Martins Sesks becomes the first ever Latvian to win a FIA Junior WRC rally following a dramatic event on Estonia’s inaugural WRC event.
Sami Pajari was able to claim a well-earned second place after running into difficulty early on in the rally.
Robert Virves, the crowdfunded local hero, finished third after leading for much of the rally until a puncture dropped him out of contention in the closing stages of Sunday.
Friday evening’s opening short blast was won by Sami Pajari with a clear second over Tom Kristensson. The Swede struck back the following morning taking the first stage win of the day, his rally ended on the next stage with a crankshaft failure following a heavy landing.
The story of Saturday was the crowdfunded hometown hero, Robert Virves, consistently posting top-three stage times from stage four until stage 14.
Romanian Raul Badiu would join Kristensson in retiring for the day in the first loop, damaging his radiator on stage three punting a hay bale across the stage. Pontus Lonnstrom’s early stage times indicated he would be in contention for a podium however his day was cut short, stopping in stage four due after a technical issue. Italian driver, Fabio Andolfi, also retired after stage three.
Ken Torn established himself as a contender for victory, closing down on Virves’ lead on Saturday with a hat-trick of stage wins following a puncture in the opening loop. Torn’s luck would run out on stage eight, after two punctures while only carrying one spare, forcing him to retire for the day. He returned to action on Sunday morning which was short-lived after mechanical problem on stage 13.
The drama continued in Junior WRC on Sunday following an action packed day on Saturday.
Home favourite Robert Virves headed into the closing day with an 11-second lead over Martins Sesks with Finnish youngster Sami Pajari trailing by 27 seconds in third. Virves would ultimately relinquish his lead following a puncture on stage 14, losing 45 seconds in the process of being relegated to third. The Estonian would not give up, collecting his maiden Junior WRC stage win point on the penultimate stage to hold third by the end of the rally.
Sami Pajari collected the most stage wins of any Junior WRC driver on Rally Estonia, totalling eight stage wins by the conclusion of the rally and more importantly, seven valuable championship points. Pajari now sits second in the championship with 39 points.
Following a run of successful preparation events Martins Sesks was on form throughout Rally Estonia, not putting a foot wrong, running no lower than third for the duration of the rally. Applying the pressure on Virves all Saturday and Sunday, and following the Estonian’s puncture, Sesks inherited the lead with three speed tests to run.
He becomes the first ever Latvian driver to take a Junior WRC rally win and with it has picked up the championship lead with 47 points.
Elsewhere in Junior WRC, Briton Ruairi Bell claimed his best finish so far with a well-earned fourth position after delivering a faultless drive with consistent stage times.
Teenager Fabrizio Zaldivar was set to match his best ever finish with a fifth place after a respectable drive throughout the rally. The Paraguayan’s hard work would come undone on the penultimate stage, losing his brakes and dropping to sixth. He would enter the Wolf Power Stage without brakes in an effort to finish the rally and collect valuable championship points.
Italian Marco Pollara who, like Zaldivar, kept his head down and avoided trouble eventually took fifth position, his best finish in FIA Junior WRC.
Maciej Woda, Junior WRC Team Director:
“Rally Estonia has been epic and a fantastic return to rallying! We all owe so much thanks to the organisers of Rally Estonia, FIA and WRC Promoter for providing a smooth and safe way for us finally get back rallying, I cannot wait to see what Sardinia brings for us. Massive congratulations to Martins taking the victory, it’s great to see a Baltic driver doing so well and Latvia finally having a FIA Junior WRC winner. Robert gave a hard fight throughout the entire rally and should be very proud of what he has achieved for his first ever WRC event, it was an incredible performance and he has done Estonia proud. Sami Pajari is proving what so many people have said in terms of how talented he is after taking the most stage wins on this rally. I would also like to say a special well done to Ruairi Bell who faced exceptional circumstances heading into this rally so to finish fourth is a really good job.”
1. Martins Sesks / Renars Francis 2:21:20.5
“This weekend was quite an incredible rally for everyone because the stages were really, really rough. Even the guys in R5s were saying it is rough so imagine how rough it is in the Rally4 car. You had to be really technical all the time to see where you could drive fast and where you needed to take it easy to save your car and make it to the finish. I am really happy, we started on the safe side yesterday and started to gain speed and everything. We had a good battle with Ken who was flat out from the first stage. He was really fast I would say he was even faster than me as it was a rally of experience and he has it here. Overall I still can’t put it into words the feeling I have right now, but all the hard work I have put in, and after the struggles of last year, it is finally paying off for me.”
2. Sami Pajari / Marko Salminen +14.7
“We had the most stage wins, second place is not too bad and at the moment I am feeling like ‘oh damn it was just 15 seconds’, but overall I need to be really happy.”
3. Robert Virves / Sander Pruul +37.8
“Not the result we were hoping for but that’s rally and there’s nothing we can do. I have to be happy but it isn’t a win.”
4. Ruairi Bell / Matt Edwards +5:12.7
“It’s been a fantastic weekend with only four or five notice before today, Matt jumped in the car, being here now with fourth place in the juniors is fantastic and I am more than happy. Sadly I lost a bit of time but didn’t lose a position so I can’t complain.”
5. Marco Pollara / Maurizio Messina +7:03.9
“I am very happy for this result, the stages were fantastic and very beautiful. I am in love with these special stages, I hope to return here next year but until then, see you in Sardinia.”
6. Fabrizio Zaldivar / Fernando Mussano +9:29.8
“It was quite a tough rally for us, from the beginning we knew it would be difficult but still we made it to the end which is a good thing. We still need to work more on the pacenotes over the kilometres, today we had some brake problems so that’s why we lost fifth place but it was quite nice to finish the rally.”
7. Enrico Oldrati / Elia de Guio +10:44.7
“I’m not really happy but we got a lot of experience and that’s the most important thing. Ok now, we look forward to Rally Sardinia, which is my home rally and we will see how we go there.”
8. Raul Badiu / Gabriel Lazar +1:24:46.0
“I am disappointed, the result isn’t what we were wanting and the worst part is that on these lovely stages we would have liked to go and really take the experience and learn but we had very few kilometres without problems. The good side is that we finally started back rallying after these really difficult times.”
Ken Torn / Kauri Pannas
Pontus Lonnstrom / Stefan Gustavsson
Tom Kristensson / Joakim Sjöberg
Fabio Andolfi / Stefano Savoia