Next year’s Junior WRC champion will be awarded a brand new WRC2 specification Ford Fiesta R5, one of numerous adjustments to the third-tier feeder series for the World Rally Championship.
The previous prize drive system, where a pair of sponsored WRC2 appearances would be awarded to the highest points scorer over the course of two nominated JWRC rallies, has been scrapped in favour of outright car ownership.
A brand new Fiesta R5, the type of car used in the WRC2 and European Rally Championship series, will instead be permanently granted to the winner, along with free registration to the 2019 WRC2 championship, free fuel supply and a tyre package to run the car.
Recently crowned junior champion Nil Solans effectively won a similar prize this year by securing all seven prize drives following a dominant season, and will pilot a DMACK sponsored Fiesta next season, albeit without permanent ownership of the car.
Junior WRC manager Maciej Woda pointed out the shift in prize structure would help drivers outside of competitive WRC2 events in the long term, rather than being confined solely to the eight days of action the previous prizes offered.
“We want the winner to be in a position to continue their career in WRC 2 to the best of their ability and, with their own car, they will be able to do the additional testing required to learn the car and prepare for the events,” said Woda.
“We are working with our partners to provide as much support as we can and, with what we are already in a position to offer, we believe this is the best value-for-money step for the eventual winner’s career.”
Changes to the system were necessitated not only from Solans’ inadvertent hogging of the previous prizes, but also due to a calendar shift from six to five events, rendering the pairing system previous used unworkable.
The reduction in events is down to cost-cutting measures aimed at alleviating a drop-off in entries similar to this year, in which nine drivers entered the opening two events, falling to only four competitors by the penultimate round in Germany.
Only two of last year’s events survived a calendar cull, with the 50/50 split between gravel and tarmac replaced with a more diverse selection of rallies. Rally Sweden will now act as the season opener for the first time since 2006, Rally de Portugal joins the nominated list of rallies mid-season, and recently confirmed Rally Turkey will stage the season finale.
To compensate for the shortened calendar, Turkey will be given double points status, encouraging drivers to pay for the 2250 kilometre trip from M-Sport‘s JWRC facility in Krakow to the final round.
The series will also change fuel suppliers for next season, having inked a deal with Panta Racing Fuel, who are currently a supplier in the World Touring Car Championship.