Flying Finn Future Star

Finland is a country famous for its successful rally drivers. It’s been like that for a long time, still is and hopefully will be well into the future. AKK Sports Oy, the organiser of Neste Rally Finland, began a project called Flying Finn Future Star in 2014 to find promising new drivers with the intention to speed up their progress towards an international career and world level status.

In 2019 there will be two Flying Finn Future Star Awards

1) After five first rounds of Finnish Rally Championship (FRC), one driver will get a free entry to Neste Rally Finland

  • The chosen driver gets a chance to show his stuff in the spotlight, as he is handed a deal comprising an rally car, full service, tyres, fuel, entry fee, pre-rally testing, coaching and consultation regarding dealing with PR and media relations.
  • Winner: Sami Pajari

2) After all the seven rounds of FRC, on driver will get a seat to Junior WRC (or same kind of series) for season 2020

  • This award is sponsored by M-Sport, Pirelli and AKK.
  • Winner: Sami Pajari

Springboard - Finnish Rally Championship

Judgement on who is viewed as the best young driver is based on success in the Finnish Rally Championship. AKK Sports acts as the series’ promoter with local clubs organising individual events. Participants in "The Flying Finn Future Star" contest must compete in class SM3 for cars with R1 or R2 FIA homologation.

This increasingly popular class is especially favoured by young drivers, because it keeps the costs at a reasonable level. It also serves as a good springboard to an R5 or Super2000 car. Citroën, Ford, Peugeot, Opel and Skoda are represented in the class. 

Selection process in 2019

First award: All five 2019 Finnish Championship rounds taking place before Neste Rally Finland will count towards graduation to a special selection event. Candidates must compete in SM3 class and be born on 1.1.1994 or later. The drivers holding top five positions in the points table after those four rallies will be invited to participate in this selection event.

An analysis of each candidate’s driving will be carried out based on his performances during the season. Furthermore, physical and psychological qualities will be tested, as well as prowess in dealing with PR and the media.

Second award: The criteria are the same as in the first award, but the winner will get a JWRC package for season 2020.

Flying Finn Future Star 2/2019: Sami Pajari

Sami Pajari is the winner of the second Flying Finn Future Star prize for this year: a subsidised seat in the Junior WRC in 2020. The 17-year-old Pajari had already won the first Future Star award from AKK Sports Ltd in June earlier this year, earning the chance to make his debut on Rally Finland as part of the Junior WRC.

The second final, with a whole Junior WRC campaign on offer, was staged at the Pajulahti Olympic Training Center, Lahti on October 3-4 following the end of the Finnish Rally Championship season.

As before, the contest was open to young drivers from the class 3 of Finnish Rally Championship. The four who made it to the final were Sami PajariLauri JoonaHenri Hokkala and Aleksi Röyhkiö. As with the earlier prize, drivers were assessed according to their performances through the season, as well as through physical and psychological tests, their pace-note making abilities, English language skills and interviews.

Pajari once again impressed the jury of experts to secure the valuable prize of a season driving a Ford Fiesta R2T on multiple rounds of the World Rally Championship.

When he made his debut in the WRC on his home event in August, Pajari displayed great pace from the beginning and was fighting for a podium on the Saturday when his car suddenly went off the road on SS16. Since then, he has clinched the SM3 title in the Finnish Rally Championship.

- This is great, it’s hard to even realise what has happened. To win this prize was our ‘Plan A’ for next season, but also had ‘Plan B’. I wasn’t sure at all that we would win, as all of the drivers were so equal. It has always been my dream to compete in the WRC, and now that we have this opportunity, I am really motivated to do everything that I can, says Pajari.

- There will be new things for sure, like driving on asphalt, which I don’t currently have much experience of. I will be doing lots of physical training. Now I’ll go home and try to digest this news, I’m sure the reality will sink in little by little. This prize is a big thing and an honour. I promise to do my best to keep the reputation of the Flying Finn Future Star high, he ends.

The jury was convinced

The jury was chaired by Tuomo Nikkola, Head of Coaching of AKK.

- For this new prize, we needed to think more precisely what skills are needed to perform through a whole season, from the drivers’ plans for the future all the way to their considerations about the funding of their careers, says Nikkola.

- In Sami’s case, the package seems to be ready. He has shown his speed this year. Mikko Markkula, an experienced WRC co-driver, was complimentary about their pace-notes. In addition, their English is good and they have clear plans. More training is needed on the physical side, though.

As Pajari drove a Ford Fiesta on Pirelli tyres in the Finnish Rally Championship this year, he receives also a total of 90,000 euros in support for next season from M-Sport, Pirelli and AKK.

- Massive congratulations to Sami for winning the Flying Finn Future Star award and welcome to the 2020 Junior WRC family. He has shown great pace in Finland this year and I hope he will enjoy his fight amongst the fastest young drivers in WRC next year. Well done, now it’s time to get ready for the fight for Fiesta R5, says Maciej Woda, the Managing Director of M-Sport Poland.

- At Pirelli, we would like to congratulate the winner, Sami Pajari, and wish him all the best of luck in the Junior WRC in 2020, says Jan Olsson, Sales Manager of Pirelli Motorsport Nordic.

Sami Pajari, profile:

Born: 01.12.2001
Place of residence: Lahti
Career: 2016 first competitive drive at Lahti Rallisprint, 2018 Finnish Rally Championship for Young Drivers, 2019 Finnish Rally Champion in class SM3
Car in Finnish Rally Championship: Ford Fiesta R2
Flying Finn Academy athlete (AKK’s national junior team of motorsport, Rookies group)

Previous winners of the competition:

2019 (1): Sami Pajari
2018: Henri Hokkala
2017: Emil Lindholm
2016: Juuso Nordgren
2015: Jari Huttunen
2014: Teemu Suninen

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