2021 World Rally Championship

Posted: April 2, 2021 7:26 PM - 3137 Hits

FIA JUNIOR WRC SET FOR TIGHTLY CONTESTED CHAMPIONSHIP - Armstrong/Hall & Creighton/Regan sign up.

Posted: April 2, 2021 10:00 AM

The 2021 FIA Junior WRC Championship is poised to have one of the most unpredictable and competitive seasons in its 20-year history thanks to an extremely talented line-up of entries.

2021 marks 20 years since Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena set upon their WRC dynasty by capturing the attention of every major team by winning every Junior WRC round they entered. The dominant duo went on to win the championship, catapulting themselves into the rallying stratosphere.

This year’s crews will do battle in identical M-Sport Poland-built Fiesta Rally4 cars and will all be looking to emulate their heroes and former Junior WRC icons such as Loeb, Ogier, Neuville, Sordo, Evans, Breen, Latvala and Meeke. The crews, exclusively equipped with Pirelli tyres and Wolf Lubricants, will be facing stiff competition in order to have their name added to the prestigious list of former Junior WRC Champions and win the biggest prize in rallying.

The 2021 FIA Junior WRC Champion will be able to choose from two prize packages the traditional prize package is still available including the M-Sport Fiesta Rally2, 200 Pirelli tyres, free registration for the 2022 WRC 3 Championship as well as five free entries. M-Sport, Pirelli and WRC Promoter have also provided an alternative and sustainable prize option too with five fully funded drives in the brand-new M-Sport Fiesta Rally3 in the WRC’s yet to be named Rally3 category championship.

The 2021 driver line-up sees a real mixture of Junior WRC rookies and veterans vying to become the next star of the WRC. All of this year’s drivers have unique specialities with strong potential to be rally winners in Junior WRC’s 20th anniversary year.

Maciej Woda, FIA Junior WRC Championship Manager:
“This year’s line-up of drivers is going to provide even more excitement to our championship which is an incredible way to celebrate our 20th year. We have championship contenders from last year going up against championship contenders from years gone by and other well-known junior championships. Normally it’s pretty clear who our strongest contenders are when going into the first round of the championship but this year it’s not the case. For this year’s crews, it has been especially difficult to pull together the support to enter the championship, they have all worked incredibly hard to get to this point and I want to take this opportunity to recognise their effort. It’s a very special privilege to be organising the FIA Junior WRC Championship in its 20th anniversary year, we have some special celebrations planned for later in the year and I cannot wait to share more details about them. For now, let’s look forward to Croatia Rally and a very competitive Junior WRC field!”

Statistics below each driver’s name are based on Junior WRC and WRC Academy results only.

Martins Sesks / Renars Francis
Wins: 1 Podiums: 3 Stage wins: 15 Rallies: 8 First rally: Sweden 2019

A Championship contender in 2020, Martins Sesks would eventually finish runner up to long-time rival and 2020 Junior WRC Champion, Tom Kristensson. Sesks had a difficult rookie season in 2019, despite setting fastest stage times on two out of the four rounds he contested. 2020 saw Sesks develop with mature drives earning him his maiden Junior WRC victory on Rally Estonia and a total of three podium finishes while taking at least one stage win on every Junior WRC round.

“We have a three-year plan which started in Junior WRC two years ago, the first year for getting used to the WRC and the experience, it didn’t go really well but we came back stronger last year. I think we were building our pace through the season and were championship leaders until the last round. We are now turning out focus on one target: the highest place in the championship and really looking forward to it. The competition is really high this year, I had some nice battles with Sami last year and he will be really fast this season. I think the other guys will be strong too, it will be really competitive, everyone has been the fastest guy at some point in their careers which will also make it really fun too!”

Sami Pajari / Marko Salminen
Wins: 0 Podiums: 1 Stage wins: 21 Rallies: 5 First rally: Finland 2019

Sami Pajari burst onto the Junior WRC stage at just 17 years old on Rally Finland in 2019, raising eyebrows after mixing it up with the top-three and taking stage wins. The young Finn really stepped up on every rally in 2020, with flashes of rally winning pace helping him to secure the Wolf Stage Points award with a total of 19 stage wins. Pajari finished third in the 2020 FIA Junior WRC Championship, claiming the Rookie Award thanks to being the highest placed rookie.

“I am really looking forward to starting my second full season of the FIA Junior WRC Championship, the start of the year has been successful for us, we did two rallies and won them both without any major issues. I have a good feeling right now, I think if things continue like this I shouldn’t have too many problems. I am feeling more confident now, I know the car and am comfortable, most of the guys in our championship are at a similar level too. I am really looking forward to battling again this year, especially after some close competition with Martins last year.”

Robert Virves / Sander Pruul
Wins: 0 Podiums: 1 Stage wins: 2 Rallies: 1 First rally: Estonia 2020

Robert Virves made a one-off appearance on Rally Estonia in 2020 and was able to fund his drive thanks to a crowd-funding campaign that captured the passion of Estonia’s rally fans. He didn’t disappoint either, leading most of the rally and taking everybody by surprise until heartbreak came by a puncture with only three stages to go. Virves hit back straight away with two stage wins and was able to claim third on his Junior WRC debut. Despite his disappointment, he proved more than anything that he will be one to watch for 2021.

“I am more than excited to be able compete in a high-level championship such as Junior WRC, let’s see what will happen! I did Rally Estonia with Junior WRC in 2020, it was a nice experience, I did quite controlled drive, we tried to make sure we reached the finish and not make any stupid mistakes. This year will not be easy, that’s for sure, we are doing a preparation rally in San Remo before Croatia. I’m not saying we will push for a win in Croatia, but you never know!”

