Kajetan Kajetanowicz cannot win this year’s WRC2 title as the damage sustained to his Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo from his crash on Friday proved too great for him to continue on Rally Japan.
Kajetanowicz, a three-time European Rally champion, emerged as a surprise contender for this year’s second-tier World Rally Championship crown when he adopted a tactical strategy to avoid reigning champion Andreas Mikkelsen.
Two engine-related retirements on the trot in Portugal and Sardinia opened the door for Mikkelsen’s rivals this year, after he won the opening two rounds in Monte Carlo and Sweden and was leading in both Portugal and Sardinia too.
With each WRC2 competitor only allowed to compete on seven rallies, and only carrying their six best scores forward, Mikkelsen’s two DNFs meant he would have to carry a zero-point score to the end of the season.
Spotting this, Kajetanowicz plotted plenty of rallies outside Europe into his schedule like Safari Rally Kenya (which he won) and Rally New Zealand, with Mikkelsen not contesting any flyaways – the thinking being that competing against fewer rivals should boost his chances to score more points.
The title battle took an unexpected twist however when Emil Lindholm emerged as a late contender. After securing the WRC2 Junior title by simply starting Rally Spain, Lindholm realized he could also win the overall championship and sourced the budget to be able to contest Rally Japan and take the race to Kajetanowicz.
Starting this weekend’s finale, Kajetanowicz and Lindholm both had 104 points (although Lindholm was marginally ahead thanks to a smaller dropped score) and a big battle was anticipated.
Unfortunately, on the first stage of Friday morning, Isegami’s Tunnel, Kajetanowicz misjudged his braking coming out of the now famous tunnel that the stage is named after.
On the loose gravel at the tunnel-exit, Kajetanowicz lost control and smacked the bank with some force with the rear-left of his Škoda.
That was a severe dent to his championship hopes and a gift for Lindholm, but hope remained that the team could repair the car and give Kajetanowicz a fighting chance.
However there proved to be too much damage to the Fabia and Kajetanowicz is now unable to wrest the WRC2 title from Mikkelsen.
Lindholm admitted seeing Kajetanowicz crashed out was “not the way I would want to win” but the title isn’t guaranteed for Lindholm either.
He is currently in position to take it though. With a net 101 points to Mikkelsen’s 109, fifth place would secure Lindholm the championship and he’s currently third in WRC2 and ninth overall.
Sami Pajari leads the category overnight by 5.3 seconds over Teemu Suninen.