Pajari: Toyota’s Rally2 car has already made a step forward

GR Yaris Rally2 managed fifth on debut in Pajari's hands before achieving third in class on Croatia Rally

Sami Pajari

There had been considerable hype around Toyota’s GR Yaris Rally2. Given the success of the Japanese marque in the top tier of the World Rally Championship, there was always going to be plenty of expectation when it came to its first second-tier customer rally car.

Three rallies into its WRC career (there was no Yaris on the Rally2 entry at Safari Rally Kenya), leading WRC2 driver Sami Pajari believes that significant progress has been made with the new car since its slightly underwhelming Monte Carlo debut.

After taking fifth in WRC2 on the Monte, Pajari followed that up with second place in Sweden and was clearly pleased with progress on getting the car dialed in.

“No matter the brand you have, when you have a new car you always need to fine-tune the setup and find things that work for the car and work for you,” he said.

“In Sweden we already had the second place and many fastest stage times, so the beginning of the year has been really good for us.”

The car is one step better and I'm also one step better Sami Pajari

Having taken his second Rally2 top-three finish of the season with third place on a non-scoring outing in Croatia – his best result on Tarmac – Pajari’s expectations were again surpassed last weekend.

“It seems like we did quite a good step with the car from Monte to this point,” he said. “With the pace and also myself, I think it’s coming together. The car is one step better and I’m also one step better, so the times are coming.

“I’m really pleased with the result now. I was not hoping for too much but if the top five is competitive, then to be there – that’s already a good job.

“We can do a few good stage times and now, finally, we even had a few fastest stage times and third place at the finish, with no big issues with the car otherwise. That was more than I was hoping for.”


Pajari took his Printsport-run GR Yaris Rally2 to second in Swedish snow

So, where have the improvements in the car come from? According to the Finn, mostly in cornering and braking, especially in low-grip conditions – a common feature of the Monte and Croatia stages.

“I think the main issue was the low-grip places,” Pajari said. “Here [in Croatia] we only have low grip, so that was the main target to have grip there. And how the car behaves in the cuts and this kind of stuff. It was a really good step.”

Portugal is nominated as one of his points-scoring events and two days of gravel testing are planned beforehand. But there’s also the most competitive field of the WRC2 season so far present: he’ll be up against championship leader Oliver Solberg, Monte Carlo winner Yohan Rossel, Safari winner Gus Greensmith – plus former top-level M-Sport drivers Teemu Suninen and Pierre-Louis Loubet will begin their 2024 seasons in Portugal.

So does Pajari believe he can give the Yaris its maiden WRC2 victory next month?

“Yeah, I hope so,” he said. “Actually I haven’t driven so much on gravel so far, but the first taste was really impressive, so I really hope we can be competitive.”

“OK, there are many, many new faces also coming or joining for this year, starting from Portugal. So, it will be really, really tough, I guess. But I hope to be on the podium at least.”