Lauri Joona / Ari Koponen
Wins: 0 Podiums: 0 Stage wins: 0 Rallies: 1 First rally: Sweden 2020

Lauri Joona’s maiden Junior WRC podium escaped him in the closing moments of his first Junior WRC rally in Sweden 2020. The Finn made an impressive start and was sat third with a ten second gap over fourth on the final stage, then an untimely puncture in torrential rain saw him slip all the way to ninth. He had proven to everybody watching that he has the potential for some strong results and went on to win AKK’s Flying Finn Future Star Award. Joona is back for more Junior WRC action in 2021 and it’s just a matter of time before his first stage win and podium comes through.

“I am the 2020 Flying Finn Future Star Award winner after winning the Finnish Junior Championship last year and it’s really nice to be a part of the 2021 Junior WRC Championship. We did one round of Junior WRC last year in Sweden which was a great experience and got good information on how WRC events work. We will be trying for good stage times this year; asphalt rallying is totally new for me and I don’t have any experience on that surface except with gravel suspension. We try to get a good rhythm in Croatia and take it step by step. We are looking to get some asphalt testing before Croatia but right now there is still snow in Finland so we will have to see.”

Raul Badiu / Rares Fetean
Wins: 0 Podiums: 0 Stage wins: 2 Rallies: 7 First rally: Turkey 2018

Badiu enters his fourth season of FIA Junior WRC, including a cameo appearance on Rally Turkey for the finale of the 2018 championship. The Romanian demonstrated raw speed on all three surfaces Junior WRC competed on throughout 2019 posting top-three stage times and earning a career best of fourth on Rally d’Italia Sardegna before a horrific accident on Rally Finland. Badiu returned to action on Rally Sweden in 2020, taking his first stage win Torsby Sprint and his second came on the second pass of the same stage on his way to fifth overall. Heading to Croatia, Badiu has experience on similar roads with performances to prove it after an ERC3 podium on Rally Hungary in 2020 in an older specification car.

“I’m very excited, I’m happy to be here ready for the start of Croatia, it’s been a very difficult period with COVID and everything. Even under normal circumstances it’s difficult to get to these events but with COVID it’s even harder so to be here at the start is a huge relief. I have a new co-driver for this season, but I want to really thank Gaby so much for everything in this period of my career throughout all the ups and downs. I felt that being it’s my last year of Junior WRC I had to make a change and do something different which is why I chose Rares who I have worked with in Romania last year.”

Jon Armstrong / Phil Hall
Wins: 0 Podiums: 0 Stage wins: 0 Rallies: 1 First rally: Sweden 2020

With an impressive rally esports career, 2018 WRC eSports champion Armstrong is no stranger to the real world of rallying with an impressive resume heading into 2021. He has experience on WRC events, proving himself as a competitive driver in two-wheel and four-wheel drive machinery thanks to a top ten finish in WRC 2 on Rally Spain in 2017 and two Drive D-Mack Fiesta Trophy victories in 2016.

“After Rally Sweden in 2020 I really didn’t know if I was ever going to get the chance again to come back and give it all another go. I had quite a big crash and I’ve gotten over that but after that it was a scenario of ‘how can I make this happen?’ for 2021 and I’ve been working on getting here ever since. It’s like a dream come true to put this package together, I can’t wait. I think I need to be realistic and build up my speed again and see where we are at come the end of day one in Croatia. My goal in Croatia is just to bed myself back into it and take it from there. Asphalt is one of my favourite surfaces even though I’ve had really good results on gravel too, I feel comfortable on asphalt though and I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel.”

Martin Ko?i / Petr T?šínský
Wins: 2 Podiums: 7 Stage wins: 40 Rallies: 19 First rally: Germany 2012

Martin Koci’s Junior WRC career stretches back before FIA Junior WRC, when the feeder series was known as WRC Academy in 2012 the young Slovakian driver made a one-off appearance on Rally Germany. Koci returned in 2013 to the rebranded FIA Junior WRC Championship and improved year on year, claiming his first Junior WRC victory in 2014. Koci’s strongest season came in his last Junior WRC appearance when he finished on the podium four times in 2016 including one victory and finished second in the championship to Simone Tempestini. Koci went on to contest national championships in Rally2 machinery but claims he has unfinished business in FIA Junior WRC!

“We still want to achieve some goals in WRC, to be honest coming back was not an easy task but Junior WRC made the most sense for me. I think we feel we still have some business to finish off in this category still, we finished third in 2014, second in 2016 but we would like to go one position better. I’m not the youngest but they are the reasons I wanted to come back and I am happy with this choice. I was rallying on national events between my 2017 and now, it’s hard for me to say how it will go so I’m coming to the field with respect as I don’t know what kind of speed I have now. I’m working harder than ever to be as competitive as possible. We have already started our preparation; I did a rally last year on gravel with a Fiesta Rally4 and last week I had a first event with the Fiesta Rally4 on tarmac to get ready for the championship ahead.”

William Creighton / Liam Regan
Wins: 0 Podiums: 0 Stage wins: 0 Rallies: 0 First rally: Croatia 2021

Croatia Rally will mark William Creighton’s FIA Junior WRC rally debut as he embarks upon his first full international campaign away from national championships in the UK and Ireland. With a primarily asphalt background, Creighton is by no means a stranger to gravel, his last rally win was on the same stages that Rally GB is contested on after winning in the Junior WRC on the 2020 Cambrian Rally. With various national success in previous seasons, Creighton is looking to build his experience as he settles into the pace of FIA Junior WRC.

