Having tackled snow and asphalt, the FIA Junior World Rally Championship crews will have another new experience next week as they take on the gravel stages of Vodafone Rally de Portugal.
Equipped with identical one-litre EcoBoost Ford Fiesta R2s prepared by M-Sport Poland and fitted with Pirelli’s SCORPION tyres, the rival crews will have to master the art of loose-surface rallying.
At Rally Sweden, the series witnessed the battle of the Swedes. At the Tour de Corse, it was the battle of the Frenchmen. In Portugal, the jury is out and a number of crews all have their sights firmly fixed on victory.
Thanks to his maiden win in Sweden and an improved display on asphalt, Dennis Rådström continues to lead the championship with a slender one-point advantage over Tour de Corse winner Jean-Baptiste Franceschi. Both drivers are accustomed to gravel and keen to secure a strong result for the championship this week.
But they’ll have to keep one eye behind as well as ahead – Emil Bergkvist and Terry Folb not far away and both more than capable of securing a strong result on gravel. Both Bergkvist and Folb will have new co-drivers for this week’s event – and will be hoping to seal their new partnerships with the taste of champagne.
With creditable results on snow and asphalt, Callum Devine will be looking to hone his loose-surface skills, whilst Julius Tannert is eager to reignite his championship hopes – using his experience of other gravel rallies to challenge for the top results.
More accustomed to competing on gravel, Ken Torn, Enrico Fernandez and David Holder will all be looking to make their mark on the championship, whilst Bugra Banaz and Tom Williams will also be keen to put their past gravel experience to good use.
Having started his rallying career in the United Kingdom, Umberto Accornero will be looking to use his past gravel experience to full effect, as will Luca Bottarelli who has some knowledge of gravel rallying back home in Italy.
It’s been a season of firsts for Enrico Oldrati who had contested just one rally before making his international debut in Sweden. But the Italian has proved a quick learner and will be keen for more of the same when he experiences gravel rallying for the first time in Portugal.
FIA Junior World Rally Championship Manager, Maciej Woda, said:
“Perhaps unsurprisingly we had home victories in Sweden and Corsica, but this one really is anyone’s for the taking. There’ll be no home advantage and I’m looking forward to seeing who best handles the challenge.
“Competing on gravel for the first time this season, we could see some new names top the time sheets and it’s a chance for those more accustomed to this surface to prove their potential.
“With the Fiesta R2 and Pirelli’s SCORPION tyres, our crews have everything they need to succeed. We’ve seen some extremely close-fought competition already, and I’m looking forward to seeing who will be challenging for the top results this week.”
RALLY DE PORTUGAL ENTRIES
61 Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson
62 Jean-Baptiste Franceschi / Romain Courbon
63 Emil Bergkvist / Joakim Sjöberg
64 Terry Folb / Kevin Bronner
65 Callum Devine / Brian Hoy
66 Julius Tannert / Jürgen Heigl
67 Ken Torn / Kuldar Sikk
68 Luca Bottarelli / Manuel Fenoli
69 Emilio Fernández / Joaquin Riquelme
70 Bugra Banaz / Burak Erdener
71 David Holder / Jason Farmer
72 Tom Williams / Phil Hall
73 Enrico Oldrati / Danilo Fappani
74 Umberto Accornero / Barone Maurizio
1. Dennis Rådström – 46
2. Jean-Baptiste Franceschi – 45
3. Emil Bergkvist – 38
4. Terry Folb – 30
5. Callum Devine – 18
6. Julius Tannert – 17
7. Ken Torn – 12
8. Luca Bottarelli – 11
9. Emilio Fernández – 8
9. Bugra Banaz – 4
11. David Holder – 2
12. Tom Williams – 1