Sami Pajari is the youngest ever champion in Junior WRC’s 20-year history at the age of 19 years old and the first ever Finnish driver to win the championship.
Pajari and co-driver Marko Salminen won the Junior WRC Championship by winning Rally Spain, the final and double points paying round of the championship. The rally saw the Finnish crew go head-to-head with their championship rivals and excelling where their competitors faltered.
It marks the Finn’s second career victory in Junior WRC, with his first coming on Rally Estonia this year, which also saw him secure the championship lead. Pajari’s rally started on the backfoot and it appeared that he would need to mount a serious challenge on Jon Armstrong who was the favourite heading to the Spanish Tarmac.
By the end of Friday Pajari began to charge and was able to stay trouble-free through Saturday to emerge with a clear lead. The Finn was able to maintain his lead with some impressive drives, fending off the competition on Sunday to take home the biggest prize package in rallying: A brand new M-Sport Fiesta Rally2, 200 Pirelli tyres, free registration for WRC2 2022 and five free entries for 2022.
Jon Armstrong was Pajari’s closest championship challenger in Spain and the initial favourite, he appeared on course to live up to expectations, following his performance on Friday. His rally unravelled on Saturday after going off the road and losing over five minutes to Pajari. The Northern Irishman regrouped and delivered a series of blisteringly quick times to earn valuable Wolf Stage Win Points but his day would draw to a sudden stop as he hit a drain on stage 11. The retirement put his championship hopes in tatters and meant the pressure was off Pajari to maintain his lead. Armstrong would restart on Sunday in fourth, taking two stage wins before finishing and taking the Wolf Stage Win Points award for the most stage wins of the season.
Martins Sesks was in contention for the title heading to Spain but it soon became apparent that the Latvian was struggling for pace on Friday. Saturday saw Sesks pushing hard but his day came to a premature end when a puncture saw him go off the road, damaging his wheel in the process and retiring for the day. Sesks restarted the rally on Sunday to finish sixth and claim third in the 2021 FIA Junior WRC Championship.
Lauri Joona claimed his second Junior WRC podium of the season on Spain and for a few stages looked like he was in contention for the rally win too, trailing Pajari by just two seconds after stage 11. In his first full Junior WRC season, Joona claimed fourth in the championship.
Robert Virves delivered some competitive times during Rally Spain and finished third, a puncture saw him fall away from the leading pack where he was once closing on Pajari’s lead. Virves’ third place meant he claimed fifth overall in the championship with some impressive stage times on Rally Spain, taking a total of five Wolf Stage Win Points.
William Creighton appeared to be a potential contender for victory on Rally Spain but an accident on stage one soon put those plans to bed. Creighton took a stage win on Saturday to prove he has the pace on the way to securing sixth in his rookie Junior WRC season.
Maciej Woda, FIA Junior WRC Championship Manger, said: “What a fantastic result and achievement for Sami and Marko! The first Finns to win the Junior WRC Championship and Sami becoming the youngest ever Junior WRC champion, I think we will be seeing his name a lot more in years to come. His performance this weekend has been incredible and he is a truly deserving champion, I really cannot wait to see what he can do in the future. Jon Armstrong and Phil fought admirably throughout this rally, once it became clear Jon was on the back foot we really saw what speed he his capable of and that is underlined by the fact he won the Wolf Stage Win Points Award. I want to highlight just how competitive Junior WRC has been this year, every driver entered took Wolf Stage Win Points at some point this year which is truly remarkable. We have had an incredibly talented field and I see futures for everybody entered here in Spain. Lastly, I want to thank the M-Sport Poland team, WRC Promoter, Pirelli, Wolf and FIA for all of their hard work and effort to deliver such a special and exciting championship. The story from this year will not be forgotten for a long time.”
Sami Pajari, 2021 FIA Junior WRC Champion, said: “This is a really big achievement, I don’t know what to say. I feel so thankful for so many people who made this possible. I think it’s not only me who deserves it, it’s many people also. Wow, just wow. There were so many ups and downs just in one rally so it was not so easy to really see this coming, I was the lucky one this time. You can dream, dream about lots of things, but to this really happening is something that doesn’t even feel real at the moment.”