Sami Pajari and Enni Mälkönen have won the FIA Junior World Rally Championship event in Estonia. It is a double back-to-back win for Pajari, as the pair claimed both the previous JWRC event in Portugal as well as the previous JWRC event in Estonia last year. The victory also moves Pajari to the top spot of the championship before the final round.
Pajari and Mälkönen started Rally Estonia carefully and arrived back to the Friday midday service in second place with a 4 seconds gap to the leading home hero Robert Virves. During the afternoon loop Pajari passed Virves and held on to the top spot from that on.
“Obviously we have a big lead now, but there is still a long way to go and we can’t take anything for granted,” Pajari recapped on Friday evening.
Pajari and Mälkönen headed out to Saturday’s stages with a little less than a minute of a time gap. With Virves suffering technical issues, Lauri Joona and Jon Armstrong passed him into second and third. As Pajari had no reason to attack the maximum, he could instead opt for a safer approach to secure the lead.
Only a slight technical issue hampered Pajari’s Saturday afternoon and that was no match for Pajari’s command: come the overnight break his lead margin was still over 30 seconds before the Brit Jon Armstrong in second. Meanwhile Virves had pulled all the punches and managed to pass Lauri Joona into third and was only 15 seconds behind Armstrong.
“The morning was quite okay, but on the afternoon loop we had a small issue with the handbrake. Basically, it was not disengaging the rear differential. It was not so easy and it was slowing us down a bit, but I am happy to be here,” Pajari explained the Saturday’s issues.
Rally Estonia still had a full day in schedule for Sunday with almost 80 stage kilometers to go. Pajari and Mälkönen continued where they left off on Saturday. The risk-free strategy paid off and the pair got to celebrate their second JWRC win of the season at the celebrations back in Tartu. Virves in turn did make a big push and managed to pass Armstrong and finish second at his home event.
“It feels great to win here again, with so many Finns here and so much loving support. As we thought, Friday did set the direction for the rest of the event. A big congratulations to Virves too, they sure did a huge push in front of their home crowd. And it helped our championship fight too,” Pajari recapped on returning to Tartu after the last stage.
Before the final round of the Junior World Rally Championship, Pajari and Armstrong share the lead with 85 points before Robert Virves only 2 points behind them in third.
The final Junior WRC event takes place on 8-11 September at EKO Acropolis Rally Greece. Before the JWRC final Pajari and Mälkönen will compete in WRC Secto Rally Finland with a WRC2 category Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo.
Classification – Rally Estonia
- 1. Sami Pajari – Enni Mälkönen (FIN) 3:13:58.6
- 2. Robert Virves (EST) +14.9
- 3. Jon Armstrong (GBR) +59.4
- 4. Lauri Joona (FIN) +02:15.7
- 5. William Creighton (IRL) +03:46.3
Unofficial championship points – FIA Junior WRC, 4/5 rounds
- 1. Sami Pajari (FIN) 85
- 2. Jon Armstrong (GBR) 85
- 3. Robert Virves (EST) 83
- 4. Lauri Joona (FIN) 79
- 5. William Creighton (IRL) 38
Sami Pajari online:
- WWW: https://www.samipajari.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/samipajariofficial
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/samipajariofficial/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/samipajari
Photo: Hannu. Rainamo