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JUNIOR WRC: RALLY TURKEY PREVIEW

The 2018 FIA Junior World Rally Championship will come to an exciting close when Rally Turkey hosts the fifth and final round this week. Double points are up for grabs, and eight of the competing crews have a mathematical chance of clinching the title.

This year’s championship has witnessed some intensely close-fought rallying and the competition could not be tighter. The protagonists are equipped with identical one-litre EcoBoost Ford Fiesta R2s shod with Pirelli tyres, and the stage is set for a showdown of epic proportions.

While Turkey has hosted a round of the FIA World Rally Championship before, the championship has never visited this region and absolutely everything is new.

The crews must do their research in advance and be completely focused in the lead-up to the event. Brand-new pacenotes must be made for every kilometre, and the correct set-ups determined for the unfamiliar terrain.

This is the ultimate test on a completely level playing field and those who emerge victorious will have demonstrated all the skills of a deserving champion.

Currently leading the championship standings is Emil Bergkvist. The Swede may not have claimed a victory so far this year, but he has been in the fight at every event and competitive on every surface. Can he secure the title with victory this weekend?

Fellow Swede Dennis Rådström will be looking to prevent that. Rådström has won more events than anyone else this year and led the championship all season before being toppled by his rival at the previous round. Victory on home soil in Sweden and was followed by an intelligent drive to the top step of the podium in Portugal, and he’ll be looking to do the same in Turkey.

Another driver keen to taste the winners’ champagne is Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Franceschi. After winning his home event at the Tour de Corse, Franceschi has proved a quick learner and challenged for the podium positions at every event.

Rally Finland winner Ken Torn is also a strong candidate for victory and championship glory. The Estonian has speed in abundance and has regularly challenged at the top of the field. A mistake-free run in Turkey could see the Estonian snatch the title.

Also in contention for the title this week are Julius Tannert, Callum Devine, Enrico Oldrati and Bugra Banaz. Despite this being a brand new event for all concerned, Tannert’s experience of the championship could work in his favour as could Devine’s calm and composed character.

Having contested just a single rally sprint before the opening round in Sweden, Oldrati would never have dreamed of being in with a shot of the title come the final round, but here he is – his determination and will to learn paying dividends.

Local hero Banaz will also be looking to give the home crowd something to cheer about. The Turkish driver has contested a number of events in his homeland, and will be hoping that gives him the advantage when it comes to reading the road and conditions.

Also in competition this week are Luca Bottarelli, David Holder, Tom Williams and Emilio Fernández – all of whom will be looking to put everything they have learnt into practice and finishing the season with a positive result.

The Junior WRC also welcomes a newcomer to the service area in the form of Raul Badiu. Having contested a number of rallies in his homeland, the Romanian will make his WRC debut in Turkey.

FIA Junior World Rally Championship Manager, Maciej Woda, said:

“We have had such a fantastic season and the fact that eight of the competing crews in Turkey are capable of taking the title just proves how close-fought the competition has been. Every single competitor can be proud of what they have achieved this year. There are so many highlights, from so many of the crews, and whoever comes out on top will be a very worthy winner.

“But as we all know, it will not be easy and Rally Turkey provides the toughest test yet. This is a completely new challenge for everyone – a level playing field where everyone will have to make brand-new pacenotes and relay on their natural ability to read the road. We’re expecting the stages to be pretty rough, and the eventual winner will have displayed intelligence as well as speed.”

 

DRIVER QUOTES

Emil Bergkvist said:

“I’ve really enjoyed this championship, but it’s not over yet. The goal from the beginning was to win the prize, and that is what we will remain focused on and try to do next week.”

Dennis Rådström said:

“The championship this year has been amazing with legendary events and new challenges on every surface. If we can win the championship it would be an honour as it has been a pleasure competing against all the other drivers. We have worked and fought hard and shown how far you can get by working hard. And now, we are ready to fight for the title.”

Jean-Baptiste Franceschi said:

“I’ve been really happy with my pace this year, and the championship has allowed me to learn and develop on all surfaces. I love to drive and give everything in every race, and anything is still possible in Turkey. A lot can happen and we have done as much preparation as possible so that we will have no regrets.”

Ken Torn said:

“All the rallies were new to me to me this year and I viewed the whole season as a lesson for the future. It really has been a fantastic opportunity for a young driver like me to compete on the same roads as the top-class drivers. I think Rally Turkey will be nice but also very hot inside the cars. We also need to see how hard the roads will be, but we will try to do our best.”

