Pajari’s Battle for the top ended in sudden retirement at Rally Sardinia

Sami Pajari and Enni Mälkönen were forced to retire on Saturday’s opening leg of WRC Rally Sardinia. The mechanics at Toksport WRT managed to get the car ready for Sunday, and Pajari got to enjoy the last four stages of the competition.

Pajari had a strong and promising start to the rally, taking the lead in the WRC2 class at the end of Friday. The occasion marked the second time the Finn has held the lead of WRC2 at the end of the day, the first time taking place in Rally Japan last season. The WRC2 competitors completed only five of the seven scheduled stages, as two stages were canceled in the afternoon for safety reasons.

Before the last stage on Friday, Pajari was fourth in the class, but he clocked the second-fastest time on the impressive 50-kilometer Monte Lerno stage, propelling him to claiming the top spot come the overnight service.

“I’m really pleased with our performance. It’s great to be leading the class, but there’s still a lot of rally left, and tomorrow’s weather is expected to be challenging, so tire strategy will add its own spin,” summarized Pajari at the end of Friday.

Saturday started cautiously for Pajari, with slippery conditions hampering everyone. After three stages, he had slipped to third place in the class, 30 seconds behind the leader, Adrien Fourmaux, and Andreas Mikkelsen. However, there was no significant threat from behind, as Kajetan Kajetanowicz, who was in fourth, had fallen already two minutes behind.

Unfortunately, the last stage of the morning turned Pajari’s promising rally upside down, as the rear of the car scratched a stone wall in a short left-hand corner, causing the right rear suspension to fail.

“I went a bit wide in a corner, and the rear of the car found a stone wall, forcing us to limp to the finish. We tried to fix the damages in the road section, but unfortunately, we didn’t have the necessary tools to get the car back in shape,” Pajari explained the incident.

The mechanics of Toksport were able to fix the car for Sunday, and Pajari started from the back, aiming to enjoy the four stages of the final day. The endeavor began strongly as Pajari set the fastest time in the 15-kilometer opening stage of the day in the WRC2 class, which was also the fourth fastest time overall, including the WRC class cars. He secured second and first places in the class for the next two stages.

Unfortunately, the final stage was canceled before the duo could start, and consequently, no Power Stage points were awarded in the class.

“I have a really good feeling about today. The pace was there, and overall, there were a lot of positives this weekend, so there’s no need to dwell on the negatives,” assessed Pajari back at the service on Sunday evening.

Mikkelsen claimed the class victory, overtaking the unfortunate Fourmaux on the final stage. Teemu Suninen finished second, with Kajetan Kajetanowicz in third. In the end, the Pajari-Mälkönen duo finished 19th in the WRC2 class.

Tuloksia: Rally Italia Sardegna – WRC2 

1. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) Skoda 3:49:34.7
2. Teemu Suninen (FIN) Hyundai +2:15.6
3. Kajetan Kajetanowicz (POL) Skoda +3:12.8
4. Yohan Rossel (FRA) Citroen +3:20.2
5. Miko Marczyk (POL) Skoda +6:00.5
19. Sami Pajari & Enni Mälkönen (FIN) Skoda +41:43.7