“We’ve competed on a WRC event before, on Rally GB we did the full WRC rally for the British Rally Championship, but we had to restart the rally on my first attempt. I’ve been on YouTube trying to gather as many videos as I can of the roads in Croatia but watching it on your laptop and experiencing it are two very different things. We’ll be doing as much research as we can heading in though. We’re relatively inexperienced when it comes to rallies outside of Ireland and the UK but the only way you can learn is to go and do them.”

Creighton launches Junior World Rally Championship bid

Posted: April 2, 2021 9:58 AM

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy member William Creighton will make the biggest step in his career by mounting an assault on the coveted FIA Junior World Rally Championship in 2021.

Creighton, 23 from Moira in Co. Down will compete for one of the biggest prizes in rallying in the most hotly contested series in the world, with all crews vying for a chance to scoop a brand new M-Sport Fiesta Rally 2, 200 free tyres from Pirelli and registration into the WRC3 category in 2022, seen as the next step on the WRC ladder of opportunity.

Joined by regular co-driver Liam Regan, Creighton will contest the formidable five-round series behind the wheel of an M-Sport Fiesta Rally 4 with each championship contender driving identical machinery, making it one of the closest championships in the world.

The Billy Coleman Award nominee will be backed by Creightons and the PRM Group during his campaign which begins at Rally Croatia at the end of April and Creighton is excited by the prospect of joining the World Rally Championship tour.

“This really is an unbelievable opportunity for me and my career,” says Creighton.

“The Junior World rally Championship is the pinnacle of the sport for aspiring young drivers who want to progress and to have the chance to prove myself in such an iconic championship is pretty overwhelming to be honest. But if ever there was a time to grab an opportunity with both hands, this is it. It doesn’t get much better than this”.

Creighton has enjoyed a dynamic and successful motorsport career. Starting on the racetrack, he became the Ulster Kart champion in 2012 before moving into rallying and the Junior 1000 series, developing into one of the most experienced Junior drivers of the current era, honing his skills on the British and Irish stages since the age of 14.

The two-time Junior British Rally Championship runner-up made the switch from a Peugeot 208 R2 to a Fiesta Rally 4 for the 2020 season, winning the category at the Cambrian Rally before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the series.

An outing on the FIA European Rally Championship circuit at Rally di Roma in Italy offered valuable experience of the Fiesta Rally 4 in Europe and with a new look to the JWRC calendar for 2021, Creighton believes this is the right time to tackle one of the biggest series in the world.

“I'm only 23 but time does tick by very quickly and we really did see this year's Junior WRC as a great opportunity in so many ways. When you look at this year’s series, there are probably a few events in there that many of the crews haven’t done before and when there are guys in there doing the championship two years in a row, the pace becomes that much quicker from the drivers who have been to that round before.

This year, it creates a slightly more level playing field I guess and it’s a real bonus I have experience of Ypres from my British Rally Championship campaigns”.

After the Croatia opener, rounds in Portugal, Estonia, Belgium and Spain make up the series and Creighton believes being as prepared as possible will be the key to his championship results.

“The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy has been key to this campaign and its fantastic to have their support and knowledge alongside me this season. Along with my sponsors Creightons, PRM Group, DGM Sport and Race and Rally, we have a fantastic opportunity to look forward to and it’s down to Liam and I to make the most of it. We don’t know where we will be in terms of pace yet, but we do know that it will be mega, so we really need to bring our A-game and I'm really looking forward to pushing myself to see what we can do.”

Creighton enjoyed a positive pre-season shakedown last weekend at the Kowax Valašská Rally ValMez in the Czech Republic, taking six class stage wins on his way to second place in the RC4 category.

“I'm excited for this year's campaign and last weekend was the perfect opportunity to get back into the groove ahead of the JWRC season. The seat time was valuable and it's important to go beyond your comfort zone in the JWRC so Rally Valmez helped build the confidence. It’s great to have everyone’s support for this very special campaign - I can’t wait to get going”.

You can follow Creighton's progress at this weekend's event and his Junior World Rally Championship campaign this season by following him on his social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Hyundai Motorsport reaffirms commitment to WRC’s hybrid era

Posted: April 2, 2021 9:56 AM

Hyundai Motorsport has reaffirmed its commitment to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with the company developing a brand-new challenger for WRC’s hybrid era based on the Hyundai i20 N road car.

The two-time manufacturers’ championship-winning team - currently in its eighth season in WRC - supports the new direction outlined by the FIA and the WRC Promoter which strengthens Hyundai’s use of motorsport as a showcase of its high-performance and sustainability credentials.

Hyundai Motorsport will also compete in the inaugural Pure ETCR championship later this year with the Veloster N ETCR - the first-ever electric race car developed by the company - as it actively promotes the transfer of relevant technology between motorsport and production vehicles. The introduction of hybrid into WRC strengthens this commitment yet further.

Having taken consecutive WRC titles in 2019 and 2020, the new regulations will offer Hyundai Motorsport an exciting new technical challenge, while reflecting Hyundai Motor Company’s values of pioneering spirit, innovation and leadership in future mobility.

Since the establishment of Hyundai Motorsport at the end of 2012, rallying and circuit racing has since become a key performance pillar for Hyundai. Knowledge shared between the Alzenau-based company and the Hyundai N brand has already delivered success in WRC and the WTCR - World Touring Car Cup. The competitive high-tech environment, in which split seconds are critical, allows Hyundai to evaluate new technologies which can then inform development of production cars.

