The 2020 FIA Junior WRC Championship has accepted 16 entries for the opening round on Rally Sweden, representing a diverse selection of rallying’s next generation of superstars.
The 16 crews looking to be the next star of the FIA World Rally Championship represent 11 different countries across Europe and South America. Seven of 2019’s FIA Junior WRC crews return for 2020 including 2019 championship runner-up and Rookie Award winner, Tom Kristensson.
This year’s entrants will be vying for the biggest prize in rallying; the keys to an Ecoboost-powered M-Sport Fiesta R5 Mk II, 200 Pirelli tyres, free registration for WRC 3 in 2021 and five free WRC 3 entries in 2021. Should the 2020 champion go on to win the 2021 WRC 3 championship, they will then be awarded two drives with the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team in 2022.
The prize package underlines FIA Junior WRC as a firm part M-Sport’s ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ that provides young and budding rally drivers a clear path to succeed in rallying on the world stage. Four of the 2020 FIA Junior WRC drivers come by way of M-Sport’s FIA Junior WRC scholarship, which sees talented junior drivers from national championships awarded a significant scholarship package for the 2020 season. This year’s M-Sport FIA Junior WRC scholarship drivers are: Ruairi Bell (Britain), Sami Pajari (Finland), Marco Pollara (Italy) and Ken Torn (Estonia). To emphasise the importance of the ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ to M-Sport, this year’s FIA Junior WRC livery has taken inspiration from the official livery of the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team.
Of the nine new crews joining FIA Junior WRC for the first time in 2020, three of which will be making their WRC event debuts in Sweden, five will be eligible for the highly competitive Rookie Award. The Rookie Award will see the highest placed rookie in the 2020 championship collect a €15,000 prize to go towards their 2021 FIA Junior WRC campaign.
Fabio Andolfi IT / Savoia Stefano IT
Andolfi is by far the most experienced driver in the 2020 FIA Junior WRC Championship, with 33 WRC event starts. His career highlights include a WRC 2 victory on Tour de Corse and a podium spot on Rally Turkey in 2019 which led to him finishing fifth in the 2019 FIA WRC 2 Championship.
Jon Armstrong GB / Noel O’Sullivan IE
With an impressive rally esports career, 2018 WRC eSports champion Armstrong is no stranger to the real world of rallying with a strong resume heading into the 2020 season. 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.
Raul Badiu RO / Gabriel Lazar RO
Badiu enters his second full season of FIA Junior WRC in 2020, after a cameo appearance on Rally Turkey for the finale of the 2018 championship and competing in four rounds of the 2019 championship. The Romanian demonstrated raw speed on all three surfaces FIA Junior WRC competed on throughout 2019, posting top-three stage times and earning a career best of fourth on Rally d’Italia Sardegna.
Ruairi Bell GB / Darren Garrod GB
Bell might be used to the stop-start traffic of Central London, which is where he currently calls home, but that somehow worked to his benefit in 2019 after contesting a double championship campaign. He won the M-Sport Fiesta FIA Junior WRC scholarship in the British Rally Championship and also finished top RC4 driver on Rally de Portugal.
Tommaso Ciuffi IT / Nicolo Gonella IT
2019 saw Ciuffi produce an impressive set of results in the Italian national championship, finishing top two-wheel drive car on six occasions including Rally di Roma Capitale where he was first in the RC4 class. Ciuffi has three WRC event starts to his name, all on Rally d’Italia Sardegna between 2017 and 2019.
Lauri Joona FI / Ari Koponen FI*
Joona made his WRC debut in 2019 on Rally Finland and was able to demonstrate a competitive pace against the FIA Junior WRC field, classifying third among all RC4 class cars entered. In addition to having his first taste of a WRC event, Joona finished second in the 2019 Finnish Junior Rally Championship. Prior to his rallying career, Joona was a keen photographer on Finnish rallies.
Tom Kristensson SE / Joakim Sjöberg SE
Kristensson was a consistent FIA Junior WRC title contender in 2019 and led the championship for the majority of the season but ultimately finished second, winning the 2019 Rookie Award. He seized a total of 14 stage wins and proved his pace on all three surfaces that the championship competes on. His largest strength was consistency, taking two victories (Sweden and Finland) and was the only FIA Junior WRC driver to finish on the podium at every stop on the calendar.
