Sami Pajari’s season with co-driver Enni Mälkönen continues next weekend on the asphalt roads of the Spanish WRC round in Catalonia. The Finnish duo, who finished the JWRC season in third place, are this time competing in a Toksport WRT provided Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo. A car they are already familiar with on gravel from WRC events inSardinia and Finland earlier this season. While preparing for the Catalan event, it was also confirmed Pajari’s season would continue in his first ever rally outside Europe, the WRC finale in Japan in mid-November.
The special stages run west of Barcelona, with their speedy bends and fast driving lines, are highly reminiscent of racing on motordromes. Pajari has good memories of the Spanish roads from last year when he secured the Junior World Rally Championship title with his victory in the event. The fate of one championship medal for Pajari will be decided this time as well: in the WRC3, gold or silver is on the way. Even though Pajari as the WRC3 points leader has already used his entries in the series, his closest rivals Czech Jan Cerny and Finland’s Lauri Joona have left Spain as their last event. By claiming the victory in Spain, either of them can surpass Pajari to take the WRC3 crown.
RallyRACC – Catalunya Rally de España gets underway on the coming Friday, when the itinerary consists of the already familiar opening day format: a long day with no service breaks in between. Friday will thus see two loops of four stages driven repeatedly, with the combined competitive distance of almost 120 kilometers. Compared to last year’s edition, two of the special stages are completely new and the other two have seen their direction reversed for this year.
Saturday will consist of three special stages all run twice, still totalling to almost identical competitive mileage to Friday. This time, however, the cars and drivers get a full mid-day service break at the service park in Salou, amid the roller coasters and water slides of Port Aventura World. Saturday is concluded with running of a two kilometers long spectator special stage at Salou’s beach boulevard. The final four stages and in total 56 kilometers on Sunday are divided between two special stages both run twice.The event climaxing Power Stage starts already shortly after noon local time.
“Two full days of testing with this car on asphalt really came in handy, as our previous experience with a Rally2 car was only on gravel. We tried a few different roads and many different setups, so we learned a lot already at this stage. I’m really satisfied with the final results, the car does feel really good now,” Pajari recaps the test weekend.
“It’s a confident place to start an event when you have both successful pre-event testing and good memories from last year’s event behind you. Of course, we are here to gather experience and we won’t have much of a competitive advantage over others, but at least we know what’s coming as even some of the stages are already familiar. The goal is to have an uneventful rally and bag all possible kilometers with this combination of car and roads,” Pajari summed up the expectations for the upcoming Catalan event.
Pajari’s season will get an exciting ending in November, when he will head out to Japan with Toksport WRT to compete in the WRC season finale. Neither Pajari nor Mälkönen has ever competed outside of Europe, making it a completely new adventure that awaits the Finnish duo on the twisty asphalt roads of Japanese mountains.
“To compete in Japan in a Rally2 car is an unbelievable opportunity for us and first I want to thank all our fantastic partners and everyone who has made this possible. At such a longhaul event, even just learning to manage the effects of time difference in a competition setting is an invaluable experience for the future, of course together with the asphalt mileage we can gather there. There could not be a better event to end this season,” Pajari shares his excitement for the challenges awaiting in Japan in November.
Sami Pajari online:
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Photo: Hannu Rainamo