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JUNIOR WRC, TOUR DE CORSE PREVIEW

The FIA Junior World Rally Championship crews will get their first taste of Tarmac next week, when Corsica Linea - Tour de Corse hosts the second round of the one-make series.

M-Sport Poland’s fleet of one-litre EcoBoost Ford Fiesta R2s have been transformed into their asphalt specification and shod with Pirelli’s Pzero tyres – ready for the latest crop of youngsters to tackle one of rallying’s most challenging asphalt tests.

Known as the Rally of 10,000 Corners, the clue is in the name with corner after corner on a mix of smooth and abrasive asphalt.

The 333.48 competitive kilometres are split into just 12 speed tests, putting the emphasis on endurance and testing the crews on everything that goes into becoming a top-flight driver.

Pacenotes, focus, precision and speed – next week’s victor will have mastered them all on route to collecting the coveted trophy.

As the championship’s resident Frenchmen, Jean-Baptiste Franceschi and Terry Folb will be hoping to emulate what Dennis Rådström and Emil Bergkvist did on home soil in Sweden two months ago.

During the opening round of the season, the two Swedes were locked in an intense battle for a home victory. Franceschi and Folb weren’t far behind – fighting for fourth and fifth places respectively – but this time they’ll be hoping that the battle of the Frenchmen is the battle for the win.

Julius Tannert could well challenge the prospect of a French winner on home soil. The German is well versed in the art of asphalt rallying, and will be keen for another strong result following his podium finish in Sweden.

Ireland’s Callum Devine is also considered an asphalt specialist. The youngsters kept his cool in Sweden, and could be one to watch when the championship turns to his preferred surface next week.

Emilio Fernández proved himself a fast learner in Sweden. The Chilean secured a stage win on his snow debut, and shouldn’t be discounted when it comes to delivering a similarly impressive performance on his asphalt debut next week.

Italy’s Luca Bottarelli will certainly be feeling more at home on asphalt and could well be a dark horse for a strong result.

David Holder is keen to show what he can do on his asphalt debut and will be determined for a strong showing – as is Tom Williams who travelled to Mexico to compete in the WRC 3 category with the Fiesta R2 earlier this month.

Estonia’s Ken Torn has already proven his speed – four fastest stage times seeing him challenge for the win in Sweden before a roll dropped him out of contention. With a new co-driver in the form of Ken Järveoja – cousin of WRC front-running co-driver Martin Järveoja – the pairing will be looking to combine their speed with consistency when they tackle their first Tarmac rally next week.

Enrico Oldrati also showed his potential during what was only the second ever rally of his career in Sweden. The Italian’s progress was cut short when he became a victim of the snowbanks on the opening day, but he’ll be keen to demonstrate his ability once more in Corsica.

Next week’s event also welcomes some new faces to the Junior WRC service area in the form of Bugra Banaz and Burak Erdener from Turkey, and Umberto Accornero and Barone Maurizio from Italy.

The two crews may have missed the opening round in Sweden, but that won’t stop them challenging for one of the biggest prizes in motorsport when the second round of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship gets underway at the legendary Tour de Corse.

FIA Junior World Rally Championship Manager, Maciej Woda, said:

“We had such a fantastic opening round in Sweden, and now I can’t wait to see what the crews can do on asphalt. The competition was extremely close, and there were a few surprises along the way which could well be the case when we head to Corsica next week.

“The Tour de Corse is a legendary rally, and a win here carries a lot of weight. It’s truly unique and its character sets it apart from all of the other FIA World Rally Championship events. Here, the emphasis is on endurance, focus and precision – and our crews

will have to manage every aspect of the event in search of a strong result.
“With the Ford Fiesta R2, and Pirelli’s Pzero tyres, they’ll have everything they need to succeed and I’m looking forward to seeing who gets it right next week.”

DRIVER QUOTES

Dennis Rådström said:

“The Tour de Corse is a fantastic event and Corsica is like a paradise. It has some proper Tarmac roads that twist through the island and we are very lucky to compete here. We are really looking forward to this challenge.

“Last week we had the opportunity to attend the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team test – watching the top drivers on roads like the ones we’ll encounter next week and I had a passenger ride with Elfyn Evans. We’ve also been doing some Tarmac testing in Denmark and are feeling well prepared.

“This rally is going to be a lot of fun and I’m aiming to push hard and enjoy every minute of it.”

Emil Bergkvist said:

“I’m really looking forward to being back on Tarmac, but we know that the competition will be tough and that there will be many drivers capable of challenging for the top results next week. I did this rally last year, so I know some areas where I can improve. I will try to be in the fight for the victory, and the aim is to collect as many championship points as we can.”

Julius Tannert said:

“I’m looking forward to the Tour de Corse and being back on Tarmac next week. It’s my favorite surface and I have some experience at this event. For sure, this rally is really special and the pacenotes are very important. I think it’s the most difficult rally of the year regarding the notes, and the timing for the co-drivers.

“As always, our goal is finish on the podium or to fight for the victory. I expect there will be a lot of drivers who are able to challenge for the win next week, and it will be a huge challenge. The long stages could be the deciders, and we need to ensure we score good points to keep ourselves in the fight for the championship.”

Jean-Baptiste Franceschi said:

“I’m very happy to be back on Tarmac, and almost at home on French soil. I love driving on this surface, and I’m feeling really good ahead of this beautiful event.

