Pajari wins dream drive

Teenager Sami Pajari has won a fully-funded drive at Neste Rally Finland (1 - 4 August) after being named Flying Finn Future Star for 2019.

The 17-year-old will join the regular FIA Junior WRC contenders at the four-day gravel road fixture in a Ford Fiesta after beating three other finalists to win the competition aimed at unearthing promising young rally drivers.

Previous winners include M-Sport Ford driver Teemu Suninen, who finished a career-best second in last weekend’s Rally Italia Sardegna, and WRC 2 event winner Jari Huttunen.

For Pajari, who is competing in his first season in the Finnish Championship and scored his maiden victory earlier this month in the SM3 class, driving in his home round of the FIA World Rally Championship is a lifelong ambition.

“At the start of the year I’d never have imagined we’d be going all the way to Neste Rally Finland. Ever since I was a young boy I’ve had this dream,” he said.

“On the day the physical tests were pretty tough, pushing very close to the limit, in order to establish exactly how things stand, but now the feeling is just great.”

The competition was organised by AKK Sports, the promotional arm of Finland’s motorsport federation, and the final put drivers through their paces using a series of physical and psychological tests.

Their language abilities and reconnaissance skills were also assessed before the final interviews.

“At Neste Rally Finland I’ll try to be as good as I can possibly be in every area. I’m going to prepare to the very best of my ability and pull out all the stops where getting to know the route and boosting my fitness, for instance, are concerned,” added Pajari.

Juuso Pykälistö, an experienced rally driver and member of the official jury, said Pajari performed most evenly with least experience.

“The event is now less than two months away and in particular the ability to make pace notes is key, and that’s where he excelled. His methodical approach, analytical skills and attitude to preparation were what convinced us,” he explained.

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