What’s the difference between a high-end professional motorsport ECU from Bosch and the consumer-level stuff we’re more used to dealing with from manufacturers like MoTeC, EmTron, or Haltech? Does your race car really need motorsport-specific ABS, or will the factory equipment do the job just fine? And why does the European hill climb scene consistently produce some of the coolest race cars in the world? All these questions, plus many more, are answered by this week’s Tuned In podcast guest, Mikko Kataja of VHT Racing.
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Being Finnish, it’s not much of a surprise that Mikko grew up around motorsport, and rally in particular. Some of Mikko’s earliest memories involve helping his father and family friends in the pits at rally events across Finland. It seemed pre-ordained then, that Mikko would find himself stepping into motorsport as a career once leaving high school.
After training in two motorsport-specific schools, running his own tuning business, and working for various race teams and OEMs worldwide, Mikko found himself living in Germany and working for Bosch Motorsport as an engineer, where he still is today. This all puts Mikko in the perfect position to answer our burning questions about all things motorsport electronics and European hillclimbing — an arena in which he has competed for many years now.
This conversation begins with a dive into the Finnish motorsport scene, attempting to answer the age-old question of why so many legendary drivers come from this big country with its tiny population. We cover Mikko’s early days competing in rally, circuit racing, and rally sprints — the very flat Finland’s version of a hill climb. This next brings us to Mikko’s faithful hillclimb KP Toyota Starlet, a car that he’s been campaigning and developing for over two decades now.
Mikko talks us through the many iterations that the Starlet has seen over the years, and all the learnings he’s gained from trying different setups in the suspension, driveline, and engine department — from pushing a 4A-GE just about as far as you could possibly go, to the Radical Precision Engineering Hayabusa V8 setup that he’s currently using to great success in the European Hillclimb Championship. This Starlet has a fantastic development story, going from a 2K-powered hack to a monstrously fast, big-winged, screaming weapon bristling with the latest ultra-high-end Bosch motorsport electronics.
As you’d expect, this brings us to Mikko’s work at Bosch Motorsport, where we take a deep dive into what sets pricey Bosch ECUs apart from more consumer-grade offerings that we’re all more familiar with. We also take some time out to really understand motorsport ABS, as this is something that Mikko works with on a daily basis and uses in his own race car.
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