a competitive lap, proving that he can definitely dance with the big boys. And he would get up at 5 in the morning to practice, fine-tune the setup and to get even faster before heading to work, only to come back and practice some more. It was largely thanks to him that by the time race week arrived, there was only some fine-tuning left to do. It was his determination and drive to succeed that enabled him to make some hay on some very high-level races. However, while the Glacier Racing #1 and #2 -teams made it into the big show, #3 saw themselves just a little shy of the Top 40.
At the same time, Takanen, like many others, competed on the inaugural Finnish Sim Racing Championship. The car was a GT3 RUF, season was set for six rounds and the drivers were the cream of the crop, the finest in Finland. And among established veterans, from current and ex-WCS drivers to GT royalty, he found himself constantly on the top-5. Earning a podium on the season opener at Laguna Seca, he went on a string of strong finishes before topping it off with a 2nd place at Spa-Francorchamps to earn himself the 3rd place trophy. It was the final breakthrough for Joni Takanen. His fast yet mature driving, combined with a no-nonsense attitude earned respect both from the viewers and his competitors.
And it’s now January 2016. One year since he started. He has a force to be reckoned with, and a potential winner every time he enters a race. No longer will people be surprised if he is fighting for the victory, they will be surprised if he isn’t.
Questions & Answers
Q: Favourite car & track?
A: Nordschleife on longer, endurance-type races. As for cars, anything that I’m fast with!
Q: Do you listen to music while driving? And if yes, what kind?
A: Never while driving.
Q: What song fires you up?
A: Hmm… Monster in Me by Mors Principium Est.
Q: Choose 3 teammates with you to a deserted island?
A: Why just three? I’d bring everyone!
Q: Do you stream your driving? If so, where?
A: Nope, not yet at least.
Q: Your favourite meal?
A: Proper steak, beef or pork.
Q: Any hobbies?
A: Motorbikes and disc golf.