Sun 17 Jul 2022

Pajari's Junior WRC win sets up final round thriller

The FIA Junior WRC title scrap will go down to the wire after Sami Pajari won the one-make M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally3 class at Rally Estonia on Sunday.

Defending champion Pajari clinched his second-consecutive victory having led the field since Friday afternoon when home hero Robert Virves plummeted down the order with suspension troubles. 

It wasn’t a straightforward outing for the Finn. He started Saturday almost one minute clear at the top, but his advantage wasalmost halved when a rear differential issue prevented him from using the handbrake on tight corners.

The pressure continued to build during Sunday’s final leg as Virves - who climbed from fourth to second overall - proceeded to whittle down the deficit in damp conditions. 

The Estonian driver broke Sébastien Ogier’s record for the most Junior WRC stage wins in a single rally - taking 17 fastest times throughout the four-day fixture - but there simply weren’t enough stages remaining for him to claw back the whole 1min 30sec dropped on Friday.

Pajari kept his cool to end just 14.9sec ahead and moved into the championship lead ahead of the final round at EKO Acropolis Rally Greece (8 - 11 September). There, double points are on offer, meaning up to four drivers have a realistic shot of the title.

“It feels great to win here with so many Finns here and so much loving support and it helped our championship fight too" said an elated Pajari. 

"As we thought, Friday did set the direction for the rest of the event. A big congratulations to Virves too - he sure did a huge push in front of his home crowd," he added. 

Jon Armstrong slipped to third and trailed Virves by 44.5sec at close of play, with Lauri Joona another 1min 16.3sec back. William Creighton and Mcrae Kimathi completed the leaderboard.

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