The 2021 FIA Junior WRC Championship heads to the flat out roads of Rally Estonia for the third round of the series as the championship fight tightens.
Following a successful debut in 2020, Rally Estonia proved a huge hit with crews and teams with an electric atmosphere and nail-biting fight for the lead. Robert Virves made his talent known to the world, leading Junior WRC for ten stages of the rally and eventually finishing third. Sami Pajari put on an impressive comeback to claim eight Wolf Stage Win Points and second position despite damaging his steering early on in the rally. Martins Sesks made history by becoming the first ever Latvian to win in Junior WRC.
All three of last year’s protagonists return to action on Rally Estonia this year, but with a more competitive field this year, every driver has a realistic chance of claiming a podium position on Estonia’s blue riband event. While some crews are returning to Rally Estonia, the rally still promises to be a challenge thanks to almost 90 additional competitive kilometres compared to 2020’s action. Ten out of the 12 stages used on this year’s edition of Rally Estonia are new while only two stages from 2020 have been included in the 2021 itinerary.
The vast changes bring a whole new level of excitement for both fans and crews alike as Junior WRC seeks to find the next superstar of the WRC who will take home a career-boosting prize package thanks to the championship’s partners.
For Rally Estonia crews have to choose from 18 Pirelli Scorpion K6 (soft) tyres and 10 Pirelli Scorpion K4 (hard tyres) with a maximum allocation of 22 tyres to be used on the rally including shakedown. Estonia has a wide variety of surfaces that will each favour one tyre compound over the other while stage length and conditions will also play a role in each crew’s tyre decision. Most crews will undoubtedly converge on a similar tyre strategy, expect one or two crews to roll the dice and try something different in a bid to gain additional Wolf Stage Win Points.
Martins Sesks leads the Junior WRC drivers’ championship following victory on Rally de Portugal with Pajari second and Croatia Rally winner Jon Armstrong sits third. In the Wolf Stage Win Points, 2020 Wolf Stage Win Award winner Pajari sits top of the table with 11 stage wins so far, Armstrong is second with eight and Martin Koci is third with seven.
Maciej Woda, FIA Junior WRC Championship Manager: “It’s Rally Estonia time! I have been looking forward to this event for a long time now, after the show that the organisers put on for us last year with limited preparation time I really cannot wait to see what’s in store for WRC and Junior WRC this week. For this year I have to say I am very impressed and grateful to the Rally Estonia organiser for the support that they are giving Junior WRC, it is amazing coming to with such enthusiasm from our hosts!
“This rally has a really good variety of challenges from high speed fast gravel to soft and rough sandy sections that you need to pay particular attention too. The jumps here in Estonia are also spectacular, but just like every jump, the best air time doesn’t necessarily mean the fastest car. I think this rally will see a surprise result with some drivers coming to show their strengths but I really could not guess who will be on our podium come Sunday. It is totally wide open just like every round so far. I think we will see a variety of strategies play out here in Estonia, for both Wolf Stage Win Points and an overall result, let’s see what happens!”
47 Martins Sesks / Renars Francis
“Last year we won our first Junior WRC event in Estonia, it wasn’t an easy one, wins in WRC never are and I think Rally Estonia won’t be any easier this year, maybe even harder. I read an article from Sami and he said there are at least five cars that could win the rally, I totally agree with that, this one will be really fast with an Estonian, two Finns and myself from the Baltics. For sure the others won’t be slower, all the cars have the pace to show a good result and everybody can win this year.
48 Sami Pajari / Marko Salminen
“This is the first time I have done a WRC round for the second time as we did Rally Estonia last year. I have some great memories from the fast and flowing stages, lots of jumps and wide fast gravel roads. I think the competition will be really tough, there are many drivers who can be on the podium. I think that is because the road condition shouldn’t be so bad compared to Rally Portugal for example, where you needed to be slow in some places to not break the car. Here in Estonia you can be more on the pace all the time. You need to be clever with the man made jumps that Estonia has many of, as you can ruin your rally by jumping too far.”
