Fourteen-year-old Finnish superstar Joona Haatanen burst onto the international scene in 2014 when, at age eleven, he made both the 2WD and 4WD finals at the European Championships and scored both junior-class titles. Two years ago, despite a relative lack of experience racing on indoor clay, he won the Open 2WD class at the Reedy Race of Champions and then won a heat of the Invitational competition this past January against some of the fastest drivers on the planet. Learn more about Joona, his RC career, his goals, hobbies, and plans for the future in this week’s Talk It Up Tuesday.
Aaron Waldron: How old are you, and where are you from?
Joona Haatanen: I’m 14 years old, from Jyväskylä, Finland.
AW: How did you get into RC, and how long have you been racing?
JH: My dad drove RC cars when he was younger, so he gave me the opportunity. I started when I was six years old, so I’ve been racing for almost eight years now.
Photo: Team Associated, via FinRC.com
AW: What school do you go to? What grade are you in? What are your plans for after graduation?
JH: I'm now at lower secondary school called Huhtasuo comprehensive school. I'm in eighth grade. I don't know yet what I’ll be doing after school — hopefully making RC my job!
AW: What made you decide to start attending big races and trying to attract sponsors?
JH: My first bigger race was in Sweden, for the 2014 Euros, so it was close to my country. I just wanted to go get more experience and I did not know that I could do that well at my first Euros. I finished 8th in 2WD and 4th in 4WD. After that, I got sponsored by Team Associated and started attending more big races.
AW: What’s your favorite track? Favorite big event? What different classes have you raced - and which is your favorite?
JH: My favorite tracks are OCRC and SDRC, and my big favorite event is the Reedy Race. I have run electric 2WD and 4WD buggy, stadium truck, and 1/8-scale nitro. I like 2WD buggy most.
AW: Having traveled around the world to different events, how does the racing scene in your area vary from other places you’ve visited?
JH: Our tracks are much smaller compared than races in the U.S., and we have fewer drivers.
AW: What are your proudest RC moments?
JH: My proudest moment was winning my first Reedy race Invitational heat this year.
AW: Do you have any goals for your RC career?
JH: My goal is to make the Worlds final in some of my classes that I’m running.
AW: When you’re not at the racetrack, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
JH: I don't have really other hobbies, but I like to hang out with friends and play football.
AW: What’s the best part of RC racing? What about RC racing annoys or bothers you?
JH: I like to meet new people and race together with the big-named drivers. Sometimes it annoys me when I know I can get a better position but I don’t because I made my own mistakes.
AW: Who are some of the people that have helped you the most?
JH: Many of my racing friends from Finland, Michal Orlowski, and also all of my sponsors for making this happen.