11 crews to contest Junior WRC
- 26th April 2016, 9:01am
After a long off-season break, the 2016 FIA Junior WRC begins at Rally de Portugal. Competing in identical DS 3 R3-MAXs, eleven drivers from seven different countries will fight it out as they attempt to secure the overall prize of a WRC2 drive!
Organised by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) and Citroën Racing for the third year running, the FIA Junior WRC is an essential stepping stone for talented young rally drivers. Since Sébastien Loeb became the first winner in 2001, the majority of the champions have gone on to compete at the top level of world rallying. For example, Craig Breen (2011) and Stéphane Lefebvre (2014) are competing in the WRC this season for the Abu Dhabi Total WRT.
As Citroën Racing continues to prepare for its return as a works team in WRC, identifying and training talented young drivers has never been so important. “Citroën Racing’s involvement in promotional formulas is based on one aim: find the next World Champion,” reiterated Marek Nawarecki, Customer Racing Manager at Citroën Racing. “We are honoured and pleased to have been chosen by the FIA to organise this championship again, which is the feeder category to the WRC. As in previous seasons, the DS 3 R3-MAX will be the model used by the crews. Its performances and reliability make it an ideal means of learning about the World Championship.”
To get the season underway, eleven crews will be competing at Rally de Portugal. In accordance with the regulations, they are all under 28 years old, with an average age of 24.4 years. Four names stand out as the favourites: Ole Christian Veiby, runner-up to Quentin Gilbert in 2015, Martin Koci, third in 2014, and the highly-experienced Simone Tempestini and Andrea Crugnola. They are dreaming of putting an end to the run of French winners seen in the last two seasons!
Among those returning to the category, Terry Folb is however dreaming of achieving similar success to that of Gilbert, Lefebvre or… Loeb, his team boss! Another ‘old hand’ from last year, Mohamed Al Mutawaa will be hoping to make his experience count as he aims to reach new heights.
Most of the field will be made up of rookies, like Vincent Dubert and Frédéric Hauswald, the top-two finishers in the 2015 France Citroën Racing Trophy. Romain Martel rounds off the French contingent, whilst Lukasz Pieniazek represents Poland. Among the seven countries contesting the FIA Nations’ Trophy, Namibia makes its debut in the competition thanks to Thilo Himmel.
The FIA Junior WRC will be held at six European rounds of the WRC: four on gravel (Portugal, Poland, Finland and Wales GB) and two on tarmac (Germany and France). All the results count towards the overall standings and the champion will secure a drive at six rallies in the 2017 WRC2 in a DS 3 R5. The outfit that tops the Teams’ standings will be offered the chance to run this programme.
Ole Christian Veiby (Norway)
Date of birth: 17/06/1996 (19 years old)
Co-driver: Stig Rune Skjaermoen
The youngest member of the field is seen by many as the favourite for the title, since he was runner-up in 2015, winning the Wales Rally GB round. As a warm-up for the start of the season, the Finnish team Printsport driver won the WRC3 class at Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Vincent Dubert (France)
Date of birth: 16/10/1992 (23 years old)
Co-driver: Alexandre Coria
Team: AFC Racing
A loyal supporter of Citroën Racing’s promotional formulas since he started in rallying, Vincent Dubert won the France Citroën Racing Trophy in 2015. He was therefore awarded the budget to contest six rounds of this year’s FIA Junior WRC. With his experience limited to only three world rallies, he has much to learn.
Martin Koci (Slovakia)
Date of birth: 05/04/1993 (23 years old)
Co-driver: Lukas Kostka
Team: Styllex Motorsport
Third in the 2014 FIA Junior WRC, the talented young Slovakian returns to the Junior championship after a frustrating season in the WRC2. A similar approach to the one taken by Quentin Gilbert last year and which worked out quite well for the Frenchman… With solid experience of world rallying and of the DS 3 R3, Koci is a serious contender for the title.
Lukasz Pieniazek (Poland)
Date of birth: 19/09/1990 (25 years old)
Co-driver: Przemyslaw Mazur
Team: LP Rally Team
Whilst contesting the Junior European Rally Championship for the second year – he has just secured his first win in Ireland – the young Polish driver will getting his first taste of the World Championship and of driving the DS 3 R3-MAX. He’ll inevitably have plenty to learn about!
Romain Martel (France)
Date of birth: 18/09/1988 (27 years old)
Co-driver: Vanessa Lemoine
Team: Trajectoire Racing
A few months shy of the upper age limit for competing in the FIA Junior WRC, Romain Martel is trying something new. He has substantial experience of tarmac rallying in powerful cars such as the Super 2000s, but he has also taken part in few gravel rounds of the Citroën Racing Trophy.
Simone Tempestini (Italy)
Date of birth: 12/08/1994 (21 years old)
Co-driver: Matteo Chiarcossi
Team: Keane Motorsport
After starting the season in the WRC2, the Italian returns to the FIA Junior WRC for the third year running. Eighth in 2014 and fourth in 2015, winning the Polish round, he is now well-placed to fight for the title.
Mohamed Al Mutawaa (United Arab Emirates)
Date of birth: 02/12/1992 (23 years old)
Co-driver: Stephen McAuley
Team: Abu Dhabi Racing
After beginning his racing career on the track, the Emirati stood out during the selection procedure organised by Abu Dhabi Racing and Citroën Racing aimed at identifying promising young rally drivers. 2WD Middle-East Rally champion in 2014, last year he contested his first full season in the FIA Junior WRC. With that experience behind him, he will looking to make another step forward this year.
Frédéric Hauswald (France)
Date of birth: 11/11/1990 (25 years old)
Co-driver: Maxime Vilmot
Team: Trajectoire Racing
Having competed in various promotional formulas at the start of his career, the Alsace driver won the Junior Citroën Racing Trophy in 2013. After spending his first season learning about the Citroën Racing Trophy, he then finished a close second to Vincent Dubert in 2015. He also moves up to World rallying looking to keep improving.
Thilo Himmel (Namibia)
Date of birth: 16/01/1991 (25 years old)
Co-driver: Nico Swartz
Team: Hans Weijs Motorsport
A regular in the South African Championship, the Namibian will be experiencing European rallies for the first time this year. Fortunately, he will be able to call upon the experience of Hans Weijs and his team as he looks to improve in a totally new context.
Terry Folb (France)
Date of birth: 26/05/1990 (25 years old)
Co-driver: Franck Le Floch
Team: Sébastien Loeb Racing
The surprise package of 2015, finishing the season with three consecutive runner-up spots, Terry Folb will have the formidable privilege of racing for Sébastien Loeb’s team. Champion in 2001 in a Citroën Saxo Super 1600, the nine-time World Champion is entering his team in a rallying competition for the first time.
Andrea Crugnola (Italy)
Date of birth: 25/04/89 (27 years old)
Co-driver: Michele Ferrara
Team: Delta Rally
It’s now or never for the Italian, who will soon reach the upper age limit for competing in the FIA Junior WRC. His knowledge of the DS 3 R3 and WRC3 (fourth in 2015, winning in Germany and finishing as runner-up twice), make him one of the challengers for the title.
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