A mix of familiar faces and eager newcomers comprise a formidable entry for the opening round of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship in Sweden next week.
Fourteen drivers and co-drivers from 12 countries will bolt studded tyres onto their Ford Fiesta R2s as the revamped five-round series begins on the snow-covered roads of Rally Sweden (15 – 18 February) for the first time since 2006.
Among the favourites to emulate 2017 title winner Nil Solans (above) will be home hero and former European junior champion Emil Bergkvist. Partnered by the experienced Ola Fløene, Bergkvist returns to two-wheel drive action after two seasons in WRC 2.
Another likely front-runner is Ralfs Sirmacis, who finished third in the European Championship in 2016 after wins in Greece, Estonia and on home ground in Latvia.
Returning from last year are Frenchman Terry Folb, who was third in the standings, along with Germany’s Julius Tannert and Dennis Rådström, who lives close by Rally Sweden’s Torsby service park.
British junior champion Callum Devine and Briton Tom Williams, godson of 2001 world champion Richard Burns, step up to world level, while Italy is well-represented through Luca Bottarelli and Enrico Oldrati.
Making their WRC debuts are Estonia’s Ken Torn and French youngsters Jean-Baptiste Franceschi and Theo Chalal, while taking on the European contingent will be Emilio Fernández from Chile and New Zealander David Holder.