Sun 24 Apr 2022

Joona claims shock Junior WRC victory

Lauri Joona stole his first-ever FIA Junior WRC victory after Sami Pajari and Robert Virves both hit trouble on Sunday at the Croatia Rally.

Joona had spent much of the event a lonely third as Pajari and Virves traded blows for the top spot in the M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally3 field.  

Virves completed day one 0.7sec in front of the reigning champion, but Pajari moved ahead on SS10 and carried a 49.1sec advantage into the final day after his rival picked up a late puncture. 

The pendulum swung back into Virves’ favour on Sunday morning when Pajari slid off the road 9km into the Zagorska Sela - Kumrovec test. 

Victory was virtually guaranteed for the Estonian, but in a shock twist of fate, he received a four minute penalty for checking in early at the regroup prior to the Wolf Power Stage. 

Joona’s consistency was rewarded and he picked up the pieces to bring home the win. 

“I am speechless,” said Joona. “It was a really nice weekend for us.

“Unfortunately there were some problems for the other guys, but we drove sensibly all weekend and we are here with our first win, so I am really happy,” he added.

Second position was of little consolation to Virves. He trailed Joona by 4min 07.7sec at the finish, with championship returnee Jean-Baptiste Franceschi securing a well-deserved podium 1min 20.9sec further back. 

Early leader Jon Armstrong had a fraught weekend but salvaged fourth amidst the drama. The Ulsterman restarted after crashing on Friday as well as stopping with a fuel leak on Saturday and claimed five stage wins along the way. 

William Creighton rounded off the leaderboard in fifth. Like Armstrong, his glory hopes were dashed early on Friday when his Fiesta left the road. Mcrae Kimathi also joined Pajari on the retirements list due to damage sustained on the penultimate test.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 8:30:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 9:30:00 AM