“I’ve been preparing my physical fitness thoroughly for the long stages, and I will do a Tarmac event this weekend in the South of France to get back into the rhythm of driving on roads similar to those we’ll see in Corsica.

“I really hope to be in the fight for the victory next week, and that everything comes together for a fantastic event. I want to achieve something beautiful on this beautiful French event.”

Terry Folb said:

“This is the rally that we are waiting for every year. I adore this event, and will contest it for the fourth time this year. It is the only pure asphalt event that we have in the championship this year, and we want to show the best of ourselves next week.

“Since Rally Sweden, I have contested a rally in France to regain the sensation of driving on asphalt. We completed about 200 kilometres – using the Pirelli tyres for the first time – which was really good preparation.

“We did not begin the season with the best result, so our objective in Corsica is to fight for the victory and get ourselves back in the championship fight.”

Callum Devine said:

“I’m really looking forward to this event. I’ve done far more rallies on Tarmac than I have on gravel, and this is my strongest surface.

“Since Rally Sweden, I have tried to further develop my pacenote system and also competed in the West Cork Rally back home in Ireland. We competed with the Fiesta R2 and it was good to get some more seat time ready for this Tarmac challenge.

“Next week, my hope is to be challenging at the front end of the field. We want to get the miles under our belts, but we also want to secure some good points for the championship.”

Emilio Fernández said:

“It was my first time on snow in Sweden, and it will be my first time on asphalt in Corsica. Of course we’re a little nervous to learn how everything works on this surface, but we are also well prepared and I have been watching many videos from the Tour de Corse to get a feeling for the event. I want to finish in the best way possible, and hopefully we can surpass our result last time out in Sweden.”

Luca Bottarelli said:

“We feel ready for this asphalt race, and I have completed a pre-event test in preparation. As this is my first season in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship, the main objective is to get the experience, but I also hope to be closer to the leaders next week.”

David Holder said:

“We are expecting a tough event next week. It's our first ever Tarmac rally, so naturally there will be plenty to learn. There are some very fast and experienced asphalt specialists amongst the Junior World Rally Championship crews so we just need to focus on our own performance and improvement.

“I've been fortunate to get some limited experience on local racetracks here in New Zealand over the past few weeks. It's obviously very different to Corsica, but it was the closest we could get to replicate the challenges ahead.

“For us, a consistent and clean rally will be a good result. We know what we are capable of, and need to keep banking the experience on these unfamiliar surfaces.”

Ken Torn said:

“I’ve never competed on Tarmac, but I have done some recces on this surface and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do. Since this is our first Tarmac event, our main goal is to learn something new and get the experience for future rallies.”

Tom Williams said:

“I’m really looking forward to the first asphalt event of the season as I’m a lot more familiar with this surface. In Corsica, the stages are very long and twisty, so I think that Pacenotes will be key.

“I feel a lot more confident after contesting Rally Mexico earlier this month. It was a good opportunity to get more seat time and everything worked really well in the car, so I hope to bring that to Corsica.

“We have put a lot of work into our Pacenotes and I’ve also done a lot of training to ensure my physical fitness is where it needs to be to tackle these long and technical stages.

“My main goal is to finish the event and gain more seat time on Tarmac, but I would also like to bring down the seconds per kilometre when compared to the more experienced competitors.”

Enrico Oldrati said:

“The Tour de Corse will be a very tough event, and perhaps even more difficult than Sweden as there are so many things to consider. You need to take care of the brakes, the tyres and keep your focus for so many kilometres. All of these factors increase the level of difficulty. I hope to do better than I did at Rally Sweden, and it’s important not to repeat the same mistakes.”

Bugra Banaz said:

"The Tour de Corse is a very important and historic rally on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar, and one that I’m very excited about. After an efficient season in the ERC Junior series last year, this will be my first event of 2018 and I am ready for the fight. The length of the stages will be very tough, and I think good pacenotes will be the key to success. My main goal is to finish the rally and gain as much experience as possible.”

Umberto Accornero said:

"The Tour de Corse has a lot of heritage and I am very happy to start my season here. The stages are very long with plenty of tricky sections and an endless number of corners – making this one of the most demanding rallies on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar.

“I am willing to learn and will take as much experience as I can this year. I will do my best to keep a good pace and I hope that consistency and regularity will pay off at the end of this long and difficult rally. Concentration will surely be the key to success, especially during the two longest stages."

 

TOUR DE CORSE ENTRIES:

61 Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson
63 Emil Bergkvist / Ola Fløene
64 Julius Tannert / Jürgen Heigl
65 Jean-Baptiste Franceschi / Romain Courbon
66 Terry Folb / Christopher Guieu
67 Callum Devine / Keith Moriarty
68 Emilio Fernández / Joaquin Riquelme
69 Luca Bottarelli / Manuel Fenoli
70 David Holder / Jason Ronald Farmer
71 Ken Torn / Ken Järveoja
72 Tom Williams / Phil Hall
73 Enrico Oldrati / Danilo Fappani
74 Bugra Banaz / Burak Erdener
75 Umberto Accornero / Barone Maurizio

 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS:

1. Dennis Rådström - 34
2. Emil Bergkvist - 23
3. Julius Tannert - 15
4. Jean-Baptiste Franceschi - 12
5. Terry Folb - 10
6. Callum Devine - 8
7. Emilio Fernández - 7
8. Luca Bottarelli - 4
9. Ken Torn - 4
10. David Holder - 2
11. Tom Williams - 1