Team Principal Andrea Adamo said:
“Hyundai Motorsport exists to support the global objectives set by Hyundai Motor Company, by offering a credible platform to showcase current and future automotive technology. Through racing and rallying, we are able to influence and give direction to development of tomorrow’s Hyundai road cars; this is a real honour and a role we take incredibly seriously. We are therefore pleased to support to the future direction outlined by the FIA and the WRC Promoter with the new hybrid regulations from 2022. We will develop our car around the Hyundai i20 N, which itself was inspired by our WRC success to date. As two-time champions, we welcome the new challenge and look forward to flying the Hyundai flag into this new era.”

Vice President and Head of N Brand Management and Motorsport Sub-Division at Hyundai Motor Company, Till Wartenberg said:
“Motorsport remains a hugely valuable testbed for Hyundai’s future mobility models and technology. It is imperative for us to embrace more sustainable solutions, so we are delighted to see WRC move in this direction with new hybrid regulations that will create a more relevant link to our road vehicle technology. We relish the challenge and know that the skilled, experienced team at Hyundai Motorsport will do all they can to maintain the title and rally-winning status that they have built up in recent years. The positive impact that motorsport activities have on our high-performance N brand and mother brand Hyundai should not be undervalued; it’s the ideal platform on which we can develop future technology while showcasing the sheer passion and fun of driving Hyundai cars.

Whether it’s with our Veloster N ETCR or the hybrid WRC challenger based on the Hyundai i20 N, we are committed to showing how cutting-edge technology can be combined with more sustainable solutions in motorsport.”

M-SPORT FORD COMMIT TO WRC HYBRID ERA

Posted: April 2, 2021 9:55 AM

M-Sport Ford have committed to the future of rallying – pledging to register and participate in the FIA World Rally Championship’s new hybrid era from 2022 to 2024.

This new commitment strengthens M-Sport’s relationship with the Blue Oval – a partnership which has delivered considerable success over more than two decades.

Joining forces in 1997, M-Sport Ford have secured seven FIA World Rally Championships, 61 victories, 262 podiums and more than 1500 stage wins – making them one of the sport’s most successful partnerships with an unbroken record of 258 consecutive point scores.

The introduction of hybrid technology into the FIA World Rally Championship signals a landmark development at the highest level of the sport – and M-Sport Ford remain committed to delivering top results with rally-winning technology.

The commitment also ensures M-Sport’s continuation at the pinnacle of the sport – safeguarding jobs and boosting engineering expertise at the team’s Dovenby Hall headquarters.

Aligned with Ford’s global strategy towards creating a more sustainable future, the world’s toughest championship for production-based cars is now fully committed to the introduction of greener technology; and M-Sport Ford are fully committed to the continuation of their successful partnership.

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s always been important for our sport to move with the times, and this commitment to hybrid technology aligns the future of rallying with Ford’s global commitment towards a more sustainable future.

“As the toughest championship for production-based cars, the FIA World Rally Championship provides the perfect platform to test, develop and promote the latest road car technology – making this development integral to the relevance and continuation of our sport.

“It has also been integral to the continuation of our successful partnership with Ford and safeguards the immediate future of M-Sport in the FIA World Rally Championship.

“Over the past two decades we have delivered some fantastic performances and developed some of the championship’s most successful cars and drivers. Working closely with Ford Performance, it is our intention to continue that success in 2022 and progress on our latest challenger continues with testing both here in the UK and in America.

“There is still a long way to go, but we’re committed to delivering another rally winner as the world moves towards a more sustainable future.”

Global Director for Ford Performance, Mark Rushbrook, said:
“The WRC’s transition from pure internal combustion engine powertrains to hybrid technology comes at an opportune time for Ford.

“The company is rapidly moving towards an electrified future, developing hybrid and electric vehicle technology for our newest passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles around the world.

“Running a hybrid Rally 1 car next season will enable us to test and demonstrate this technology in the thrilling spectacle that is WRC, and we can’t wait to show you what it can do!”

WRC manufacturers confirm three-year hybrid agreement

Posted: April 2, 2021 9:53 AM

All three current WRC manufacturers have embraced the sport’s exciting new hybrid era by committing to register and participate in the FIA World Rally Championship from 2022 to 2024.

Hyundai, M-Sport Ford and Toyota have pledged their futures to the production car-based series, which will undergo a landmark change in 2022 when top tier cars will be powered by a mix of an electric motor and the current combustion engine.

The agreement includes an equal contribution from the FIA and the manufacturers to the development costs of the new technology, which will have a strong focus on sustainability, safety and cost management.

The introduction of hybrid technology was announced in 2019 and close collaboration between the manufacturers, WRC Promoter and FIA led to technical regulations receiving a green light at this month’s World Motor Sport Council.

WRC Promoter managing director Jona Siebel hailed the trio’s commitment as another positive step for the championship’s future.

“It’s no exaggeration to say the introduction of sustainable hybrid technology for the WRC’s headline category marks one of the biggest milestones in the sport’s history. It’s fitting such a major progression will be welcomed in the championship’s 50th anniversary season,” he said.

“Along with the FIA and the manufacturers, WRC Promoter is fully committed to the introduction of greener cars. The hybrid powertrain forms an integral part of the automotive industry as the world moves towards a more sustainable future, and it’s essential the WRC is aligned with this evolution.

“This is rallying with a purpose – providing a perfect R&D platform for the automotive industry to communicate its new technology.

“WRC remains motorsport’s toughest championship for production-based cars and the leadership from these teams sends a positive message about its future to other manufacturers considering joining the series,” Siebel added.

