Pajari and Toksport Celebrate Anniversary in WRC Rally Sardinia

Sami Pajari and Enni Mälkönen’s season in the World Rally Championship continues with the start of the Sardinian round on Thursday. The Finnish duo will be driving the Toksport WRT’s Skoda Fabia RS Rally2 in the WRC2 class for the third time this season. Their debut with the WRC2 equipment took place exactly a year ago in the Sardinia round.

With the Mediterranean warmth, a thousand kilometers of coastline, sparkling turquoise sea, countless sandy beaches, mountainous serpentine roads, and beautiful valleys, Sardinia has many pleasures to offer. However, teams and drivers miss out on most of these delights as the rally week is intense and busy.

The Rally Sardinia has been held since 2004 when the Italian round was moved to the island instead of the famous San Remo. However, rally history in Sardinia goes even further back, as the Costa Smeralda Rally in the northeastern part of the island was a long-standing European Rally Championship event.

This time, the rally will be held in the northeastern and northern parts of Sardinia, with the city of Olbia serving as the central location on the island’s northeastern edge. This year, the special stages have undergone quite a few changes compared to the previous year, and they are now in a more compact area. Last year, the route extended all the way to the western edge, reaching the cities of Sassari and Alghero, but now it stays closer to Olbia.

“Usually, there are some narrow sections here, where you have to drive precisely, but in between, there are also a few enjoyable faster sections. The route has changed quite a bit, although there are some old sections included. Except for the opening spectator stage, I think there are changes and even completely new sections in all the other stages,” Pajari describes the route.

The previous WRC round took place in Portugal three weeks ago, but Pajari and Mälkönen did not compete for championship points there. These consecutive rallies share quite a few similarities, and when comparing the average speeds from last year, there is no significant difference between them, with Portugal being slightly faster than Sardinia.

“We had a day of testing, and we have a similar setup to what we had in Portugal. So, it’s easier to come here now when we already have a feel for the car after one rally. It’s pretty rough here too, but my feeling is that Portugal had more loose rocks to contend with, whereas here, the surface is somehow clearer,” Pajari comments.

“Last year, we had temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius during the rally, but this time the forecast is around 25 degrees. However, there’s also a chance of rain. The rain forecast earlier this week didn’t come true until it started pouring on Tuesday, so it’s difficult to predict the weather for the race,” Pajari ponders.

Exactly a year ago, Pajari and Mälkönen made their WRC2 debut in the Sardinian round and finished fifth in their class. Their position in the WRC2 championship standings before Sardinia, based on points earned from Sweden and Croatia, is seventh, but they are third in the WRC2 Challenger category.

In the Challenger class, only drivers who haven’t been factory drivers in the WRC1 level or haven’t won the Rally2 class championship can score points. Pajari’s Challenger class results were first in Sweden and second in Croatia, while in the WRC2 class, their results were third and sixth respectively.

“The year has gone by quickly, and a lot has happened during that time. The team has even acquired a new car. The team is truly top-notch, as they have always been. I believe that over the course of this year, I have also absorbed some of that exceptional expertise and developed myself. Hopefully, we can celebrate this anniversary with a successful result,” concludes Pajari.

In the four-day event in Sardinia, a total of 19 special stages with a distance of 320 kilometers will be covered with high speed rally action. On Thursday, there will only take place a short special stage in Olbia in the evening, after the shakedown stage in the morning. On Friday, the cars and drivers will face the real challenge. Three consecutive special stages will be repeated, covering a total of 138 kilometers of gravel. There will also be a mammoth stage, Monte Lerno – Sa Conchedda, with an impressive length of 49.90 kilometers.

On Saturday, a series of four special stages will be repeated twice, adding up to 133 kilometers. On Sunday, there will be another 46 kilometers of racing remaining with two special stages to be repeated. The exciting event will conclude right after midday on Sunday.