Jari-Matti Latvala’s strong statement: “We shouldn’t compare him too much to Kalle”

Toyota's WRC team has been closely monitoring Sami Pajari's progress in the World Rally Championship.
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Pajari has shown impressive performances this season with Toyota’s new Rally2 car. Last week, he secured his first WRC2 class victory in the Rally Sardinia.

Earlier this week, it was confirmed that Pajari will get the chance to showcase his skills with the Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 car in the Rally Latvia in just over a month. This was a considered decision by Toyota, further integrating Pajari into the team, even though he is not currently a factory driver.

“Sami has now won with the Rally2 car, which is fantastic. When moving to a Rally1 car, expectations need to be kept realistic. He will be driving a Rally1 car for the first time, which is over two seconds per kilometer faster (than a Rally2 car),” Toyota’s team principal Jari-Matti Latvala points out.

As is well known, Toyota has positive experiences with another promising Finnish driver, Kalle Rovanperä, who is already a two-time world rally champion.

Rovanperä was promoted to Toyota’s factory driver in 2020 at the age of just 19. In his second WRC event, he reached the podium.

The expectations for Pajari are not as high.

“I want to remind everyone not to compare Sami too much to Kalle. Kalle has been an exceptional case, and his career has been developing since he was 7 years old towards the top. He was practically a professional rally driver at 17,” Latvala emphasizes.

“Sami has followed a normal career path, starting with front-wheel-drive Rally4 cars, then moving to Rally3, Rally2, and finally Rally1. His career has been built step by step. He is still very young at 22 and now has a great opportunity to drive,” continues the team boss.

The fast gravel roads of Latvia should suit Pajari well. If everything goes smoothly, we could see flashes of his potential during the race weekend, but achieving top results might be unrealistic due to his lack of experience.

“We cannot expect him to be at the same level as Kalle in terms of speed because Kalle is exceptional. I think the WRC has seen three exceptional drivers: Kalle Rovanperä, Sebastien Loeb, and Sebastien Ogier, spanning three decades,” Latvala lists.

Pajari’s career has progressed steadily towards the top. The 2021 junior class world champion has not taken any rash steps. This season, he has risen to the elite of the WRC2 class.

“Looking at his season as a whole, he has gradually increased his speed, continually improved, and achieved really good results. Those performances rightly give him the opportunity to drive a Rally1 car,” Latvala concludes.

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