To ensure increased stability and better long-term planning opportunities, the FIA is introducing a three-year championship commitment for manufacturers in place of single-year agreements.

From 2022, a new system will be introduced to the series, with the three current manufacturers and the FIA each owning one of four licences.

The hybrid announcement follows confirmation of the WRC’s plans for more sustainable fuel for competing cars and greener energy sources in the service park.

Requests for tenders have been invited for:

    Sustainable fuel, with the supplier providing a fuel or series of fuels to be used by competitors across the different championship classes.
    Branding of the plug-in hybrid charging stations in service parks.
    Sustainable energy generation and supply in the service park to cover the needs of the plug-in charging elements of the World Rally Cars and general service park power requirements.

Rally Northern Ireland (WRC) - 19-22 Aug 21 - NOT GOING AHEAD

Posted: March 28, 2021 9:14 AM

To be replaced by Belgium (Ypres) - 13-15 Aug 21

SUNINEN, GREENSMITH AND FOURMAUX FORM M-SPORT SQUAD IN 2021

Posted: January 14, 2021 2:46 PM

Teemu Suninen, Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux will form the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team squad in 2021 as the Cumbrians continue to champion young talent with the ambition of a successful future in the FIA World Rally Championship.

Backing three youngsters already on the books, the aim is to progress their development and see them follow in the footsteps of their predecessors – 2019 FIA World Rally Champion, Ott Tänak, and 2020 FIA World Rally Championship runner-up, Elfyn Evans.

Continuing with compatriot co-driver Elliott Edmondson, Greensmith will contest his first full campaign with the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC and intends to make the most of his first complete season with the top-specification Fiesta.

Securing three top-ten finishes as well as a career-best fifth place last year, the Brit will use the opportunity to further his progression and is already putting in the work ahead of the opening round at Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Joining Greensmith in a second Ford Fiesta WRC at the Monegasque event, Teemu Suninen will contest a partial programme this year. Parting ways with co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen who is tackling a new challenge away from the pacenotes, the young Finn will be looking to put his previous experience to good use.

A replacement co-driver is yet to be confirmed, but Suninen remains hungry for success and will target specific events where he will have an opportunity to challenge for the top results and showcase his speed and commitment behind the wheel.

Sharing the Ford Fiesta WRC with Suninen on selected events, Adrien Fourmaux will also contest a full WRC 2 campaign with the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2 – starting with the classic opener at Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Continuing with Belgian co-driver Renaud Jamoul, the pairing are keen to continue their development with further experience in the FIA World Rally Championship’s premier support series, as well as further opportunities at the sport’s highest level.

M-Sport Ford’s striking 2020 livery will also be carried forward to 2021, albeit with a few subtle changes. A new roof motif is prominent amongst these changes and extends the popular design with further flashes of blue.

Greensmith and Suninen will both sport the Castrol-branded livery at Rallye Monte-Carlo, and a number of Pirelli logos have also been added – the Italian manufacturer becoming the official tyre supplier of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:


“M-Sport has a long history of supporting young drivers – it’s something that remains very close to Malcolm’s heart, and we remain committed to Teemu, Gus and Adrien as they continue their development in 2021. All three have a lot of talent, and we’ve devised programmes to bring out the best in each driver whilst enabling further progression at the various stages of their careers.

“Gus delivered some impressive split and stage times last year, and it’s now time for him to develop those skills further. We’re delighted to offer him his first full season with the top-specification Fiesta, and want to see him and Elliott take maximum experience from a full rally and test programme – learning not only the rallies, but the intricacies of set-up, engineering and everything that goes into becoming a world-class driver. I know they’re already putting the work in to ensure they make the most of this opportunity, and I’m really keen to see how they develop over the course of the year.

“We all know that Teemu has the speed – it’s something we saw on his very first outing with the Ford Fiesta WRC and we felt it important to find a way for him to continue with us this year. We’ve managed to create a partial WRC programme for him, and will target specific events where he and the Fiesta can be competitive. It’s a shame to have lost Jarmo, but Teemu learnt a lot from the short time they spent together and I’m sure he’ll put that to good use this year.

“Adrien also really impressed us last year, and we’re delighted to offer him another full WRC 2 programme with the Ford Fiesta Rally2 as well as some further outings with the Fiesta WRC. We want to ensure he gets to experience as many rallies as possible – continuing to showcase the performance of the Fiesta Rally2 but also starting to pit himself against the world’s best.

“We will continue to work hard to see if we can increase Teemu’s programme and bring additional top-level drivers into the squad, but we also have to be honest and say that the Covid situation has made things extremely difficult for us. That said, we hope there is light at the end of the tunnel and I know that every single member of the team will continue to give their best as we push for the best possible results in 2021.”

Teemu Suninen said:

“It’s great to be back in the Fiesta WRC this year. We all know how difficult times are at the moment, and I want to thank the team for their continued support and opportunity to show what I can do this year. We’ll have to wait and see how many rallies I can do, but I will work hard to do my best and deliver good results at every event.

“It’s a shame not to have Jarmo with me again this year, but we knew that this partnership would have to come to an end at some point. I learnt so much from him over the past 18 months, and straight away we secured a fantastic result together – my career-best second place in Sardinia in 2019. I want to thank Jarmo for everything and wish him the best of luck in his new adventure. I am glad that he will still have a place in the sport he loves – just on the other side of the table now!”

Gus Greensmith said:

“I’m really proud to represent M-Sport Ford, and incredibly grateful for the opportunity of a full season in the FIA World Rally Championship. This has been my dream since I was a boy, and I’m really looking forward to getting started.