Julius Tannert said:

“I expected a big challenge this year and we have had some good and bad moments. Unfortunately we had no luck in Corsica and Portugal, but we will not give up in Turkey where we want to fight for another podium on the final round of the year. It will be a tough and hard rally, and everybody wants to fight for a good result at the end of the year.”

Callum Devine said:

“I’ve really enjoyed this season. The rallies have been very hard and challenging at times, but that’s what is expected at this level and the pace in this year’s championship has definitely brought me on loads with my own speed. Turkey will be new for most of us and I am looking forward to it as it should be a good even playing field. We’re expecting it to be pretty rough, so playing it smart and trying to keep out of trouble will be really important if we want to fight for the podium.”

Enrico Oldrati said:

“This was my first experience of rallying at this level and it is amazing. Every rally has allowed me to get experience with support and suggestions from the whole team. I know Turkey will be a really difficult event, but I will do my best in order to finish with a good result in the rally and the championship.”

Bugra Banaz said:

“I have really enjoyed this season and have finished all of the rallies which was my goal for the year. We’re in eighth position now, but my aim is to get into the top-five after Rally Turkey. This is a very special event for me as it is my home event and I am very motivated to do well here. We want to win and take maximum points on home soil.”

Luca Bottarelli said:

“I think it has been an amazing year with fantastic opportunities. I have learnt so much and I am sure that I will learn even more in Turkey where we will try to achieve the best possible result.”

David Holder said:

“It has been a tough year for us, but we’ve learnt so much at each event and there’s no doubt that it’s made me a better driver all round. I’ve particularly enjoyed spending time with all those involved in the championship – both the team and the other competitors. We’ve struggled a bit with speed and consistency all year, so in Turkey we’ll be looking to put down our best performance.”

Tom Williams said:

“The championship this year has been fantastic and really pushed me on. Much appreciation has to be given to all the hard work from everyone behind the scenes which has made everything run smoothly. The competition is very demanding so I have been through lots of ups and downs, but I’ve enjoyed every second of it and come away with some invaluable experience. In Turkey we want to continue where we left off in Finland – continuing our progress with a clean event. I imagine the conditions in Turkey will be similar to those in Portugal, so we will have to drive a clever rally.”

Emilio Fernández said:

“The championship was very enjoyable and now I am ready for Rally Turkey. It has been very nice to be a part of this championship, and a dream to walk in the same service park as the best rally drivers in the world. I don’t know too much about Turkey or what to expect, but for sure I think there will be a lot of rocks.”

Raul Badiu said:

“The FIA Junior World Rally Championship is rallying at the highest level – a championship where the best juniors in the world are competing for the biggest prize in rally; right under the eyes of the team managers. This is the best step I can make towards becoming a professional rally driver. I am expecting to compete in a very professional environment alongside true professionals. Regarding a result for me, it is too early to expect anything spectacular as this is my first rally outside Romania and with a car I have never driven before. First on the list is gathering kilometres and experience, then I will set higher targets. I am excited to be part of this great championship and looking forward to competing alongside the best drivers in the world.”

 

RALLY TURKEY ENTRIES:

61 Emil Bergkvist / Patrik Barth
62 Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson
63 Jean-Baptiste Franceschi / Romain Courbon
64 Ken Torn / Kuldar Sikk
65 Julius Tannert / Jürgen Heigl
66 Callum Devine / Brian Hoy
67 Enrico Oldrati / Danilo Fappani
68 Bugra Banaz / Burak Erdener
69 Luca Bottarelli / Manuel Fenoli
70 David Holder / Jason Farmer
71 Tom Williams / Phil Hall
72 Emilio Fernández / Joaquin Riquelme
73 Raul Badiu / Gabriel Lazar

 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS:

1. Emil Bergkvist - 88
2. Dennis Rådström - 74
3. Jean-Baptiste Franceschi - 62
4. Ken Torn - 49
5. Julius Tannert - 31
6. Terry Folb - 30
7. Callum Devine - 28
8. Bugra Banaz - 22
9. Enrico Oldrati - 22
10. Luca Bottarelli - 20
11. David Holder - 19
12. Tom Williams - 15
13. Emilio Fernández - 8
14. Umberto Accornero - 5
15. Henri Hokkala - 2