Pajari in Prime Position on Rally Estonia

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Sami Pajari leads Junior WRC on Rally Estonia after an epic opening day with four different stage winners and three different leaders.

Flying Finn Lauri Joona claimed the opening stage win of the rally on the opening Super Special Stage on Thursday evening to lead the Junior WRC field heading into the first full day of stages on Friday.

Hometown hero Robert Virves shot to the lead on Friday morning, claiming a total of three Wolf Stage Win Points in the opening loop to lead Junior WRC during the lunchtime service.

Reigning champion Pajari pounced back on stage six, winning the stage by over 10 seconds, taking the lead and demoting Virves to second. Pajari went on to claim a hat trick of stage wins in a row, ending his day on top by almost a minute with a total of four Wolf Stage Win points.

After being demoted to second, Virves stayed within striking distance of Pajari for the next stage and then hit trouble on stage eight. The Estonian hit a rock, damaging the rear left corner of his car, losing 48 seconds to drop him to third. Despite the damage, Virves was able to limp home through the final stage of the day, losing more time and ended the day fourth.

Despite kicking the action off with a stage win, Joona’s Friday got off to a torrid start with a puncture on the opening stage losing him 25 seconds. Despite starting on the backfoot, Joona fought on, delivering solid pace and entered evening service sitting second.

Jon Armstrong adopted a reserved and cautious mindset for Rally Estonia with his sights set on finishing every stage of the rally with the hope of claiming another podium finish. The Northern Irishman found himself jostling between third and fourth places throughout the day, setting reasonable times but no stage wins.

In the latter point of Friday, he took advantage of Virves’ mistake to seize third position, 7.2 seconds from second placed Joona, topping the day off with a Wolf Stage Win Point on stage nine.

William Creighton had a largely uneventful day on Friday, he admitted he still had some learning to do on fast gravel to match the pace of the lead Junior WRC drivers but felt he had made valuable progress compared to his last visit to Estonia. The Irishman ended the day fifth, ahead of Kenya’s McRae Kimathi.

Maciej Woda, Junior WRC Championship Manager, said: “We have seen there are four drivers that clear have the capabilities to fight for victory on this rally today with four different stage winners so far and three lead changes. I think it is going to set us up for a brilliant fight tomorrow as we are seeing some interesting strategies playout."

"Robert Virves will be one to watch I am sure, he has a huge task on his hands to start making up positions but he is the local favourite and as we saw in 2020, when he gets in rhythm here, he is tough competition. Sami Pajari has delivered a very mature performance though and has been faultless, highlighting the qualities that won him his Junior WRC title in 2021."

"I think we will see an interesting battle develop between Jon and Lauri too, they are only separated by 7 seconds which is nothing on Estonia’s blindingly fast roads. William Creighton still has limited experience on this kind of surface but I think tomorrow we will see him close the gap in terms of pace.”

Sami Pajari, Junior WRC Rally Leader, said: “We got four stage wins and now we are leading but it was a steady run, the competition was really tight. I felt like I was going fast but the others either went as fast or in some cases faster. It was not easy."

"The result looks really good at the moment but we’ve got a long way to go so anything can still happen, I’m happy about today but let’s see.”