“Last year gave us a taster of what to expect, and now we’re ready to throw everything into this season and really focus on progressing throughout year – not only in terms of my driving, but in terms of everything that goes into making a successful career in the FIA World Rally Championship.”

Adrien Fourmaux said:

“It’s a new season with a new goal, but one with another fantastic opportunity for me. I want to thank Malcolm, Rich and the whole team for the opportunity and intend to make the most of all the experience I’m set to gain this year.

“I’m looking forward to pushing for the top results in the WRC 2 category. We got really close to victory quite a few times last year, and believe we have everything we need to succeed this season. And of course I’m looking forward to some outings with the world rally car – to experience competition at this level and better understand every element that goes into reaching the very top of the sport.”

Hyundai Motorsport names Oliver Solberg/Aaron Johnson for 2021 WRC 2 campaign

Posted: December 18, 2020 11:58 AM

Hyundai Motorsport has announced that Oliver Solberg and Ole Christian Veiby will spearhead its manufacturer entry into the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship-2 (WRC 2), strengthening the team’s ongoing commitment to nurturing the driving talents of the future.

The two drivers will compete initially in the rally-winning Hyundai i20 R5 before moving into the brand-new Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car when it becomes available for competition mid-season. The new car completed its first tests successfully at the end of November. The precise schedule of 2021 events for Solberg (co-driver Aaron Johnston) and Veiby (co-driver Jonas Andersson) will be announced at a later date.

Oliver is the youngest, upcoming star from the well-known Solberg family, at the age of 19. Having been in and around WRC his entire life, Solberg started out in crosskarts, but by 15 he was learning his rally craft in Latvia as well as in rallycross. He stepped up to R5 machinery in 2019, taking the Latvian/Estonian/Baltic title. He made his WRC debut in Wales Rally GB that same year, and took his first WRC 3 win at this season’s Rally Estonia. In addition he claimed the FIA ERC1 junior title. The Swedish-Norwegian rising star has now signed a two-year agreement with Hyundai Motorsport.

Solberg said: “For me to be joining Hyundai Motorsport is incredible. The team’s recent achievements say it all - twice manufacturers’ champions in WRC, along with a successful Customer Racing division. It’s an exciting time to join a team like this. To have the chance to work for these guys, it’s not just a real thrill for me, it will be fantastic to learn from everyone. I am looking forward to driving the i20 R5 and then the i20 N Rally2 car as part of a full WRC 2 campaign next year. We will go into the championship with a winning mentality and with the important responsibility of representing Hyundai around the world. I am also happy to have another young driver, Ole Christian Veiby, in the WRC 2 set-up. I hope this commitment will open the doors to even greater opportunities for me in the future.”

“OC” Veiby, meanwhile, is already well acquainted with Hyundai Motorsport and the Hyundai i20 R5, having contested five out of the seven rounds held in 2020. He took his first WRC 2 podium with second place in Rally Sweden, with stages in his home country of Norway, where he made his series debut back in 2016. In his first season with the revised specification Hyundai i20 R5, he added further class podiums in Mexico (third) and Sardinia (second), to finish fourth in the drivers’ standings.

Veiby commented: “I am very happy to stay within the Hyundai Motorsport family. I have really enjoyed competing with the Hyundai i20 R5 this year; I’ve learned a lot and I’m pleased to continue the work we have started. The 2020 season didn’t turn out the way we wanted. We took three podiums out of the five WRC 2 events we contested, but there is no doubt we really wanted to win and to be on the top step of the podium. It has been a very different and challenging year, and I’m looking forward to having another year to fight properly in WRC 2. We will start the season in the R5 car, but during the year the new Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car will be introduced and I’m really excited about competing in that. It’s also great to have Oliver onboard. I'm sure he will make a valuable contribution to the team and it will be very inspiring for me to work with such a passionate driver.”

Hyundai Motorsport has demonstrated its commitment to identifying and supporting up-and-coming talent for a number of years, having added Finnish driver Jari Huttunen to its books three years ago. Throughout 2020, Huttunen has shown why he is such an exciting talent, having secured the Polish national title this year, as well as WRC 3 championship honours. Hyundai Motorsport remains committed to supporting Huttunen, whose programme for next season will be revealed in due course.

Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Andrea Adamo: “On the back of our second consecutive manufacturers’ title in the WRC, it is important for us to reaffirm our commitment to young talent and rising stars. We are pleased to welcome Oliver Solberg into the Hyundai Motorsport family, to join Ole Christian, with whom we have already worked this year. Both are exciting talents and definitely ‘ones-to-watch’. Oliver, of course, has a very well known surname but he has already started to prove himself in his own right, with results like the WRC 3 win in Estonia. Ole Christian, too, had some promising results in our i20 R5 during the year. We are confident that both young talents will demonstrate the potential not only of our R5 car initially, but also our brand-new Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car which we expect will make its competitive debut mid-season. Our Customer Racing department has worked fiercely during this challenging year to produce competitive rally machinery for crews around the world, so we are excited to see what our customer cars can do on the world rally stages in 2021 with these ambitious drivers. We can’t talk about rising stars without mentioning Jari Huttunen, who has been linked to Hyundai since the end of 2017. He has had a fantastic season in 2020 including the Polish title and the WRC 3 championship. We are working on Jari’s programme for 2021 and more will be known on that in due course.”

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team new Team Principal: Jari-Matti Latvala

Posted: December 18, 2020 11:54 AM

The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team is preparing to target further FIA World Rally Championship success in 2021. Sébastien Ogier, who won his seventh drivers’ title in his first season with the team in 2020, has extended his career to spend one more year driving the Toyota Yaris WRC. He will once again line up alongside Elfyn Evans, the 2020 championship runner-up, and exciting young talent Kalle Rovanperä.