49 Jon Armstrong / Phil Hall
“Really looking forward to round three of the championship, it’s been a strong start to the season for me, Phil and the team, probably stronger than we expected. Estonia’s potentially the biggest challenge for us this season, a lot of drivers were there last year and experienced the stages, that is a disadvantage to us, slightly. The plan is just to go and do the best job possible and see where we end up at the end of the rally, that’s our motto for this season. Let’s just see what happens, we will give it our best. It helped going to Rally Poland in between Portugal and Estonia to drive the new Fiesta Rally3 car on the fast roads there, that was nice development. I have done a bit of tutoring and testing in a Fiesta Rally4 car since so I’m feeling good, I just need to work hard and see how it goes.”
50 Martin Koci / Petr Tesisnky
“During this little break between Portugal and Estonia for six or seven weeks, we didn’t do any rallies but I have been doing my best to stay in shape. I have been doing a lot of sim-racing everyday, workouts and fitness and a lot of time spent watching onboard. I also got some time in a car too, I was testing on gravel in Poland with the Fiesta Rally4, we are also having a Monday pre-event test in Estonia too, I’m sure we are going to be well prepared.”
51 Lauri Joona / Mikael Korhonen
“I am looking forward to Rally Estonia greatly because of its big jumps and fast-paced roads. I expect the roads to be like Finland, so we have a great chance to succeed. We drove one test rally in Finland before Rally Estonia and there we got a victory, so there really cannot be a better starting point for competition. I have no experience on Rally Estonia, but I have been driving in Estonia for a few national rallies in recent years. Of course we will try our best to be among the top three and get Wolf Stage Win Points also.”
52 Robert Virves / Sander Pruul
“It’s really nice to be heading to Rally Estonia, I am very happy to be competing on my home WRC event for a second time. I hope to go for a solid result here this year after a good performance last year. I am also hoping for some good weather too for the spectators that are lucky enough to be watching the stages!”
53 William Creighton / Liam Regan
“I am really looking forward to the challenge of Rally Estonia. I think this event will be the biggest challenge for me this year as it is quite unique. To be quick here you have to get the lines perfect over the crests and carry lots of speed, and it takes time to have the confidence to do this 100%. I want to learn as much as possible and build the speed over the weekend. I have done a lot of pre-event prep by studying onboards of the stages and using WRC+ videos from last year. I can’t wait for another week on the Junior WRC.”
54 Raul Badiu / Rares Fetean
“I am really looking forward to the most enjoyable rally of the season, high speed roads with lots of jumps. It will also be, I think, the most challenging rally with the locals being very fast here and the margin for error being very small. I am really happy to be at the start again thanks to my sponsors and I will do my best for a good rally.”
Rally de Portugal Classification:
- Martins Sesks / Renars Francis
- Sami Pajari / Marko Salminen +03:11.8
- Robert Virves / Sander Pruul +11:48.8
- Martin Koci / Petr Tesisnky +38:44.8
- William Creighton / Liam Regan +40:44.9
- Lauri Joona / Ari Koponen +01:11:09.1
Jon Armstrong / Phil Hall
Raul Baidu / Rares Fetean
Rally de Portugal Wolf Stage Win Points:
- Jon Armstrong / Phil Hall 6
- Martin Koci / Petr Tesinsky 4
- Lauri Joona / Ari Koponen 4
- Martins Sesks / Renars Francis 3
- Sami Pajari / Marko Salminen 2
Croatia Rally Classification:
- Jon Armstrong / Phil Hall 03:15:07.6
- Martins Sesks / Renars Francis +33.5s
- Lauri Joona / Ari Koponen +48.8s
- Martin Koci / Petr Tesinsky +02:46.1
- William Creighton / Liam Regan +03:35.5
- Sami Pajari / Marko Salminen +03:36.7
- Robert Virves / Sander Pruul +01:13:24.3
- Raul Badiu / Rares Fetean +01:22:32.6
Croatia Rally Wolf Stage Win Points:
- Sami Pajari / Marko Salminen 9
- Martin Koci / Petr Tesinsky 3
- Raul Badiu / Rares Fetean 3
- Jon Armstrong / Phil Hall 2
- Lauri Joona / Ari Koponen 1