Sun 30 Jun 2024

Pajari romps to WRC2 Poland triumph

Sami Pajari has surged from fourth to second in the WRC2 championship standings after securing victory at ORLEN 80th Rally Poland on Sunday.

The Finnish youngster stormed into the lead of the category when the rally began in earnest on Friday morning and maintained a fast and clean pace on Poland’s rapid gravel roads to ensure his position at the top was never threatened.

Pajari battled with local hero Kajetan Kajetanowicz in the early stages but was left with a comfortable buffer when the Pole retired his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 with suspension damage on Saturday. He took no risks through Sunday’s four-stage finale, cruising to the finish 22.0sec clear of Oliver Solberg to wrap up his second triumph in as many rallies.

The result has seen Pajari move to within three points of WRC2 championship leader Yohan Rossel, who was not present in Poland, as well as earning him the lead in the WRC2 Challenger series. He also took home the FORUM8 WRC2 Most Stage Wins Award.

“It means a lot,” said Pajari, who is set to upgrade from a Rally2 to Rally1-specification Toyota GR Yaris later this season in Finland. “It was not an easy one, we were completely flat-out from the beginning. It’s a relief to win and an emotional one.”

Solberg had almost resigned himself to finishing third behind Robert Virves but a puncture for the Estonian on the penultimate stage opened the door for the Swede to grab the runner-up spot.

All was not lost for Virves, however. Having dropped to fifth with one test remaining, he climbed back to third thanks to a blistering run through the Wolf Power Stage where he passed Toyota man Georg Linnamäe and Škoda driver Pierre-Louis Loubet.

Virves trailed Solberg’s similar Škoda by 1min 1.3sec at the finish and pipped Linnamäe by just six-tenths of a second, with Loubet completing 3.0sec further back. Citroën C3 Rally2 star Nikolay Gryazin dropped from third to sixth in the finale as a result of a puncture.

There was also disappointment for Josh McErlean, who retired his Škoda on the day’s opening stage. The Irishman had been sitting fourth before running wide and hitting a bale which ripped a rear wheel off of his car.

Armin Kremer took the spoils in the WRC Masters Cup, heading Michal Solowow by almost three minutes at the finish. The German, who was co-driven by his daughter Ella, now leads the championship by 12 points.

Latvia
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Italy
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Hungary
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM