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WRC Rally Finland

Pajari to make WRC Rally1 debut in Finland as Toyota rejigs Latvia line-up

Toyota shuffles its driver roster as Sebastien Ogier comes in for Latvia  

Sami Pajari, Enni Mälkönen, Printsport Toyota GR Yaris Rally2

Rising World Rally Championship star Sami Pajari will now make his Rally1 debut in Finland instead of Latvia following a change to Toyota’s driver line-up.

Toyota announced last month that Pajari and co-driver Enni Malkonen will step up from driving a Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 car in WRC2 to pilot a fourth GR Yaris Rally1 at the gravel rally that will make its WRC debut from 18-21 July.

However, the reigning world champion team has now decided to make an alteration to its plan. Pajari and Malkonen will now contest their home round Rally Finland from 1-4 August, with Toyota planning to field Sebastien Ogier in a fourth GR Yaris Rally1 for Latvia, alongside regulars Elfyn Evans, Takamoto Katsuta and part-time and two-time world champion driver Kalle Rovanpera.

Rovanpera was originally set to drive in Latvia and is also expected to contest his home round in Finland. 

“The decision for Pajari to compete in Finland has been taken in consultation with the driver while considering the best possible conditions for his debut. Before the event he will have the opportunity to test in the team’s local area near its base in Central Finland, on roads that are similar in character to those used in Rally Finland: an event Pajari is naturally familiar with,” read a statement from the team.

“The change in schedule also opens up the possibility for the team to enter Rally Latvia with the strongest available line-up of regular crews across its four entries, with full-season drivers Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta to be joined by world champions Kalle Rovanpera and Sebastien Ogier.”

Winner WRC2 Sami Pajari, Enni Mälkönen, Printsport Toyota GR Yaris Rally2

Winner WRC2 Sami Pajari, Enni Mälkönen, Printsport Toyota GR Yaris Rally2

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Eight-time world champion Ogier says he is happy to add Latvia to his plans to help the team in its quest to retain its manufacturers’ title, after scoring two wins and a pair of second place finishes from his four events to date.

“It was not the original plan for me to be in Latvia, but the opportunity came up after analysing together with the team the situation in both the manufacturers’ and drivers’ championships,” said Ogier.

“There was a desire from the team for me to do some more events and that’s something that I‘ve gladly accepted. I want to give back to the team and thank them for allowing me the opportunity to continue driving with them in the way that I have done the last three years. I’m enjoying the season so far and the strong performances we’ve had.”

Pajari is also looking forward to making his first Rally1 foray on more familiar roads compared to those of Latvia which will make its WRC debut.

“It is even more special to be making my Rally1 debut at home. Latvia would have been a new rally for everyone and an equal start for me in a way, but in Finland of course I know the stages generally very well and our testing will be in Finland, so to have that chance to prepare the car on roads that are very similar to the rally will be a good help for me,” said Pajari.

“And in terms of the emotions, it’s even nicer to have this chance in Finland and I’m extremely looking forward to the event.

“To drive this car on those stages will be something really cool and also really demanding: they’re very high-speed roads and I will need to learn how the aerodynamics are working.

“But this is all about trying to learn as much as we can. Of course, I will try to enjoy it too because it’s like a dream come true, but the main target is just to gain the experience. I’m really excited for it.”

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