The mountainous Mediterranean island of Corsica, France, hosts round two of the 2019 FIA Junior WRC Championship from March 28 - 31.
The all-asphalt Tour de Corse presents another challenge for the WRC’s next generation of superstars, one that contrasts greatly to the season-opening snow and ice of Rally Sweden.
The Junior WRC Rally Sweden podium was made up entirely of championship rookies with Roland Poom and Jan Solans in second and third respectively. On home territory, Tom Kristensson opened his Junior WRC Championship with a calculated and measured victory. The result was only hint of the drama and excitement surrounding the start of the 2019 Junior WRC Championship.
Drivers who felt comfortable on snow and ice had a significant advantage in Rally Sweden, but Corsica promises the opposite, with those more accustomed to tarmac at a significant advantage.
Testing crews to the limit
Known as ‘The rally of 10,000 corners’, the Tour de Corse presents each Junior WRC crew an intense physical and mental challenge that can see crews tested to and beyond their limits. It is the perfect rally for crews to push and develop themselves in their bid for WRC stardom.
Due to the high number of twists and turns, a meticulously-prepared set of pace-notes are key to emerging victorious on Tour de Corse. The soft and forgiving snow banks of Sweden have been swapped for merciless rock faces, deep ditches and treacherous drops. Even the slightest mistake on this island rally could spell disaster for a crew’s rally and even their championship hopes.
Other complex elements for crews to deal with are tyres and weather. Crews could only use one type of Pirelli tyre in Sweden, the Sottozero Ice, whereas in Corsica they will have three types of rubber available; Hard (P Zero RK5), Soft (P Zero RKW 7) and Rain (Cinturato RW).
Crews receive a base setup from M-Sport which they will be free to finetune to find the sweet spot in the suspension settings.
Surviving day one is a further complexity crews will need to bear in mind, with no service until the conclusion of the first full day of rallying. Any mistakes that lead to damage, particularly early on, could prove costly, with only basic tools and one mechanic during the mid-day tyre fitting zone.
FIA Junior WRC Championship Manager, Maciej Woda, said:
“The Tour de Corse is a very unique rally and every aspect of it is a challenge for the crews and the team. The relationship between the driver and co-driver is really put to the test here and it can be very rewarding for the crews that are well-prepared. It is the only tarmac rally for Junior WRC in 2019, with very different conditions to Rally Sweden, meaning the crews will have a different learning curve with the all-new EcoBoost-powered Fiesta R2 car. From a competition perspective I am very excited for this rally, as there are a lot of talented drivers with a very strong chance of winning this rally.”
What the drivers said:
71 Tom Kristensson / Henrik Appelskog
“Corsica has been at the centre of my attention and preparations since winning Rally Sweden. I have followed this rally for a while and think it is a great event! I am really looking forward to the rally and gaining meaningful experience in the new Fiesta R2 car. Our target is the same as usual: get experience, finish every stage and have fun along the way.”
72 Roland Poom / Ken Järveoja
“We've had a really positive start to the season scoring my first podium on my first Junior WRC event. Rally Corsica will be quite a challenge for me as it will be my first time there and also my first ever tarmac rally. We had a good test before the event, despite my little tarmac experience, I feel quite confident on the surface. We start the rally as we started in Sweden, looking to find a good rhythm and feeling. Our main target is to get to the finish and enjoy it as much as possible.”
73 Jan Solans / Mauro Barreiro
“We were lucky to achieve such a good result in Sweden, considering that it was not a favourable rally for us. Tour de Corse is our most desirable rally as this type of road is very similar to what I have experience with. I think it's our chance to show our pace, so we'll try to do our best. I will have also tested the car with one of my championship competitors, Fabrizio Zaldivar, after sharing a test day together.”
74 Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson
“We had a very positive Rally Sweden; it was a lot of fun, we had good pace and a very enjoyable car to drive. It will be the third time for us in Corsica and we’re really looking forward to this challenge; I love the roads and nature on this island. We have good testing experience for this event and have done well in previous years, so we will be well-prepared and aiming for the top spot.”
75 Tom Williams / Phil Hall
“In Corsica we’ll be trying to maintain a good rhythm. I’ve been working extremely hard on my fitness and on my pace notes with Phil which will be crucial because there are so many corners. Our aim is to run towards the top end of the field, I’d obviously love to win, but realistically I’d be happy with another top five finish.”
76 Martins Sesks / Krisjanis Caune
“After quite a disappointing Rally Sweden, we are back in Corsica with renewed energy and enthusiasm. I really enjoyed working with M-Sport in Sweden and can’t wait to carry on working with the team in Corsica. We had a successful tarmac test ahead of Tour de Corse and we are now 100% ready for the challenge!
77 Sean Johnston / Alex Kihurani
“We were quite surprised with fifth on Rally Sweden as the aim was to finish the rally and build upon my experience. Alex and I got to know each other by spectating Rally Corsica together in 2018 and we're excited; tarmac is the surface on which I have the most experience. The expectation is to get to the end of the rally although we certainly hope to be more competitive here. I'm also really excited to get in the new Ford Fiesta R2T on tarmac, I imagine it'll be incredibly quick!”
78 Enrico Oldrati / Elia de Guio
“This year we started a bit better than last year as I crashed on Rally Sweden in 2018 and now we are heading to Rally Corsica. Unfortunately I couldn’t test for this rally due to school commitments, but I have worked a lot to improve my pace notes. For Corsica my goal is to improve on last year, I know there are more experienced drivers than me but I’ll do my best.”
79 Ken Torn / Kauri Pannas
“Our season didn’t start the way we wanted to in Sweden so we have been looking forward to Corsica, it is my second time on this rally and I can’t wait. The new car felt very good in Sweden and I think it will feel the same on tarmac, I cannot wait to get back in the car.”
80 Fabrizio Zaldivar / Fernando Mussano
“I had a good Rally Sweden, considering it was my first time there. It was a great first experience on snow and now I am looking forward to the Tour de Corse and my first time rallying on asphalt. I am really motivated to get as many kilometres as possible, avoiding mistakes and learning for next season.”
81 Julius Tannert / Jürgen Heigl
“This will be my third time on Corsica and I'm really looking forward to it. After an unlucky start in Sweden, we need to really focus from now on and we are aiming for the podium. I can't wait to start with the new Ford Fiesta R2T on tarmac, I think it will be really competitive. My co-driver from 2018, Jürgen Heigl, will be back in the car and together we are extremely motivated for a strong finish.”
82 Nico Knacker / Michael Wenzel
"Rally Sweden wasn’t the best for us, but now we are going to compete on asphalt; a surface where I am most comfortable. I’ve never been to Corsica but I’m really looking forward to this famous event. It’s also the first asphalt rally with the new Ford Fiesta R2T and I’m excited to see what it’s like on asphalt."
83 Raul Badiu / Gabriel Lazar
“After a disappointing start in Sweden, I will approach Corsica with a different target: stay away from trouble and finish the rally. In preparation for the rally, I attended the Vittorio Caneva Rally School where I changed my tarmac setup and my first encounter with the Fiesta R2T on tarmac will be at shakedown.”