News | 21/11/2021

Pajari ends his ERC season with a silver medal at the Canary Islands

The 45. Rally Islas Canarias, the finale of the FIA European Rally Championship, was also the last rally of the season for Sami Pajari and Marko Salminen. Pajari competed for the first time on the unique asphalt of the Canaries and after some blazing fast stage times finished the event in respectable second position in their ERC3 Junior class. However, that also meant the championship slipped away to Jean-Baptiste Franceschi, while Pajari finished second in ERC3 Junior and third in ERC3 championships.

The claim to gold was lost in practice already after the first day of the event, as Pajari and Salminen were only the third fastest of the day. ERC3 Juniors receive championship points for the daily results as well and the Finns would have desperately needed the 5 points available for the top spot.

The gaps at the front were small after Friday’s nine stages. The rally leaders were the Frenchmen Anthony Fotia & Arnaud Dunand in a similar Renault Clio Rally4 as Pajari’s main rivals in the championship, Jean-Baptiste Franceschi & Anthony Gorguilo in second place and only 0,9 seconds behind the leading Fotia. Pajari and Salminen in turn gathered almost half of the day’s fastest stage times and were in third place, only 5,1 seconds behind Fotia.

The first four stages on Saturday paved the way for the rest day. Franceschi started to take more carefully and Fotia continued at the top with full steam. On arriving at the mid-day service, Pajari had passed Franceschi, but was already 19,5 seconds behind the leader and 10 seconds ahead of Franceschi in third. These positions would be enough for the championship to slip away from Pajari.

The final four stages saw no changes to positions and in the end Fotia took a decisive victory, finishing 13,2 seconds ahead of Pajari and almost 50 seconds ahead of the both ERC3 Junior and ERC3 championships winning Franceschi. Pajari was to contend with silver in his main class ERC3 Juniors and bronze in ERC3.

The FIA Prize Giving Ceremony will be held in Paris in December and the young flying Finn will be heading there to collect his three championship medals of the season: gold for the Junior World Rally Championship and the silver and bronze for the European Rally Championships.

“Altogether a wonderful season with three medals as a reward. A couple of events should’ve gone better in the middle of the season for a better shot at the European Championship, but still the ERC season did what it was for and helped a lot with the Junior WRC season. Especially the asphalt events in ERC gave crucial experience and allowed us to find the next level of speed on that surface,” Pajari summed up the season after the podium on the Canary Islands.

New opportunities up ahead in 2022

After a successful season in 2021, Pajari’s program for 2022 season is still partly open. What is certain is the jump to four-wheel drive cars from either Rally3 or Rally2 class. The program will be finalised in the coming weeks. Another known change at this point is a change of co-driver, as Marko Salminen will step out and Enni Mälkönen will jump in instead. Mälkönen has already co-driven Pajari successfully for a few times this season.

“There is no drama involved in this change, the two seasons with Sami have been fantastic. I believe he will have a successful rallying career ahead of him and I will follow his future success with great interest”, Salminen describes his time with Sami.

There will be no lack of eagerness and motivation in the coming season either, once Mälkönen joins Pajari in the car.

“Sami is a motivated and talented driver, it’s absolutely fantastic to get to drive with him. We have the same career goals and want to hunt for success in the future”, Mälkönen recites about her excitement.

There are also changes on the coaching front, as the program started in 2018 with Kristian Sohlberg coming to an end.

“Even as our coaching relationship ends, we will remain good friends of course”, Sohlberg tells.

Results - Rally Islas Canarias:

1. Anthony Fotia (FRA) 2:08:22.1

2. Sami Pajari - Marko Salminen (FIN) +13.2

3. Jean-Baptiste Franceschi (FRA) +49.8

4. Martin László (HUN) +2:51.1

5. Paulo Soria (ARG) +4:43.7

Standings - ERC3 Junior

1. Jean-Baptiste Franceschi (FRA) 169

2. Sami Pajari (FIN) 164

3. Nick Loof (GER) 101

Sami Pajari Online: