Jari-Matti Latvala hints at bright future for Sami Pajari – “Clearly emerged as a strong contender”

According to Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala, Sami Pajari has fully earned his opportunity to drive a Rally1 car.
Jari-Matti Latvala
Jari-Matti Latvala. Photo: Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT
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As reported earlier on Thursday, Pajari will compete in the Rally Latvia in mid-July with the Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 car. This marks Pajari’s debut with a hybrid car in the top category of the WRC.

Pajari has been competing in the WRC2 this year with Toyota’s new Rally2 car. Last weekend, he secured his first victory with this car in the Rally Sardinia.

Toyota’s WRC team has had a development program for young Japanese driver prospects for several years.

“At the same time, we are looking at young drivers from all over and their development. Toyota wants to find young drivers and develop them to the top,” team principal Latvala explains.

Pajari has made a strong impression on Toyota and Latvala.

“Sami Pajari has clearly emerged as a strong contender in early 2024. His performances have been so strong that we are very interested and want to give him this opportunity to see what potential he has,” Latvala hints.

“When you move to a Rally1 car, that’s when you really know what potential a driver has.”

Latvala knows Pajari and his co-driver Enni Mälkönen well. The Toyota boss has worked with both of them.

“I coached Sami in 2021 when he asked for help in building his career in the WRC and was about to start competing in the championship. That’s how I know Sami’s background. I’ve also used his co-driver Enni Mälkönen in national competitions. They are both fantastic people and fierce competitors. It’s great to see them in our car,” Latvala enthuses.

Pajari has grown up on Finnish gravel roads, so the fast gravel rally in Latvia should suit him well. Since Latvia has not previously hosted a WRC round, all top drivers will essentially start with a clean slate.

Pajari will have a proper test with the Rally1 car before the rally, but in terms of experience, the other top drivers are clearly ahead. Latvala emphasizes this point.

“From our perspective, it is important for him to see what the difference is between Rally1 and Rally2 cars and what the development path is in that regard. We do not expect any results from him. The main thing is to gain experience and understand what a Rally1 car is like and what it takes to drive it,” Latvala stresses.

Read also: Sami Pajari’s big dream comes true – “It feels almost supernatural”

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