Saturday | 16 Oct 2021

Junior WRC: Pajari heading for title after shock twist

Sami Pajari moved into the FIA Junior WRC lead at Rally RACC - Rally de España after the title battle was turned on its head on Saturday.

The Finn had ended the first day 15.9sec down on early leader Jon Armstrong, but it wasn’t long before the tables turned. 

Armstrong missed a braking point on the opening ​​Savallà test and his M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally4 became stuck in a field verge. It took more than five minutes for him to get going again, by which time he had dropped out of contention. 

The Ulsterman’s rally went further downhill when he left the road again at Querol - Les Pobles. A heavy impact resulted in broken steering and he was unable to continue. 

With his main championship rival out for the day, Pajari inherited a comfortable lead. He immediately eased off, but dropped nearly 40sec himself after picking up a puncture on SS10. 

Jon Armstrong's title hopes were dealt a crushing blow

A clean drive through the final two stages allowed the 20-year-old to put breathing space between himself and his rivals and he ended 16.2sec ahead of Lauri Joona.

If Pajari stays on the road and maintains his pace then the championship will be his by a comfortable margin. 

“At the moment it looks good for me but it's still a long day tomorrow and anything can happen,” he said. 

“Most of the day I was having a steady pace and not taking any stupid risks. Okay, we had a puncture, but I think that I should be able to keep the same pace tomorrow and I hope it will be enough,” he added. 

Robert Virves picked up four stage wins

Mārtiņš Sesks’ title hopes also went down the drain when he crashed his Fiesta on the second stage and broke a wheel. He had already been quite a way behind the leading pace before the mishap. 

Robert Virves was third. The Estonian hotshot showed impressive pace to chalk up four stage wins but still trailed Joona by 34.1sec at close of play, whilst William Creighton restarted after hitting a barrier on Friday and gained plenty of experience on the tricky Tarmac tests. 

  • Full coverage from Rally RACC - Rally de España is available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.

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