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Sun 06 Aug 2023

Perfect Pajari storms to Finland WRC2 win

Sami Pajari and co-driver Enni Mälkönen celebrated their maiden WRC2 success on Sunday thanks to a dominant display at Secto Rally Finland.

Pajari, who drives a Toksport-prepared Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, had finished on the podium twice prior to contesting this ninth FIA World Rally Championship round but all the stars aligned to give the youngster his first triumph on home soil.

In what was a dominant display across all four days, the 20-year-old fought back from a Friday afternoon puncture and reclaim the lead on Saturday when Jari Huttunen retired his similar car with technical issues.

A sizeable overnight advantage meant Pajari could afford to cruise through Sunday’s final leg and he clinched the victory by 33.8sec, taking the lead of the WRC2 Challenger series in the process whilst also finishing an impressive seventh in the overall rally standings. 

“"It's a really, really nice feeling. Thank you to everyone, it seems to be every rally I say this to everyone but I am so pleased and grateful to be here. It's a really nice feeling and this belongs to many people who are helping us," exclaimed the 2021 FIA Junior world champion.

Second went to Adrien Fourmaux, driving a Ford Fiesta Rally2 for M-Sport Ford. The Frenchman grabbed a handful of stage wins in a field filled with quick local drivers to head third-placed Nikolay Gryazin by 34sec at the finish.

In addition to a Saturday puncture, Andreas Mikkelsen, driving a Škoda similar to that of Gryazin’s, overcame suspension and brake problems to trail Gryazin by 23.7sec in fourth. The Norwegian was disappointed with the result but still passed Yohan Rossel - who was not scoring points - to seize the championship lead.

European Rally Championship regular Mikko Heikkilä netted a respectable fifth-place finish in his Škoda while Hyundai i20 N Rally2 hotshot Georg Linnamäe survived a high-speed spin in SS20 to secure sixth.

Alexander Villanueva extended his WRC Masters Cup lead by winning the category in another Fabia. The Spaniard now heads Armin Kremer by 43 points after both drivers have started five out of a possible seven rounds.

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