As a group, motorsports athletes tend to be more ‘on the edge’ than typical stick and ball competitors. Along with the challenges associated with competition, experienced racers know that any weekend could be their last – ending up as a piece of flaming carbon fiber or crushed aluminum. However, there are some young gunslingers that will dare anything. Among this unusual group, the name Markus Niemela pops up more regularly than not these days.
If Niemela is not exactly a household-racing name in the US yet, he should be, if for no other reason than a commitment to his craft, along with an awareness of his degree of personal courage. After coming from an early racing career that included event wins in 9 countries, and 4 championships, Markus came to the US out-of-the-box, and proceeded to win the Toyota Atlantic Championship in 2008. What made the performance more impressive was that he was still in rehab after a GP2 testing accident that broke his shoulder the previous year. After his first US Championship, however, the youngster dropped off the racing radar at the end of 2009, due to a host of sponsor/team challenges. He never gave up, and instead of feeling sorry for himself, began to promote racing events in Finland, engage in a Reality TV show based on his life as a professional racer, developed and launched an extreme-wear clothing line and began competing in select US BMX, Drifting and VRA/USAC sprint and midget events.
Strange and exciting events occur when personal commitment meets pure will. When Markus’ regular 2011 summer hiatus in Finland offered an opportunity to promote and jump BMX bikes at an event in and around lakes in the region near his home in Rauma, he was up for the dual business/competitor challenge. “The event was great. We were getting air up to 25 feet off the water, and whole event was a blast. The riders had fun, and we couldn’t get any more people around the lake, so the atmosphere was awesome.”
However, regardless of the business success, as a pure adrenaline junkie Markus was much more impressed by his performance in the jumping competition. “The coolest part for me personally was that I pulled off a 720 flat-spin and a heel-click-to-superman-back-flip, which I’ve never done, or even thought about before. And it was cool to see BMX riders pulling double front-flips over the lake, along with watching some wake-board guys, who did really strange flips I can’t even name.“
Since the successful lake event, he has been preparing for Rauma’s Poroholma Grand Prix. This annual event offers a beautiful street circuit, along with a field of world-class Pro/Am kart racers. As part of the event weekend Niemela will also attempt to skip-jump the city’s Otanlahti Bay in a specially designed kart. “The bay is about 500 yards wide, and the attempt will either be very cool, or not cool at all,” he said with a smile. “I’ll have to hit the water very fast to get the kart aquaplaning, and hope it doesn’t bounce out of control once I hit the surface, or allow the nose to drop and submarine. Either of those results would be bad for me.”
Assuming that he makes his bay crossing successfully, Niemela will return to the US and resume his VRA campaign the middle of September, along with testing for the 2011 Chili Bowl Indoor Midget Classic in November. When he’s not racing, he’ll continue to work on his clothing brand Lost Reality, along with doing the necessary sponsor development that will enable him to enter the NASCAR Truck ranks at the beginning of the 2012 season.
“Once I started doing oval racing in the US, I realized that to have a successful racing and business career together, you have to go to NASCAR. So, my plan is to continue running sprinters and midgets, while at the same time, looking for a ride in the K&N Truck series as a 2012 proving ground. Once I have a season under my belt, and once I have developed the necessary sponsor support to go the next level, I’ll take my program to the next level in the Camping World Series; hopefully in 2013. As it stands, I’m making progress, but there’s a long way to go.”