The snow and ice of Rally Sweden marks the start of the 2019 FIA Junior World Rally Championship this weekend from February 14-17, as 13 drivers look to follow in the footsteps of some of the WRC’s biggest stars. Five of 2018’s entrants are joined by eight Junior WRC rookies, from 10 different countries representing three continents.
A song of ice and snow
The Junior WRC is the ultimate test for rally crews on a completely level playing field, thanks to all drivers using identical equipment and having equal resources available to them on each event. It means that crews must focus on every detail of rallying in order to be successful. To extract maximum performance, crews will be working hard on detailed and expertly-studied pace notes, precise and informed suspension setups, and carefully monitored tyre pressures.
All of 2019’s Junior WRC crews will contest each rally in the all-new, 200 horsepower, EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta R2. Designed and developed by M-Sport Poland, the car is a clean-sheet design that takes inspiration from Sébastien Ogier’s 2018 championship-winning Ford Fiesta WRC. Along with engine updates, the new car has received a new gearbox, suspension components and chassis.
This is the third time that Rally Sweden is on the Junior WRC calendar, with the previous two winners both being from Sweden: Dennis Rådström (2018) and Per-Gunnar Andersson (2006). The key for each crew is to continually assess tyre and surface conditions throughout the rally: a necessity when using studded tyres. The tungsten-tipped tyre studs give relatively high grip; however, if the tyres begin to cut through the frozen surface and contact the gravel base, there is a risk of losing studs. The consequence of this is reduced grip when returning to an icy surface, as fewer studs mean less grip.
A unique feature of Rally Sweden is how the drivers use snow banks to gain an advantage – but in typical rally fashion there is an inherent risk to this technique. Sliding the rear of the car out to gently contact the snow bank helps it to get around the corner; getting this wrong though could lead to the front losing grip and digging into the snowbank itself. Experience of winter condition is key to perfecting this skill. And if all else fails, each car carries an emergency shovel…
Wolf Lubricants joins the Junior WRC pack
The FIA Junior WRC is a unique series where partners work closely together. Joining M-Sport and Pirelli in 2019 is premium lubricant brand Wolf Lubricants. This is a new technical partnership for the Junior WRC, with all of its Fiesta R2 cars now using Wolf Lubricants’ extensive range of products. This premium brand has put all of its expertise into developing high quality lubricants that are key to extracting and maintaining optimal performance in a rally car.
Maciej Woda, Junior WRC Team Director: “I am really pleased and excited to welcome Wolf Lubricants as a Junior WRC partner. As the entry-level championship in WRC’s ladder of opportunity, Wolf Lubricants has demonstrated its belief in the Junior WRC and the rally stars of the future. The partnership we share with Wolf Lubricants is a technical partnership and we are very enthusiastic about using their range of products for the 2019 Junior WRC.”
Frédéric Decroix, Wolf Global Marketing Director: “The FIA Junior WRC provides Wolf with the perfect technological platform to develop the lubricants of tomorrow in the most demanding conditions. Wolf caters to the latest generation of engines with cutting-edge lubricant products and additive technologies, delivering the highest levels of quality and race-derived performance.”
Keeping it on the road
Parity of equipment is a cornerstone of the FIA Junior WRC, ensuring that only raw talent makes the difference. As a result, the drivers all use exactly the same Pirelli tyres. The JWRC cars will be fitted with the Sottozero Ice WJ in Sweden, which features 360 studs in each tyre, and a special vulcanisation process to ensure that the studs stay in place. The drivers are allowed to use 22 tyres during the event (including shakedown) but how and when they use them is down to the individual crews.
Terenzio Testoni, Pirelli Rally Activity Manager: “Starting the championship on one of the most specialised events of the year, with a specialised tyre, underlines what a powerful education it is. We’ve got an exciting array of new drivers and a brand new car in the JWRC, but exactly the same philosophy of helping to promote the careers of up-and-coming young talents: the common goal for all the championship partners.”
What the drivers said
71 Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson
“We have a lot of experience in Junior WRC, after two seasons with some success. We have done a lot of testing and racing in January in Sweden and we’re feeling well prepared for this season.”
72 Ken Torn / Kuldar Sikk
“I am very excited for this season and to build on my experience from last year. I had some success in 2018 and I am looking forward to my time in the new R2 car which I have already been able to get some experience in.”
73 Julius Tannert / Jürgen Heigl
“This year is my last chance to go for the Junior WRC title. I have experience from the last two years and I’m able to push thanks to that. I think I have made good progress since I started in Junior WRC and I believe we can fight for wins and podiums this year.”
74 Tom Kristensson / Henrik Appelskog
“I am really proud just to start the season and be a part of Junior WRC in 2019. To be able to participate with a new team and new challenge is exciting. To be honest I’m not really local to this rally, it takes a while to get here from home so I have limited snow and ice experience.”
75 Roland Poom / Ken Jarveoja
“The 2019 season is going to be a long and interesting learning curve for me and an opportunity to prove myself. We aim to enjoy the rallies, collect experience and finally show what we’re capable of.”
76 Martin Sesks / Krisjanis Caune
“This is a new year with new challenges. Everything is new for me this year: a new team, car and championship. We have done some snow and ice tests as well as two winter rallies and I’m hoping for a good result in Sweden.”
77 Tom Williams / Phil Hall
“My goal is to have more intensity on the Junior WRC rallies this year. The last year has been such a steep learning curve, coming from national rallies. This year I’m more relaxed and want to build on the intensity on each event.”
78 Jan Solans / Mauro Barreiro
“I know that my first year in the Junior WRC is not going to be easy, but I’d like to get as much experience as possible. My aim is to show some speed and I want to cover a lot of kilometres too.”
79 Raul Badiu / Gabriel Lazar
“The 2019 season will be a learning year for me: I have very limited experience of rallying in Romania. Hopefully I will be able to develop on each stage of every rally, as there’s a really high level of competition in Junior WRC.”
80 Nico Knacker / Tobias Braun
“It’s my first year in Junior WRC and we are really happy to be here. We want to learn the events this year as it’s all completely new for us: I have never driven on ice, snow or gravel.”
81 Enrico Oldrati / Elia de Guio
“For 2019 I hope to improve on my results from 2018, and hopefully be in the top five. I have worked hard over winter to build on my experience as I didn’t have many kilometres behind me last year.”
82 Fabrizio Zaldivar / Fernando Mussano
“This is my first year of rallying outside of my home country and my priority is to get as much experience as possible. Following this, I am setting my aims higher for next year at the top of Junior WRC.”
83 Sean Johnston / Alex Kihurani
“In my first year of Junior WRC my primary objective is simply to learn as much as is physically possible. I come from a sportscar racing background, so rallying is very new to me. The main objective is to simply get as many kilometres as I can.”
as many kilometres as possible.”