The 2017 FIA Junior World Rally Championship is set for a new look and new battles when the opening round blasts into action at the Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse next week. The championship offers the huge prize of seven WRC 2 rounds during 2018, provided by tyre supplier and official partner DMACK, but it’s all change as the world’s top young rally talent chase the championship title.
The successful Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy, which ran for three seasons, has effectively become the Junior WRC this year, and that means drivers will switch to identical Ford Fiesta R2T rally cars built and prepared by M-Sport Poland. The popular arrive and drive format, managed completely by M-Sport, will see drivers battle over six rounds in the one-litre turbocharged Fiestas and has initially attracted 10 crews from across the world.
Returning with strong experience from last season and competing on his home event is French star Nicolas Ciamin – at 19, he’s also the youngest driver. The DMACK Fiesta Shoot Out winner was third in Portugal last year and will be searching for another podium on his preferred Tarmac surface.
He’s set to come under pressure from asphalt aces Terry Folb, who finished third in last year’s Junior WRC, and Spain’s Nil Solans – winner of his home round of the DMACK Trophy in 2014. Add in German driver Julius Tannert with his European Rally Championship experience and Irish star Rob Duggan, current British Junior Rally Champion, and the battle for opening round victory really starts to hot up.
Belgian-born driver William Wagner will be aiming to cause an upset and Dillon Van Way from USA returns to the series after competing on one round last season. Estonia continues its proud tradition in rallying with Miko Niinemäe leading the charge and next week’s rally is the first WRC event for debutants Sebastian Careaga from Bolivia and Swede Dennis Rådström.
Affectionately known as the ‘rally of 10,000 corners’, the Tour de Corse is a tough opening event. Taking in mountain stages across the Mediterranean island, competitors will face relentless corners and many changing surfaces – testing their confidence, concentration and pacenotes to the limit.
Based in Bastia, the event covers 316km of competitive action across 10 stages. There’s a tough first leg with no mid-day service and a mammoth penultimate 53.78km test on the final day.
Competitors will use a completely new range of DMACK tyres, upgraded with a number of performance enhancements. The new DMT-RC2 will be available in both S5 (soft) and H5 (hard) compounds over the weekend.
The prize structure of this year’s Junior WRC retains the format from the Fiesta Trophy. Events are paired together with the driver scoring the most points over each pair of events winning two prize drives in next year’s WRC 2. An additional prize event will be handed to the championship winner.
Maciek Woda, M-Sport’s Junior WRC manager, said:
“Personally, I’m delighted to have the Junior WRC programme back under M-Sport’s wings. Our cooperation started with the FIA WRC Academy in 2011 and, even through it went through a number of transitions, we were always able to deliver great competition and find strong drivers who finally stepped up into WRC cars. The arrive and drive concept with single car and service supplier offers the best chance for drivers to shine and with a strong partner in DMACK, we can offer a great ladder of opportunity to develop new careers.”
Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said:
“It’s great to see the successful cost-effective format of the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy being adopted for the new-look Junior WRC. DMACK is providing the biggest prize in rallying for the fourth consecutive season and we’re excited to have a full range of new high-performance products for the world’s top young drivers this year.”
Tour de Corse Junior WRC entry list
101 Nil Solans (Spain) / Miguel Ibanez (Spain)
102 Terry Folb (France) / Christopher Guieu (France)
103 Julius Tannert (Germany) / Jurgen Heigl (Austria)
104 Nicolas Ciamin (France) / Thibault de la Haye (France)
106 Robert Duggan (Ireland) / Gerard Conway (Ireland)
107 William Wagner (Belgium) / Kevin Parent (France)
108 Miko Niinemäe (Estonia) / Martin Valter (Estonia)
109 Dillon Van Way (USA) / Dai Roberts (UK)
111 Dennis Rådström (Sweden) / Johan Johansson (Sweden)
112 Sebastian Careaga (Bolivia) / Claudio Bustos (Argentina)
Nicolas Ciamin (19) from France:
“It will be my second season in rallying and, with an additional event this year, will be even more challenging. This season will be more about performance and even though we have very strong competitors, my aim is to fight for the win. The first day will be tough with no service so we will need to be clever and manage it well. We entered a national rally in Corsica during March to get a good feeling and judge the pace.”
Sebastian Careaga (23) from Bolivia:
“This is my first rally in a Fiesta R2 and first time on Tarmac so it’s all about learning for me and to enjoy the experience. I want to try and improve the set-up of the car, work on my pacenotes and really to finish the rally without any major problems. I expect everything really to be a challenge but we’ve waited long for the championship to start and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Robert Duggan (23) from Ireland:
“There’s been a lot of organising this year so I’m looking forward to putting that aside and getting the season kicked off. My aim is to get a feel for the competition and come away with a good haul of points for the championship. With new tyres and a new rally, one of the challenges will be tyre choice but also the length of the stages – the most we’ve ever driven in Ireland is 25km. We’ve been preparing a lot and hopefully that will pay off.”
Terry Folb (26) from France:
“It has been a long time since last year and now we are really looking forward to starting the first of six Junior WRC rounds. We really want to be among the leaders in Corsica and to aim for the maximum points at the start of the season. The length of the stages will be a test but also the weather as it can be very changeable. The third challenge is the competition and I’m sure it will be strong this year.”
Miko Niinemäe (24) from Estonia:
“It has been six years since I last competed on Tarmac so I’m not aiming high, just really to finish this endurance event and get a comfortable feeling with the car. We don’t have mountains in Estonia so these stages and surface changes will be very new to me. We’ve been preparing hard by working on our pacenotes and have a small test before the rally – so I’m really looking forward to getting the season started.”
Dennis Rådström (21) from Sweden:
“Corsica will be my first WRC event and first Tarmac rally so it’s a new step in my motorsport future. It will be a special feeling to rally in a new country and meet new competitors so I’m very excited. Our aim is to have a clean, steady rally and develop ourselves a lot – and to have fun. The stage distances between services will be tough but we’ve been working hard and I feel ready for the challenge.”
Nil Solans (24) from Spain:
“We are happy to be back rallying again as it’s been a long time. Corsica we know is really tricky and easy to make a mistake but we still will be fighting. Many of the stages are long so it will be important to stay concentrated and focused to make sure you don’t lose speed during the stage. I’ve been training hard and exercising to help get ready for the season.”
Julius Tannert (26) from Germany:
“It’s a great feeling to be competing in the WRC and I’m looking forward to driving the famous rallies against the best junior drivers in the world. For me it’s a new rally, new car and new co-driver but we will try our best and aim to score important points for the championship. The stage distances can be quite long so we’ve watched videos to understand the roads and get a feeling for the rhythm – and also worked on the pacenotes with my co-driver.”
Dillon Van Way (26) from USA:
“I’m very much looking forward to the season, it has been a while since I’ve competed so I’m excited to be back in the car again. Our goal is to finish as strong as possible as it’s my first all-Tarmac event and I’ve got a new co-driver. I’ve not competed since Portugal last year so it will take a few stages to get back into the swing of things. We’ve been reviewing videos of the stages to prepare for the event.”
William Wagner (23) from Belgium:
“I’m really looking forward to getting the season started next week and to compete against the world’s best young drivers. My aim for the rally is to give it my best performance and be among the top Junior WRC drivers. Pacenotes will be one of the biggest challenges because the roads are difficult but we’ve competed on a few rallies already this year to try and be ready for the start.”