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Pajari claims fourth career victory

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Sami Pajari claimed his second Junior WRC victory of the season on Rally Estonia, one year on from his maiden victory on Rally Estonia in 2021.

Pajari moved into the lead from stage six on Friday and opened a healthy lead over Lauri Joona by the end of Friday, claiming four Wolf Stage Win Points. Saturday saw Pajari begin to manage his advantage, not taking any stage wins throughout the day as the chasing pack began to battle for podium positions. The Finn had to manage a minor handbrake issue on Saturday afternoon, which wasn’t enough to cause any major panic, however on the final super special Pajari came very close to rolling, before ending the day 33 seconds ahead. The pressure began to mount for Pajari on Sunday as a chasing Robert Virves was chipping away at Pajari’s lead. Monsoon rain hit the final stage of the day increasing the drama and tension as Pajari was able to clear the stage, staying ahead of Virves overall to take his fourth Junior WRC career victory.
Estonian Robert Virves finished second, despite initially leading the rally during the opening loop on Friday where he delivered a clean sweep of Wolf Stage Win Points. The afternoon soon saw Virves’ lead unravel, first losing time to Pajari and relinquishing his advantage and then damaging his suspension on stage eight. The damaged suspension, caused by Virves contacting a rock, saw him drop to fifth by the end of the day, over 90 seconds from the lead. From Saturday morning, Virves mounted a hard charge, winning all but one stage of the rally from there on. He and co-driver Julia Thulin claimed a record-breaking 17 stage wins, a record previously held by Sebastien Ogier with 16 stage wins on Rally Jordan in 2008. Such was Virves’ pace he ended the rally just 14.9 seconds adrift of Pajari.
Jon Armstrong claimed a well-earned third in Junior WRC as he entered the rally with a particular focus on finishing every stage and claiming a podium position. The Northern Irishman made a sluggish start but eventually bedded in to setting consistent top-three times. He claimed two Wolf Stage Win Points on Saturday, one of which was setting the exact same time as Virves on the final stage of the day. 
Despite leading after the opening stage of the rally, Lauri Joona could only manage fourth on Rally Estonia, claiming a single Wolf Stage Win Point. The Finn couldn’t match the pace of the Junior WRC frontrunners so settled into a consistent rhythm bringing home another solid result without issue. 
William Creighton claimed another top-five finish in Junior WRC and delivered some top-three times. The Irishman couldn’t match the pace at the front initially, due to his lack of mileage on fast gravel, but he reduced his pace deficit as his experience grew.
Kenya’s McRae Kimathi was able to finish every stage of Rally Estonia, an event he had never done before as he embarks upon building experience and mileage on WRC events, he finished sixth on Rally Estonia.

Maciej Woda, FIA Junior WRC Championship Manager, said:
“We are set up for a thrilling fight in the championship now, Sami Pajari and Jon Armstrong are tied at the top with 85 points and Robert Virves is just one point behind with 84 which is remarkable. Sami has put on a very balanced performance this rally, showing everybody what a mature head he has on such young shoulders and why he won the championship last year. It was looking a bit close on the power stage with the rain, but he was able to deliver a solid performance and do what he needed to win. Robert Virves has done an incredible job on this rally, breaking Sebastien Ogier’s stage win record is not an easy achievement and to do that with the pressure of hunting down a win is applaudable. He is now undoubtedly a championship contender. Jon Armstrong’s third place is very well deserved and has highlighted his natural ability by holding off at the start and letting the stage times come to him. William Creighton and Lauri Joona both had their own struggles on this rally but also had stage times that they should be very proud of against such a tough field of drivers.”

Sami Pajari, FIA Junior WRC Rally Estonia Winner, said:
“I am quite happy, it was not an easy rally but we still managed to do it so I am really satisfied with the result. We had quite a comfortable lead for quite a while, so to be honest it was easy to control the lead and judge the speed so we didn’t do anything stupid and stayed ahead of the others. Even the weather was difficult which made it even more difficult, I need to be happy.”