18 year old Finnish driver Kalle Kulmanen has signed with Formula Renault Eurocup outfit MP Motorsport as their third driver for the 2010 Championship.
Tampere based Kulmanen has joined the Dutch squad for the 2010 campaign after racing in the Finnish Formula Renault 2.0 Championship for the last two years.
Kulmanen ended the 2009 Finnish Formula Renault Championship in 4th overall; he also made his debut in the Formula Renault NEC and Formula Renault Sweden, and his maiden car racing experience came in the 2008 season when he made his debut in the Finnish Championship and in neighbouring Estonia.
Before graduating into Formula Renault, Kulmanen had a successful karting career; highlights included a fourth place in the 2006 European KF2 Karting Bridgestone Cup as well as a top 6 ranking in the 2006 and 2007 Finnish Formula ICA Karting Championships. Kulmanen also finished sixth in the 2007 CIK-FIA KF3 Karting Viking Trophy.
Speaking about the deal which brought Kulmanen to the team, Sander Dorsman from MP Motorsport said: “We're delighted to have secured Kalle to be our third driver for the coming season. It's great news for us to have filled three of our cars with more than a month to go until the beginning of the new championship. We do have the potential to run four cars though, so we're still on the look-out for an additional driver.
“Kalle is obviously totally new to Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 so we're not expecting too much initially. He needs to get used to the new car first and then make steady improvements during the next few weeks as we head towards the first race of the season.”
Kulmanen had his first team with his new team at the recent Barcelona test, where his running was restricted due to snowfall cancelling all track action for the morning. When the cars finally hit the track, Kulmanen finished with the 17th best time.
His MP Motorsport team mates, Estonian driver Karl-Oscar Liiv and Dutchman Daniel De Jong both set some impressive times over the 2 day test, finishing 7th and 8th on the Tuesday, while the Wednesday test session started off on a very positive note for De Jong as he set the 3rd fastest time during the morning, before setting his best time of a 1m44.758s during the afternoon.
For Oscar-Liiv, the opening session of the second day saw him post the 13th best time, with a time of 1m45.894s, before improving with the sixth best time in the afternoon session, and finishing as the fastest MP Motorsport driver, after setting a 1m44.518s lap.
Kulmanen had a full days testing on the Wednesday, and ended the morning session with a fastest lap of 1m47.294s, classifying him as the 18th fastest driver, before improving to a 1m46.965s.
Speaking after the test, the Colleague team manager, Dick Van Der Wilt said: “It was quite bizarre to begin with, snow in Barcelona for the first time in 10 years! We couldn't go on track until the afternoon on the first day but we were happy to be only three 10ths of a second off the pace on old tyres, we saved our new tyres for day two.
“The second day was good, DaniÃ«l was second or third for the entire morning and although his new tyre run wasn't as we expected in the afternoon, eighth position was still good. Karl-Oscar was strong and although he slipped from third to sixth it was great for us to have two cars in such a competitive top 10. Kalle has a lot to learn of course but he's made a good start, we're happy.”
Two weeks previously, at Valencia, Oscar-Liiv and De Jong again had strong tests and were evenly matched over the two days, Oscar-Liiv setting the sixth quickest time on the opening day before De Jong went seventh quickest on day two.
The team will next test at Magny Cours in France over the 15th and 16th March.