Finnish rally talent set for home debut with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team will hand Sami Pajari a dream chance to make his debut at rallying’s highest level on home roads, with the rising star’s first appearance in the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID now set for Rally Finland on August 1-4.

Demonstrating its commitment to supporting young talent in rallying, TGR-WRT has granted the opportunity for Pajari and co-driver Enni Mälkonen to experience Rally1 machinery following their impressive performances in the GR Yaris Rally2 car so far in 2024. Originally set for July’s Rally Latvia, their step-up to the top level will now be realised at the following round in their home country, in what is sure to be an exciting moment for the crew and for Finnish rally fans.

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.

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 Rovanperä and Sébastien Ogier.

While Rovanperä’s appearance was always planned given his experience competing in Latvia earlier in his career, Ogier has shown strong form and commitment to supporting the team during recent rallies and has a strong track record on new rallies. In what has been a close and exciting season so far, this line-up will give TGR-WRT the best possible chance of success.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)

“It’s going to be exciting to have Sami now make his Rally1 debut with us on his and our team’s home event. I think it always helps to get into a new car on roads that you know well, and if we consider that his chance to test the car was always going to be on Finnish roads, this will now be strong preparation for Rally Finland. So we believe this is another suitable opportunity for Sami to drive our Rally1 car, and it’s also going to be a great thing for his fans and the event itself. Still, as we said previously, we won’t be putting any pressure or expectation upon him in terms of result: we just want to see him adapt to the car and try to gain as much experience as possible. We are strongly committed to developing young drivers for the future, and also to maximising our results in the present: this is why we will still bring four cars to Latvia and now take the opportunity to have Sébastien there alongside Kalle, Elfyn and Takamoto. Seb has been very strong so far this year and, with the championship being so tight, we want to bring all the strength and experience we have to keep up the fight.”

Sébastien Ogier
“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. 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. I’m still a competitor and I want to do my best to help my team, and to support them in keeping up the pressure in the championship fight. Also, I’m always excited to discover new rallies and Latvia will need new pacenotes for everyone. That’s a situation in which I’ve normally performed well in my career, so that’s also a good reason and motivation to go there.”

Sami Pajari
“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. 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.”