Catie Munnings GB / TBC*
Munnings will make her WRC event debut on Rally Sweden after a total of 18 starts in the European Rally Championship between 2016 and 2019. She has a total of seven ERC Ladies victories as well as the 2016 ERC Ladies Championship.
Pontus Lönnström SE / Stefan Gustavsson SE*
Lonnstrom will make his FIA Junior WRC debut in 2020 after winning back to back Swedish Junior Rally Championships in 2018 and 2019. He already has two WRC events under his belt, most recently on Rally Spain in 2019 to help him gain WRC tarmac experience in preparation for his 2020 FIA Junior WRC campaign.
Marco Pollara IT /Maurizio Messina IT*
Pollara enters the 2020 FIA Junior WRC Championship as the 2019 Italian Junior Champion, taking four victories and a total of five podiums out of six rounds in 2019. His one and only WRC event start was on Rally d’Italia Sardegna in 2019 which was part of the 2019 Italian Junior championship in which he won his category.
Sami Pajari FI / Antti Haapala FI*
At just 18 years old Pajari is entering his first full season of FIA Junior WRC in 2020 after winning both parts of the 2019 AKK Flying Finn Future Star Award. Despite his young age, Pajari won back to back Finnish Rally Championships; U18 Champion in 2018 and Finnish Junior Champion in 2019. Pajari has one FIA Junior WRC start to his name already after entering Rally Finland in 2019 where he took two stage wins.
Enrico Oldrati IT / Elia de Guio IT
Oldrati will embark upon his third season in FIA Junior WRC in 2020, but it is also only his third season of rallying to date. His FIA Junior WRC highlight so far came on 2018 Rally de Portugal where he scored an impressive second place demonstrating extraordinary progress in such a short space of time. This season, Oldrati is focussed on improving his pace and securing top-five results.
Oscar Solberg NO / Jim Hjerpe SE
The son of Henning Solberg and nephew to Petter Solberg, 2003 World Rally Champion, rallying is certainly a way of life for Oscar Solberg. He has seven previous WRC event starts, all in a Fiesta R2, and he finished third in the 2017 British Junior Rally Championship, picking up one victory and nine stage wins along the way.
Martins Sesks LV / Renars Francis LV
Sesks had a difficult rookie season in the 2019 FIA Junior WRC Championship, despite setting fastest stage times on two out of the four rounds he contested. He established himself as an early championship contender during Rally Sweden, taking the fight to hometown hero Dennis Radstrom, but his best result of the season came by way of fifth on Rally d’Italia Sardegna.
Ken Torn EE / Kauri Pannas EE
With a rallying career that began in the 2008 Estonian Youth Rally championship, Torn had an impressive debut FIA Junior WRC season in 2018, finishing fifth in the championship. 2018 saw him take victory on Rally Finland with stage wins on four out of five rallies. Torn’s 2019 campaign was short-lived, taking two stage wins on his way to tenth place on Rally Sweden and retiring from Tour de Corse before calling time on his 2019 FIA Junior WRC campaign.
Fabrizio Zaldivar PY / Fernando Mussano AR
2019 Rally Sweden was an event of many firsts for Zaldivar, he celebrated his eighteenth birthday just days before the start of the event and it was his first time driving on snow and ice. The Paraguayan improved his pace on every rally and by the last round of the season was able to secure fifth on Wales Rally GB, the best result of his FIA Junior WRC career to date.
*eligible for Rookie Award
Maciej Woda, FIA Junior WRC Team Director, said:
“This amount of entries for the start of the season in Junior WRC speaks volumes about the success of the championship. With the biggest prize package in rallying for the 2020 champion, FIA Junior WRC is the perfect stepping stone for any driver wishing to establish themselves in the FIA World Rally Championship. With our key partners Ford, Pirelli and Wolf Lubricants all heavily engaged in rally activities throughout every level of the sport, FIA Junior WRC is the most accessible championship that gives a great introduction to all aspects of the WRC. We have a very impressive lineup of entries for the opening round of the season in Sweden that is also balanced in terms of returning and fresh faces. I am really excited about the championship fight ahead having followed all of the this year’s crews closely in previous years. I know what each driver is capable of which should make the 2020 FIA Junior WRC Championship fight the most competitive yet.”