Completing this squad of expert drivers is a new Team Principal: Jari-Matti Latvala. The most experienced driver in the history of the WRC, Latvala has been appointed to succeed Tommi Mäkinen, who takes up the role of Motorsport Advisor to Toyota from January 2021.

Latvala has been selected by Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation, to bring a driver’s perspective to a management team that also includes Yuichiro Haruna, Project Director; Kaj Lindström, Sporting Director; and Tom Fowler, Technical Director.

A winner of 18 rounds of the WRC, Latvala has been part of the story of the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team since its debut in 2017. After joining the team he played a crucial role in the development of the Toyota Yaris WRC in weeks before its competitive debut at Rallye Monte-Carlo – where he finished second overall. He then claimed the team’s first victory in the following event, Rally Sweden. His win on Rally Australia at the end of 2018 helped to secure the manufacturers’ championship for Toyota.

As well as being one of rallying’s most popular drivers, Latvala is known for his enthusiasm of the sport, and even maintains and competes in classic Toyota rally cars. During 2020, he has served as an ambassador for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing around the world, something that will continue in his new role as Team Principal.

He will also bring his knowledge and understanding of what a top rally driver requires from a car and from a team. His recent and extensive experience of competing at the front of the WRC will be particularly valuable for the team’s young drivers; namely Rovanperä and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRC Challenge Program driver Takamoto Katsuta.

Quotes: Akio Toyoda (Team Chairman, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team)
“It’s been a year since we gave Jari-Matti a send-off from the team as a driver. And now, I’m very glad that I’m delivering this message again. When thinking about our new team from 2021, Jari-Matti’s face first came to my mind. That’s because there were many situations in which I empathised with him since we met.”

“He always thinks of the fans and of his team-mates. Being one of the top drivers, I often saw him running up to fans as soon as he got out of the car at the service park. He cared about everybody in the team like mechanics and engineers and always talked to them. I believe this kind of attitude and character empowered the team a lot and helped lead to the manufacturers’ title.”

“When I first met him, he was wearing Volkswagen overalls, but he talked to me about his old Celicas and Corollas with a huge passion. The following year, he changed his overalls to Toyota’s. He loved our Yaris WRC, took very good care of it, and made it stronger. As a car guy who loves cars, I still remember how happy I was to see his love for cars and love for Toyota.”

“’We hate to lose.’ This is also what we have in common. When he had to retire at Rally Australia in 2017, he must have been more disappointed than anyone else, however, he came to the team members and apologised for his mistake. He has a strong sense of responsibility. I know the ‘we hate to lose’ mindset makes the team and cars stronger.”

“His ability as a manager is unproven, but the attributes that we have in common between us were the deciding factors for entrusting the team to him. I believe these will bring the strength to the team.”

“I trust him to lead the new Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team and I’m looking forward to climbing up onto the roof of the Yaris WRC with him.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“I am really honoured to be taking on this position with the team, and by the trust that Akio Toyoda has shown in me. I’m really excited to continue the work he started together with Tommi, having been a part of this team from the beginning as a driver.”

“Now, as Team Principal, I have to see the bigger picture: I have to motivate everybody in the team to work together to achieve the best results. It’s a new challenge and I’m up for it.”

“Tommi has done a fantastic job with the team, building it up from zero and bringing the success that he has. Of course, there is always room for improvement and I want to use what I have learned over the years as a driver and work together with the team directors to make this team as successful as possible.”

“The 2021 season is just around the corner but the entire package is already there within the team, with a proven car and the same strong driver line-up, and everybody knows what needs to be done to prepare for Rallye Monte-Carlo in January.”

Hyundai Motorsport: Craig Breen/Paul Nagle & Dani Sordo complete competitive crew line-up for 2021 season

Posted: December 9, 2020 9:26 AM

Hyundai Motorsport has confirmed it will field four different drivers in the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in an effort to defend its recently secured second manufacturers’ title crown*.

Dani Sordo will extend his collaboration with the team into an eighth season, having played an instrumental role in this year’s title with his second successive win in Rally Italia Sardegna.

Sordo will drive a third Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in selected events during 2021, alternating with Craig Breen. The Irishman impressed the team this year with a strong charge to second place in Estonia, his standout performance in a curtailed season.

Hyundai Motorsport, who secured the 2020 championship at Rally Monza last weekend, will retain its rally-winning drivers Ott Tänak and Thierry Neuville to spearhead next year’s championship campaign.

Tänak joined Hyundai Motorsport on the back of his own title-winning year in 2019. The Estonian got up to speed quickly in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, taking podiums Sweden and Mexico, before registering his first win for the team on home soil.

For Neuville, 2021 will be his eighth consecutive season with Hyundai Motorsport. Across seven championships, the Belgian has claimed 13 victories, including Rallye Monte-Carlo earlier this year, where he made his debut with the team back in 2014.

Hyundai Motorsport will get its 2021 title defence underway at Rallye Monte-Carlo from January 21-24, with Tänak, Neuville and Sordo. Breen will begin his season at Rally Sweden in February, the scheduled second round of the season.

Team Principal Andrea Adamo said:
“We have hardly finished one season before our thoughts immediately turn to the next. After a disrupted 2020 championship due to the pandemic, consistency will be key as we aim to build further on our achievements. We are pleased to confirm that Dani and Craig will share a third Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in 2021, alongside our previously announced drivers Thierry and Ott. All four drivers have shown their speed and commitment this year, with victories and podiums to support our title fight. Our crews offer the perfect blend of experience and hunger for our 2021 title hopes - both in the manufacturers’ and drivers’ - and we are pleased to have them in our organisation.”

