Pajari heads to Japan for the first taste of overseas events – Plans for season 2023 revealed

Sami Pajari. Photo: Rallypixels

Sami Pajari and Enni Mälkönen will compete in the World Rally Championship round of Japan this coming weekend. The event is the duo’s first experience of rallies outside of Europe, yet otherwise continues the same theme they started in the previous round in Spain: Learning to drive on asphalt with a Toksport WRT serviced Skoda Fabia Rally2.

Japan will be the fourth WRC event of the season with Toksport’s machinery for the Finnish duo, in addition to Catalonia, Finland and Sardinia. After this season’s main focus on the Junior WRC and WRC3 classes, next year the aim is to take the step up to the WRC2 class.

The World Rally Championship returns to Japan after a long hiatus. The pandemic canceled the event in both 2021 and 2020, leaving 2010 the previous time the country had hosted a WRC round. While the rally was previously held further up north on the island of Hokkaido, it is now held on the main island of Honshu. Event’s home city is Toyota’s hometown Toyota, which is located southeast of Japan’s fourth largest city Nagoya.

The Japanese event consists of 19 special stages, which total 283 competitive kilometers. The itinerary for Thursday includes a shakedown at 9 o’clock in the morning, which will then be run as the opening stage later the same day, albeit driven to the opposite direction.

From Friday onwards, early mornings will become familiar to drivers and fans: the first special stage of the day starts already at 7AM local time. Friday’s itinerary includes six stages with a total length of about 130 kilometers. Saturday’s pattern is also similar, although even with one stage more, the total competitive distance only sums up to slightly more than 80 kilometers. Like Friday, the last special stage of the day starts early, already before four o’clock in the afternoon.

Sunday then sees the day start a little later, when the first special stage does not commence until after 8 o’clock. On the final day, there are five stages in the schedule, which measure a total distance of less than 70 kilometers. The event and the WRC 2022 season climaxing Power Stage starts at 14:18 local time.

– It will surely be an interesting event. From what I learned from the recce, the roads are very technical. Mainly narrow and rather slow. And of course I’m also looking forward to seeing the local fans and their culture. I know in Japan the fans are very enthusiastic and dedicated, Pajari shares his thoughts on the eve of his longhaul event.

– It was nice we were able to arrive here a few days early, to see a bit of the local culture and get familiar with it. The same goes with the time difference of course, 7 hours ahead of Finland takes a little toll and getting used to.

As the final event of the season, Rally Japan is also the heated stage for all the talk around the big question marks and buzz surrounding the driver lineups for next season. Pajari’s team to the contrary is very relaxed about the matter: Pajari and Mälkönen will continue next season the way they end this one: driving a Toksport WRT serviced Skoda Rally2 in the WRC2 series. With the focus shifting completely to the second highest ranking series in the world of rallying, Pajari heads to the coming season with great excitement.

– What lies ahead next season sounds like a dream come true. I’m of course thrilled and looking forward to making the most out of such an opportunity and there could not be a better partner for us for the future than such a wonderful and thoroughly professional team like Toksport. Yet there is still much work to be done this season, before I can switch focus to next year, determined Pajari reveals without hiding his enthusiasm. 

The preparations for the new season start immediately after the Japanese event as it is after all only a couple of months until the start of the new season in Monte Carlo. 

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Words: Sami Pajari Media / Jani Seppälä

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