The 2022 FIA Junior WRC Championship kicked off in dramatic style on Rally Sweden with two championship hopefuls having days to forget as Lauri Joona reigned supreme.
Robert Virves was back in business at the start of the rally, taking the opening Wolf Stage Win point and the first stage win of Junior WRC’s new four-wheel-drive era.
The Estonian’s speed soon became his undoing, crashing into a snowbank on the following stage, leaving his Fiesta Rally3 and hopes of winning the rally stranded in the snow.
Reigning champion Sami Pajari claimed his first Wolf Stage Win point on the second stage of the rally, seizing the rally lead too. Like Virves, Pajari’s lead was short-lived after suffering a fuel pump issue on the road section after stage two, retiring for the day.
It meant that for the first time in his career, Lauri Joona was leading a Junior WRC event, from stage three.
McRae Kimathi had his first full day of snow and ice competition ahead of him on Friday, with the Kenyan prioritising finishing the event and building his experience. Despite some struggles, Kimathi emerged fourth overall by the conclusion of Friday, greatly exceeding his own expectations of where he expected to finish the opening day of Rally Sweden.
William Creighton proved himself to be a talented Tarmac driver in his debut season but during the opening day of Rally Sweden the Irishman underlined he will be a force to be reckoned with in 2022. The Irishman ended the day in third, on course for his first ever Junior WRC podium.
Expectations were low for Jon Armstrong heading into Sweden with zero kilometres of testing and limited experience of snow and ice in his career. Armstrong exceeded those expectations from shakedown and was in competitive form throughout Friday, claiming two Wolf Stage Win points.
The man of the moment on Friday was none other than Flying Finn, Lauri Joona, who leads the Junior WRC field for the first time in his career. Joona led from stage three on Friday and, despite some close challenges from Armstrong, maintained his lead. He eventually extended his gap to second and close the day 7.7 seconds ahead of Armstrong, with two Wolf Stage Win points to his name.
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