Tom Kristensson sent a clear message to the rest of the FIA Junior WRC Championship field, winning on Rally Sweden with a fine drive in his 200 horsepower EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta R2.
The top three is made up entirely of rookies to the Junior WRC championship, with Roland Poom and Jan Solans in second and third respectively.
Kristensson is the third Swede to win the Junior WRC on Rally Sweden confirming his position as a championship contender.
The Swede’s win is the tip of the iceberg when looking at the Junior WRC 2019 Rally Sweden story.
The Junior WRC veteran Dennis Rådström had notched 10 impressive stage wins by the conclusion of stage 12, leading many to believe he was set to repeat his 2018 Rally Sweden victory. He started stage 13 but wouldn’t finish it thanks to a costly error and was forced to retire the car for the day.
Rådström returned to the stages on Sunday morning, grabbing two stage wins from an available three, bringing home a decent points haul thanks to the one point per stage win allocation in Junior WRC.
Kristensson inherited the lead from Rådström’s stage 13 exit and took a calm and measured approach after experiencing a tight and competitive fight in section two. Knowing he had a comfortable 1m44.0s lead over Estonian rookie Roland Poom, Kristensson elected for mistake-free finishes over stage wins to deliver his first Junior WRC win.
Roland Poom had a steady start to Rally Sweden and made great progress on Saturday thanks to increasing confidence and costly errors made by those further up the road. He claimed his best stage result of 2nd on stage 13 compounding Kristensson’s winning philosophy of calm and cautious.
Jan Solans rounded out the top three, taking a stage win along the way after a successful Saturday when he climbed from fifth to third on his debut in the Junior WRC. Although for most of the day he adopted a similar approach to Poom and Kristensson, he was able to find astonishing pace on stage 16, thanks to its sprint style nature, claiming his maiden stage win of the year.
There were many favourites for the 2019 Junior WRC crown starting Rally, all of which having difficulties at some point along the way. 2018 Junior WRC Rally Finland winner Ken Torn was able to demonstrate his raw speed with two stage wins but several big mistakes removed him from podium contention. Junior WRC rookie Martins Sesks delivered times consistently in the top three with three stage wins. He was forced to retire due to a technical issue on Friday, surrendering second place and the chance for Junior WRC victory.
FIA Junior WRC Championship Manager, Maciej Woda, said:
“Following the Junior WRC on Rally Sweden has been unbelievable and great to watch. I don’t think anybody would have predicted our top three going into this rally, especially when you consider that they are all new to the Junior WRC Championship. We have had a very healthy spread of stage winners this weekend which is great for the season ahead and also the championship. Tom should be incredibly proud of his achievement, starting his first Junior WRC event and winning it on home soil is something very special. This rally has been a great test for the all-new Fiesta R2 car which has been majorly impressive from the feedback we have received so far. The car’s exceptional pace and consistency could not have been achieved without the support we have received from Ford and our partners at Pirelli and Wolf Lubricants.”
JUNIOR WRC RALLY SWEDEN OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AND DRIVER QUOTES:
1. Tom Kristensson / Henrik Appelskog 3:14:48.9
“I think we have shown the pace and I am extremely happy about my confidence in myself; I had a plan and I stuck to it. It feels really good and I think it will be a great season. The biggest point for me was not to make any mistakes I think the most important thing was to find the right pace and remain calm. We have enjoyed the rally and of course there were some moments there’s no question about that but in the end it feels great. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season as I feel I’m really progressing with the car”
2. Roland Poom / Ken Jarveoja +1:31.2
“We knew that this rally would be really hard and there wasn’t much point in pushing. I knew I had the speed to achieve a podium but there no point as it was a new rally for me. The other guys decided to push and made mistakes allowing me to achieve my first Junior WRC podium.”
3. Jan Solans / Mauro Barreiro +4:09.2
“It was really good for us to start the season in this way and I’m really happy about it. We were really consistent this weekend which helped us finish third. We are really happy with our performance this weekend; we improved a lot it’s a good result for us here in Sweden.”
4. Tom Williams / Phil Hall +6:53.4
“It’s a really good feeling for the event that I thought was going to be the trickiest this year. This one was just a survival and that’s from my experience last year of making lots of small mistakes and realising that I need the consistency. We made a lot of changes to my pace notes over the winter and made no mistakes on the rally so we’re really happy.”
5. Sean Johnston / Alex Kihurani +11:43.1
“The goal was simply getting to the end of the rally hoping maybe for a top ten result so to finish in fifth is really quite the gift. I don’t feel like we had the pace for this result, we’ve been persevering and other people have been having issues.”
6. Martins Sesks / Krisjanis Caune +13:20.9
“It’s been a crazy weekend out here. We started with a stage win on the first proper day of rallying, then we had a spin. When we got back in the rhythm it was unfortunate, but we had a technical issue so we retired and from there, there was not much that we could do.”
7. Enrico Oldrati / Elia de Guio +16:23.8
“This was a weekend to forget for me, I could not get the right feeling in the car under the conditions but we have finished now so I am happy about that.”
8. Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson +23:31.1
“We have to take a step and develop, the driving has been really great this week and we’re really happy as we are focussing on the positives.”
9. Fabrizio Zaldivar / Fernando Mussano +23:47.0
“It was quite tricky, on the first day we were learning and to finish the rally which was the main goal. We finished the rally but it was very tricky for me as it was my first time here, the surface was not at its best and then we had technical issues on Saturday leaving us stuck at one point where we lost a lot of time.”
10. Ken Torn / Kuldar Sikk +24:00.0
“We finished in this position and there’s nothing we can do about it now, it’s made us a little bit unhappy and we lost time on the last two stages too. We need to make some progress for Corsica. Top five is ok but we want to win so we are going to keep working.”
11. Julius Tannert / Helmar Hinneberg +41:24.8
“It was a really difficult weekend for us, we have shown some good speed and some good pace. In the end we had a bad Saturday with a technical issue and then we went off and damaged the car. We retired on Saturday and restarted on Sunday but this isn’t the position we wanted to end our weekend in.”
12. Nico Knacker / Tobias Braun +49:09.3
“We learned a lot about the rally and the difficult conditions this weekend. We had contact on the last day with a snow bank which isn’t great. Overall the experience has been fantastic this, we learned a lot and know what to do for next year.”
13. Raul Badiu / Gabriel Lazar +53:38.8
“It is indeed a disappointing start to the championship, but we learned a lot, WRC is not a flat-out rally from the start to the finish. You have to use your brain a lot in these tricky conditions when it is very easy to make mistakes and have numerous punctures like I did. We can’t change time, so we’re already look ahead to the next rally.”