Can rivals slow the ERC’s latest high-flying Finn Pajari?
Sami Pajari makes his Rally di Roma Capitale debut on top in three FIA championship standings and very much the driver with a target on the back of his Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally4.
Pajari heads ERC3 by 11 points and ERC3 Junior by 17 points following a win and a podium finish on the opening two events of the season.
He also holds first place in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship rankings following his category success on Rally Estonia last weekend.
“We had a brief test session on Wednesday and the car feels good,” said Pajari. “It is very hot and temperatures are forecasted to be well above 30 degrees for the duration of the rally. We had good pace on Tarmac in Croatia, it is still difficult to say how fast the other guys are on Tarmac in our class, but it is going to be a tight fight. We hear the Tarmac is a bit slippery here, so you have to be careful with the grip changes. The history can be felt everywhere here, for our part we try to put our name in the history books of this event in the form of success.”
Pajari’s rivals are plentiful with Rallye Team Spain’s Pep Bassas providing his strongest opposition in ERC3 and Orsák Rallysport’s Nick Loof his closest rival in ERC3 Junior.
Basses finished second in ERC3 and ERC3 Junior on Rally di Roma Capitale last season, while German Loof returns to Rome having scored ERC3 Junior podiums in Poland and Latvia.
Loof, who recently celebrated turning 20, completed the Rally di Roma Capitale recce last year but has yet to tackle the event’s asphalt stages in anger.
Renowned asphalt ace Jean-Baptiste Franceschi, from France, took an ERC3/ERC3 Junior win double in Latvia in Renault’s all-new Clio Rally4. Norwegian Ola Jr Nore partners Franceschi at Toksport WRT in a second Clio Rally4. However, damage sustained to his car in testing on Wednesday has put his participation this weekend in doubt.
Multiple ERC3 event winner Florian Bernardi is also Clio Rally4-powered for his eagerly-anticipated category return. He finished third in class in 2019 after crashing out in 2018.
Romanian Norbert Maior will be one to watch in a Peugeot 208 Rally4, while Martin László finished third in ERC3 on his Roma debut last season and favours asphalt over gravel. The Hungarian finished two places ahead of compatriot Adrienn Vogel, the top female scorer in ERC 2020.
Rallye Team Spain’s Alejandro Cáchon is back on ERC3 Junior duty after non-starting in Liepāja where Amaury Molle and Daniel Polášek both scored well. However, out of the trio, only Molle has previous Roma experience.
Łukasz Lewandowski battled back from rolling his Opel Corsa Rally4 to score ERC3 points in Latvia. Although he was entered for Rally di Roma Capitale last year he was ultimately a non-starter.
The five Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT drivers are also eligible for ERC3 points with rising Italian star Andrea Mabellini on a mission to top the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT order for the second event running. However, Turkey’s Yigit Timur is keen on revenge for his Rally Liepāja time penalty heartbreak when he appeared to have won his class only for an early check-in to drop him to second position.
Paulo Soria, from Argentina, and French pair Bastien Bergounhe and Ghjuvanni Rossi complete the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT entry in their identical Clio Rally5s run on MICHELIN tyres.