The veteran musher Harald Tunheim (64) won his 7th victory in the Finnmark Race when he early Tuesday morning crossed the finish line in Alta for the FL-600/IFSS World Championship 2023. Only the legend Sven Engholm has more victories in the race.
The popular and ever-smiling man won a clear victory in the FL-600 class in the wee hours of Tuesday morning – at dawn before people had even had their breakfast. In front of the sled he had Flex, Ferrero, Granitt, Atom, Jotun, Røst, Iger and Træna. After a series of somewhat troubled years, the veteran outraced everyone else and completed his 23rd Finnmark Race ever.
Tunheim has won the longer version of the race a total of fice times before; 1996/1997/1998/2006/2008, and the “shorter” distance twice; in 2018 and 2023.
Thus, Harald Tunheim is listed with golden letters in the Finnmark Race annals as one of the truly significant profiles through the race’s more than 40 years of existence. He is also the oldest-ever winner and the first one to win races across four different decades!
– Last year, we were denied start one day prior to race start, and we have not raced a lot in recent years due to the pandemic. Thus, this victory holds a particularly sweet flavor with the added World Champion title, after having been in the game for 35 years. I did have the chance in 2015, when the race last held W.Ch. status, however, I did not succeed back then, Tunheim said upon arrival in Alta.
Finnmark was wrapped in its coldest outfit during this year’s race. Temperatures have dropped below -30 degrees Celsius and it was also cold down the Alta River when he was heading towards the finish line downtown Alta – resulting in a sizeable frozen mustache on the winner.
– The dogs enjoy this temperature very much, he said. The musher himself was well wrapped in warm clothes.
As early as in 1996, Tunheim won the Finnmark Race for the first time, back in what was then referred to as the FL-1000 class. He won it three years in a row, a merit only the legend Sven Engholm had managed todo before (1981-1986). Tunheim participated in his first race shortly after moving to Alta in the late 1980s.
– It is quite different this time around. Back then, I had to sign in to the table of results myself after crossing the finish line in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, he said with a laugh.
At the last checkpoint, Jotka, Tunheim had a 2 hours and 22 minutes led. It was a quite clear victory for the 64-year old, in other words.
ROTY at first go
Two hours and 23 minutes behind Tunheim, Eskil Knag arrived at the finish line. Knag participates in the Finnmark Race for the first time – and with his 2nd place and silver medal, he became Rookie of the Year (ROTY).
Knag has a previous distinguished carreer in sleddog racing, Nordic style. However, in recent years, he has turned into long distance sleddog racing – and successfully so.
Four in four
Jan-Kåre Heiberg secured third place and bronze medal in the FL-600 and IFSS World Championship race.
He can boast having started and completed a total of four races, not too common amongst participants in this class.
The 41-year old also participated in the races in 2018, 2019 and 2020 and ended up in 30th, 10th and 4th place, respectively. Now, he ended up taking a medal home from his fourth race.
The FL-1200 winner is expected to arrive across the finish line on Friday.