The top three drivers in the FIA Junior WRC Championship are blanketed by just 18 points – less than the value of an event win – ahead of this weekend’s Rally Italia Sardegna (8 – 11 October).
Two rounds remain in the four-rally series for the sport’s young hotshots and Martins Sesks tops the standings after an assertive victory at last month’s fixture in Estonia.
The Latvian journeys to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia for the final gravel encounter of the championship with an eight-point advantage over Finn Sami Pajari. Tom Kristensson, a home winner at the opening round in Sweden, lies a further 10 points adrift.
Sesks, like Kristensson, holds an advantage over Pajari having tackled the rough road fixture last season and his battle plan is the same as the one that carried him to the top of the points last time out.
“I will try to do the same as I did in Estonia,” he said. “To be confident, drive a consistent pace and be smart. In previous rallies and in WRC generally, it’s not usually the absolute fastest driver that wins, it’s usually the smartest or best all-round driver that wins so we will try to be the smartest.”
Pajari has been the top sprinter so far. He has boosted his score with the best bonus points haul after claiming nine stage wins across the first two rounds, five more than both his rivals. Second in Estonia was his career-best result.
“It’s exciting, it will be a really challenging weekend but I am really looking forward to it. Of course, I am aiming to win, as always, but sometimes my chances are better than other opportunities. We will see how it goes,” he explained.
Kristensson is playing catch up after retiring in Estonia and is planning a revised strategy after struggling in Italy 12 months ago.
“I had some bad luck and wasn’t really in the rhythm here last year. I didn’t have any stage wins either, so I think we need to start the rally differently this year and continue being better. It’s a very special rally, I don’t know yet how it will feel but I will do my best, that’s for sure,” he said.
The top trio must keep a wary eye on three home drivers, headed by Fabio Andolfi. Enrico Oldrati and Marco Pollara join their fellow countryman. The entry is completed by Britain’s Ruairi Bell, who is fifth in the championship, and Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zaldivar.
All will be at the wheel of identical M Sport-built Ford Fiesta Rally4 cars.