Pajari hunting for maximal points on Sardinian gravel

Photo: M-Sport

The third round of the FIA Junior WRC takes place on Sardinia, the second largest island of the Mediterranean Sea. The pair of Finns, Sami Pajari & Marko Salminen are on the second place in the championship classification and aim to bag scores of precious points before the final round on the Belgian tarmac of Ypres Rally in November.

Rally Sardinia was originally planned to take place already in June, but the COVID-19 pandemia meant the event was postponed until October. The later than usual date means the event is now a whole new experience for everyone, including the drivers who have previously competed on the beautiful island. While the days are still warm, the scorching heat is long gone and rainfall can happen on any given day. Even the most experienced drivers face a new challenge if the usually dry and rough gravel roads turn into muddy and slippery slopes as the serpentine roads curl along the Sardinian mountains.

Pajari and Salminen started the rally week by gathering experience of the local roads with the Italian JME Rally Team by testing their Ford Fiesta Rally4 car. The car is the very same model the pair drive in the JWRC and is also built by M-Sport Poland.

“Everything went great and we got to try out a few different setups. Above all it was important to get to drive on the local roads as our main championship rivals have competed here before. Especially interesting was to feel the difference between the moist road surface in the morning and the dried up gravel in the afternoon,” Pajari analyzed the results of the test day.

The shakedown stage of Rally Sardinia will be driven already on Thursday, while the special stages of the rally take place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The opening day consists of six special stages and 95 competitive kilometres. Saturday consists also of six stages and a bit more than 100 special stage kilometres. The final day of the rally is the shortest one, with only 42 kilometres split among four special stages.

One of the methods the pair have used in preparation for the event has been to watch the on-board videos from the previous rally on the Mediterranean island.

“This is not just a pure competition of speed, the tricky part is to nurse the car back home from the rough roads. If you push the maximum everywhere, you will end up in trouble very soon. The more experienced guys have said the rainfall has made the roads even rougher than before” Pajari sums up the challenge ahead.

The crew competes with number 48, while their place in the starting order is around 10 places earlier.

Results and itinerary: https://www.wrc.com/en/wrcplus/live-timing/

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Text: Sami Pajari press

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