FIA Junior World Rally Championship kicks off this week with Rally Sweden

FIA Junior World Rally Championship kicks off this week with Rally Sweden

FIA RALLY STAR CREWS READY FOR THE CHALLENGE OF RALLY SWEDEN

The FIA Junior World Rally Championship kicks off this week with Rally Sweden (15-18 February 2024), the first of five rounds of the season. Among the 19 crews entered in the Junior series, four will represent the FIA Rally Star program, an innovative initiative launched by the FIA in 2020 to detect and train the future stars of the sport.

 

The FIA Rally Star crews were meticulously selected through a rigorous process that included online and on-event competitions organized by FIA member clubs and the WRC9 video game. The winners of the six Continental and Women's Finals then participated last year in a Training Season established by the FIA and its partners. This season comprised an intensive training camp in Sardinia, followed by participation in six rallies on gravel and tarmac.

 

The four crews entered in the 2024 FIA Junior WRC Championship are:

Romet Jürgenson (Estonia)/Siim Oja (Estonia). The winner of the European final arrives well-prepared, having participated earlier in January in Rally Alūksne in Estonia, at the wheel of a Fiesta Rally3, thanks to the support of his personal sponsors. On this occasion, he set his first two overall fastest times.
Taylor Gill (Australia)/Dan Brkic (Australia). After returning home to take part in the final round of the Australian Championship, the winner of the Asia-Pacific final and his co-driver are now back in Europe, having enjoyed a test session in Finland with a Fiesta Rally3.
Max Smart (South Africa)/Cameron Fair (Great Britain). The winner of the African final literally discovered the snow during his preparation for the event, which began in the driving school of Per-Gunnar Andersson, two-time Junior WRC Champion.
Jose 'Abito' Caparó (Peru)/Esther Gutierrez (Spain). The winner of the American final teams up with a new female co-driver, well known since Esther was at the side of Annia Cilloniz in 2023.
All four drivers benefited from specific preparation for driving on ice, first on production cars on the tracks of SnowRallyRings, with Alexandre Bengué and Jani Paasonen as instructors. They then took the wheel of the Fiesta Rally3 EVO at the John Haugland Winter Rally School.

 

Rally Sweden is a classic event of the WRC calendar, known for its fast and flowing stages on snow and ice, with the iconic snowbanks lining the roads. The rally is based in Umeå, and covers 18 stages over four days, for a total of 300.10 km of competitive distance.

 

The FIA Rally Star crews will face a tough challenge, as they will have to adapt to the demanding conditions of the Swedish fixture, while competing against experienced rivals from all over the world. The Junior WRC line-up is one of the strongest in recent years, with drivers from 16 different countries and five continents, representing the diversity of the rally community. The four FIA Rally Star crews are competing under strictly identical conditions to the other Junior WRC competitors, driving the same Ford Fiesta Rally3 EVO cars fitted with Pirelli tyres.

 

Jérôme Roussel, FIA Rally Star project leader, said: “I'm delighted to see our four crews start the FIA Junior World Rally Championship, after serious preparation over the last few weeks. We must bear in mind that three of them will be competing in their very first WRC rally. It's a big step, but they're here because of their talent and we are confident in their ability to learn and progress without jumping the gun. I'm also delighted that the Junior WRC line-up is so strong, as it demonstrates the appeal of the Rally3 category and the excellent work carried out by M-Sport Poland, Pirelli and WRC Promoter in recent years. I'd like to thank SBF, the Swedish ASN, and the organisers of Rally Sweden, first and foremost Anna Nordkvist, for their enthusiastic welcome to their event."

Romet Jürgenson said: “It will definitely be an adventurous and difficult first event with the FIA Junior WRC but I am really looking forward to it. Hopefully, we can show good speed on some of the stages where we feel comfortable. At the end of the day, the final result of this event is not my top priority. If we can get through safely, it should be ok, but the plan for this season is to show speed. A top five would be a great result, nevertheless the goal is long term, so we are not looking for any particular result from this event. I am still lacking a bit of confidence in the snow, so if I can gain confidence from the middle of the rally, I would be very happy. My aim is to make a steady start and then build up confidence and speed.”

Taylor Gill said: “I'm really excited and can't wait to get going. It's been a huge build-up to get here, so I'm just keen to get the first stage underway and get our teeth into the rally. We've had quite a bit of seat time now, which has been really good, so it feels less strange to see all that white out there through the windscreen. Finishing would be the main goal, of course, but it is really hard to predict where we stand compared to all the other competitors.”

Jose 'Abito' Caparó said: “It will be my first competitive experience on snow, but I know we have worked hard and can finish with a good result. My expectation is to gain as much experience as possible and try to stay close to the top of the category. I feel 95% prepared because it will be my first time in the car with Esther. Therefore I can't say we are 100% but I know we will work well together and the result will speak for itself.”

Max Smart said: “I feel prepared and ready for the season, but going into my first rally on snow and ice is completely new to me and I still have a lot to learn. It will be one of those events where I have to build up my pace step by step as the confidence comes, but mentally I am ready. I have process goals rather than performance goals, and that is all about maintaining consistency. My main objective is to finish this rally, learn as much as I can and stay consistent by avoiding the snowbanks and improving my pace stage by stage.”


 


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