Scotland will have a driver in six rounds of the World Rally Championship this season after 22-year-old John MacCrone confirmed he will contest the WRC Academy.
MacCrone, backed by Tunnocks and Palletforce, will swap his Isle of Mull home for six gruelling rallies across Europe, including Greece, Finland and Spain. The championship - the official feeder series to the WRC, which also visits Germany and Spain - kicks-off in Portugal at the end of March. The talented young Scot, partnered by Glasgow co-driver, 23-year-old Stuart Loudon, will go head-to-head with the world's leading young drivers as he targets a full-time seat in the WRC.
"This is a massive challenge," MacCrone, who finished top Scot in last year's Rally Scotland, the penultimate round of the Intercontinental Rally Championship, admitted. "But it's also a major step towards achieving my ultimate goal, which is to compete full-time in the WRC."
The Scot - who took a class win in Wales Rally GB last November, the final round of the WRC, by finishing top two-wheel-drive car - is fired-up for the campaign. "Not only are all six events difficult, but there are a number of guys coming back to do it for a second year," MacCrone continued. "They know the rallies and the stages. They also have a lot more experience than me, but I've just got to deal with it.
"It's all part of the learning process. And if you want to compete with the best, you need to make that leap at some point: so why not now? I'm ready for it."
The one-make series sees the world's best young drivers compete in identical Ford Fiesta R2s prepared and maintained by M-Sport. The winner receives the opportunity to contest all rounds of the 2013 WRC in a Fiesta R2. Alternatively, they can opt to compete in five rounds, stepping up to a Fiesta S2000. MacCrone, who has spent the close-season working intensely on his fitness, will drive for Rally Team Scotland.
The team is an innovative concept designed to nurture young rallying talent, with the specific aim of putting Scotland back on the global rallying map. The initiative is the brainchild of former rally professional Richard Moore. "I believe Scotland has a wealth of young talent and I've pledged my full support to help find and develop the next champion," the Forfar-based businessman said. "I think in John we have may have found just that. His natural talent and ability is truly outstanding and I will do as much as I can to help him reach the top."
The WRC Academy kicks off with three gravel rounds in Portugal, Greece and Finland before heading to the challenging asphalt in Germany and France. The season-finale takes the crews to Salou in Spain for a mixed-surface event.