The 2020 season of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship is firing up their cars and heading out for Rally Sweden this weekend for their season-opener that starts in Torsby.
16 drivers have applied to enter the championship this year which will enter its ninth consecutive year as it got started back in 2011, the drivers will be driving head-to-head out on the stages this year to be available to claim one of the biggest prizes in motorsport.
The latest specification Ford Fiesta R2T19 cars manufactured by M-Sport Poland will be equipped with studded Sottozero ICE tyres by the Italian firm Pirelli, which is the exclusive tyre supplier for the class.
“Firstly, on behalf of the entire FIA Junior WRC Championship, I would like to extend our gratitude and thanks to Glenn Olsson [Rally Sweden CEO] and his team who have been working around the clock to ensure this event goes ahead.” Maciej Woda, Team Director, said.
“Rally Sweden is such an iconic round of the FIA World Rally Championship, and always provides fantastically close-fought competition – especially in the Junior WRC and I’m looking forward to more of that this year.”
“It’s always great to start the season here in Sweden, and this year we have 16 highly talented and motivated youngsters all keen to show what they can do on the snow, gravel and asphalt of the FIA World Rally Championship.”
“The Swedish stages offer a unique challenge and it will be interesting to see if anyone can topple the two locals this year. This will be a rally of strategy, and those who are quick out of the box and on the ball when it comes to tyre strategy could well come out on top,” Woda added.
The rally has been shortened to only 10 Special Stages spread across the Swedish Värmland region and across the border to the neighbouring Norway.
2020 will mark its fourth-year JWRC is starting in Sweden, the class has been won by the Swedes on those earlier visits. Per-Gunnar Andersson won the first one in 2006 followed up by Dennis Rådström in 2018 and Tom Kristensson in 2019.
“So happy and proud to be back in the championship again and Rally Sweden! Great job from the organiser to make this happen. It is a pleasure to be back in the car and with the M-Sport Poland team. We are looking forward to getting in the car and going for a new amazing season!” Kristensson said.
The local crowd will be cheering for the Swedes this weekend, who are hoping for a hat-trick of victories, Kristensson will face fierce competition against last years Swedish Junior Rally Champion Pontus Lönnström who will make his debut in the class.
“I’m looking forward to start the season on my home event. It’s going to be a tough rally with really tricky conditions. We have done a test with the new car and it feels good.” Lönnström said.
From Finland they are looking to break the Swedish home domination as the Finnish Rally Championship SM3 class winner Sami Pajari and runner-up Lauri Joona will be hunting down the crown.
“My second WRC event, and first for this year. For myself it’s really nice to be able to compete on Rally Sweden as it’s one of those legendary rallies from my childhood. It’s sad that we’re not able to drive all the nice stages that should have been in the rally, but still really looking forward to putting a smile on my face.” Pajari said.
“Rally Sweden has a lot of high-speed sections and small challenging sections. We look forward to this competition since I have been here many times watching but now compete for the first time. Rally Sweden will definitely be more challenging due to the weather conditions.” Joona said.
Representing the neighbouring Norway which the rally will visit for some stages is Oscar Solberg who is the son of former WRC driver Henning Solberg and nephew with 2003 World Rally Champion Petter Solberg.
Representing the Baltic region at the Rally Sweden are the young-talents Ken Torn from Estonia and Mārtiņš Sesks from Latvia. Both are no strangers when it comes to the snowy environment.
“What makes Rally Sweden so special? While racing through the winter forests of Sweden, you could not miss the cool crowds next to the stages – grilling, relaxing and cheering for their favourite drivers. Oh, and when comes to the extra speed, one could not miss studded tires!” Torn said.
“I’m back with my co-driver Renars, with who we achieved the ERC U27 title in 2018 and hopefully we are back even stronger and faster to fight for FIA Junior WRC victory. I already had good speed in Sweden last year and these unpredictable roads suit us, because we have been driving something similar back in Latvia. Overall we are feeling very hungry for the rally and a good result!” Sesks said.
Representing the United Kingdom flag in the snowy Värmland is the newcomer Ruairi Bell, Dirt Rally 2.0 game developer and 2018 eSport Champion Jon Armstrong who is returning to championship. Also, Catie Munnings, who had a taste of snow earlier this year when she drove a Bentley at GP Ice Race in Austria.
“Rally Sweden is an event I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, not only because it marks the start of the season, but also because of the unique nature of the big snow banks and very high speeds on ice! Although, with the changes in temperatures and the lack of snow, it’s hard to gauge what this year’s rally will be like. Either way, I can’t wait!” Bell said.
I am very excited to get my Junior WRC campaign underway on Rally Sweden, it is a bit unknown what the conditions are going to be like for everyone competing in the rally. I wish we could have a full winter rally and perfect conditions but it is great that the event is running even if it is a shortened route. I will need to wake myself up before I go into stage one with some familiarity runs over shakedown with the new M-Sport Ford Fiesta R2T. I am going to give it my best effort and see where we end up at the finish.” Armstrong said.
“I’m incredibly excited and grateful for this opportunity to start my first WRC event in Sweden. I know it will be a big step up for me, and the competition this year is incredibly high, but it is definitely the right way to progress to the next level and gain some invaluable experience. Rally Sweden will be a challenge for me, everything is new – I’ve never driven a rally car on snow or with studs, it’s a new car for me, new team and new co-driver – but I feel more motivated than ever to make the most of this opportunity. The FIA Junior WRC is one step further to achieving my dream, and I can’t wait to begin!” Munnings said.
Returning to the championship this year too is the Romanian driver Raul Badiu, he has experienced Rally sweden earlier last season.
“I am really happy and excited to be back in FIA Junior WRC for 2020. We had a good test in Norway in proper winter conditions, the Fiesta R2T in combination with the Pirelli tyres feel great, add to this the experience from last year and we are prepared for what will be a very challenging rally where there is no room for mistakes. We will focus on doing our best rhythm and have as good a start of the season as possible.” Badiu said.
Representing the South American region is Fabrizio Zaldivar from Paraguay, he is also returning to the championship for this year.
“Rally Sweden is one of the most amazing rallies I’ve driven, last year was my first experience on snow and it was quite okay for the first time but this year we would like to push more and be fighting for the podium. It’s quite easy to make a mistake in this rally so we need to be careful, brave and don’t go just flat out.” Zaldivar said.
From Italy, there are four young-talents that are looking to secure the title home to the Italian country. Enrico Oldrati will be participating in his third Rally Sweden, while Tommaso Ciuffi will be taking part his first Rally Sweden, Marco Pollara is returning to the championship this year and the eSports legend Fabio Andolfi.
“Elia and I are really looking forward to driving on white roads again. For me this will be the third time in Sweden and it is also my favourite event as it is a huge challenge to make pace notes and have commitment on such high-speed undulating icy-roads. It’s also a tremendous challenge for us in R2 cars for the critical conditions of this year. We need to carry on improving and learning to be better against the fierce competition in Junior WRC this year.” Oldrati said.
This is a new rally for us; it is the first time on snow and in Italy we don’t have these fast roads. I think that Rally Sweden will be difficult for the weather conditions but we are really excited for this event. Good luck to everybody.” Ciuffi said.
“We are very excited for this new season in FIA Junior WRC. For every driver it is the dream of a lifetime to participate in a WRC event. We are preparing ourselves the best we can and we hope to do well. I wanted to thank our ACI Sport federation for this opportunity and congratulate M-Sport Poland for the organisation of the championship, we really appreciate it.” Pollara said.