Dani Sordo said:
“I have said before that Hyundai Motorsport is like a family to me, and that has never been clearer than during 2020. We have had a challenging year, but we have supported each other through it all. I am fortunate to have been part of this team since the very start and we continue to grow each year. Securing my second WRC win with the team in Sardinia - repeating what we achieved in 2019 - was a great example of how we can continue to be successful together. I look forward to more great results in 2021!”

Craig Breen said:
“To have the opportunity to compete on the stages of the World Rally Championship with Hyundai Motorsport has genuinely been a dream come true for me. Although I have joined the team in occasional rallies since 2018, this year we were really able to demonstrate our potential, with second place in Estonia. It gives us something exciting from which we can build. The team has placed its faith in myself and Paul to deliver more of these results in 2021. We’ll give everything we’ve got, starting from Rally Sweden.”

*subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA

Croatia and Estonia named in 2021 WRC calendar

Posted: October 9, 2020 3:31 PM

Croatia will host a round of the FIA World Rally Championship for the first time after being named in the 2021 calendar on Friday (9 October).

Estonia is also included in the 12-round series after being called-up at short notice to host a widely-praised post-lockdown restart event in September. It was the Baltic state’s first WRC appearance.

Kenya’s iconic Safari Rally and Japan, which were both included in this year’s schedule but cancelled due to the pandemic, are also listed. Spain returns after a year’s absence.

The season features nine European events and three outside Europe. It has been strategically designed to allow for a continued Covid-19 impact on international sport by scheduling the majority of rounds from June onwards.

The calendar was approved by the FIA, world motorsport’s governing body, and WRC Promoter managing director Jona Siebel said it would appeal to both competitors and WRC fans alike.

“The inclusion of Croatia to the WRC for the first time is an exciting new challenge to our fixture list and brings huge anticipation,” he added.

“Estonia’s championship debut a few weeks ago proved a massive success, even more so given the short time available to the organisers to prepare the rally. It fully deserves to retain its slot for 2021.”

The 2021 championship in detail

The season kicks-off with the traditional season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo in the French Alps. It will be followed by Rally Sweden, the series’ only pure winter fixture.

Croatia forms the third round and will be held on 22 - 25 April. It is the opening pure asphalt encounter and will be based in capital city Zagreb.

Portugal’s late-May fixture is the first of three hot weather gravel rounds. It is followed in June by Italy and Kenya, which completes the opening half of the championship.

The cancellation of this year’s Safari Rally Kenya, one of global motorsport’s legendary contests, means the WRC returns to Africa, the world’s second largest continent by size, for the first time since 2002.

Fast dirt road rounds in Estonia and Finland open the season’s second sector in July ahead of August’s United Kingdom date.

WRC Promoter is in discussion with the UK governing body, Motorsport UK, which is working to confirm the required government funding. An announcement is expected to be forthcoming.

Two of the final three rounds take place outside Europe. Chile and Spain precede Japan, which hosts the coveted final round in November. Japan’s inclusion, 11 years after the previous WRC fixture there, marks mainstream Asia’s first appearance since then.

WRC Promoter develops strategy to combat effects of pandemic

The continued consequences of Covid-19, which led to the loss of several WRC rounds in 2020, had a major influence on the calendar structure.

After the opening rounds in Monte-Carlo and Sweden, winter events which cannot be moved from their early year dates, the season pauses for more than two months to allow maximum time for the effects of the pandemic to ease.

No rounds outside Europe are scheduled before late June and only a third of the 12 rounds will be held across the first five months of the year.

“Covid-19 has hit international sporting events extremely hard. WRC has not been spared, leading to the unfortunate cancellation of several events throughout 2020,” said Siebel.

“So, in developing the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship calendar, we had to take pragmatic and strategic decisions on the continuing impact on global travel next year.

“We could not foresee any long-haul events being held in a safe manner for the public, or for our large group of travelling staff, suppliers, competitors and media, for the first five months of 2021.

“It’s essential our event organisers are fully committed to managing the difficult Covid-19 controls we can expect to be in place next year while delivering high-quality championship rounds. I’m confident the 12 rallies chosen for next year will not let us down,” he added.

In a further measure, rallies in Turkey, Latvia, Belgium, Greece, Italy (Monza) and Argentina will be on a reserve list of contingency events in case of Covid-19 issues, the latter as an option for non-European rounds.

Championship Rounds (Revised 26 Mar 21)

Posted: October 9, 2020 3:30 PM

  1. Monte Carlo (WRC) - 21-24 Jan 21
  2. Sweden (WRC) - 11-14 Feb 21
  3. Croatia (WRC) - 22-25 Apr 21
  4. Portugal (WRC) - 20-23 May 21
  5. Italy (WRC) - 3-6 Jun 21
  6. Kenya Safari Rally (WRC) - 24-27 Jun 21
  7. Estonia (WRC) - 15-18 Jul 21
  8. Finland (WRC) - 29 Jul-1 Aug 21
  9. Belgium (WRC) - 13-15 Aug 21
  10. Greece (WRC) - 9-12 Sep 21
  11. Spain (WRC) - 14-17 Oct 21
  12. Japan (WRC) - 11-14 Nov 21
    UK (WRC) - 19-22 Aug 21 - CANCELLED
    Chile (WRC) - 9-12 Sep 21 - CANCELLED

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