Info courtesy of the FIA ERC media office
Hankook-equipped youngsters ready for action, FIA Junior WRC prize drive on offer to the eventual champion.
Sixteen of the sport’s most promising young talents will assemble on ORLEN 79th Rally Poland this week (19 – 21 May) when season 10 of the FIA Junior ERC Championship begins.
Providing the ultimate platform of progression for drivers stepping up from national to international level, Junior ERC is for under 27s at the start of the year competing in Rally4 or Rally5 cars on Hankook tyres, the championship’s new official tyre supplier from 2023.
As well as the kudos of winning a coveted FIA title, a fully funded drive in the 2024 FIA Junior WRC Championship, supported by M-Sport Poland, is up for grabs for the eventual champion.
The 16 potential FIA World Rally Championship winners of the future have travelled from three continents to compete in Junior ERC, which features three events on gravel and three on asphalt to give drivers experience of both surfaces as they build their knowledge.
Of the 16, only six have previous Junior ERC experience, which will help to make the 10th Junior ERC season an exciting level playing field.
Unlike in Junior WRC, car and team choice is not restricted with M-Sport (Ford), Opel, Peugeot and Renault powering the Junior ERC contingent, while the ASNs of Germany, Ireland, Italy and Sweden are among those actively supporting drivers with financial assistance or otherwise.
Iain Campbell, the ERC Manager for WRC Promoter GmbH, said: “It says a lot about the appeal of Junior ERC that such a talented group of drivers with varying levels of experience have signed up for the 2023 season, the championship’s 10th and the first with the support of new tyre partner Hankook. While the fantastic prize of a Junior WRC drive in 2024 awaits the eventual champion, the focus of Junior ERC is always about providing that first step on the international ladder for those drivers moving up from national level. As well as gaining experience on asphalt and gravel, we’re supporting every event with a training and development programme designed to equip the Junior ERC drivers with essential skills for the future.”
Meet the Junior ERC class of 2023
Simon Andersson: After qualifying for the FIA Rally Star European Final, Swede Andersson, 21, is preparing for his first taste of Junior ERC action in 2023. He’s he son of Mats Andersson, the British champion in 2000.
Roberto Daprà: Entering his second Junior ERC season, the 22-year-old is part of the ACI Team Italia talent-backing initiative. He finished fifth in 2022 and has marked himself out as one to watch by winning the ERC4 class on the overall ERC season opener in Portugal.
Victor Hansen: Hansen, 23, travelled from his native Sweden to Hungary in 2021 to check out Junior ERC, liked what he saw and signed up for a full campaign in 2022.
Patrik Herczig: Son of outright ERC podium finisher Norbert Herczig, the Hungarian, 20, built up his initial ERC experience with a Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT campaign last season when he finished third in the standings.
Miko Jalava: The 26-year-old Finn is swapping the rear-wheel-drive Toyota he used to win his national junior crown in 2022 for a Ford Fiesta run by the Czech Sparrow Racing team for what he’s called a “dream come true” opportunity in Junior ERC.
Mille Johansson: Steps up to the ERC on the back of a season in the Slovenian championship where he claimed three podiums, plus a stage win on his first outing on asphalt. Pontus Tidemand, a former Junior WRC champion, mentors his 18-year-old compatriot.
Alfred Kramer: The Austrian, 25, who competes under a Croatian licence, started out in circuit racing but will transfer experience gained in the Croatian championship to the ERC.
Norbert Maior: Co-driven by sister Francesca, at 24, Maior is one of the more experienced members of the Junior ERC pack and a podium finisher in the category in the past.
Max McRae: Born in Scotland but brought up in Australia, the 18-year-old is the grandson of ERC event winner Jimmy McRae, son of Alister and nephew of the late Colin. When he’s not competing, McRae instructs at a rally school.
René Noller: A second-generation driver from Germany, Nolller, 20, is supported by ADAC Stiftung Sport and the DMSB, the German ASN. He sampled Junior ERC competition on Rally Islas Canarias last season.
Ola Nore: The Norwegian, 22, started his Junior ERC adventure in a Renault Clio Rally5 in 2020 and begins his 2023 bid armed with a Clio Rally4 – plus ever-increasing experience.
Aoife Raftery: With support from the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, Raftery, 22, is embarking on her first season of international-level competition.
Timo Schulz: Newcomer Schulz’s Junior ERC drive is his prize for winning the ADAC Opel e-Rally Cup last season. Rallying runs in the 23-year-old’s family with his father and mother driving and co-driving respectively.
Patrice Spitalier: Along with co-driving twin brother Nicolas, Spitalier, 25, is the first Mexican to compete in Junior ERC as part of the Escudería TV4 Guanajuato initiative, which supports young drivers from his country.
Mattia Zanin: Zanin is a new addition to the ACI Team Italia squad, which also includes Roberto Daprà (see above). The 21-year-old has claimed several class titles in his homeland.
Fabian Zeiringer: The Former professional alpine ski racer, 27, is in his third season of rallying but his first and last in Junior ERC as the Austrian will be too old to compete in the championship next year. He’s therefore vowed to make the most of the opportunity.
Junior ERC Calendar 2023:
ORLEN 79th Rally Poland: 19 – 21 May (Gravel)
Tet Rally Liepāja: 16 – 18 June (Gravel)
Royal Rally of Scandinavia: 6 – 8 July (Gravel)
Rally di Roma Capitale: 28 – 30 July (Asphalt)
Barum Czech Rally Zlín: 18 – 20 August (Asphalt)
IV. Rally Hungary: 6 – 8 October (Asphalt)
2022: Laurent Pellier (France) Opel Adam Rally4
2021: Jean-Baptiste Franceschi (France) Renault Clio Rally4
2020: Ken Torn (Estonia) Ford Fiesta Rally4
2019: Efrén Llarena (Spain) Peugeot 208 R2
2018: Mārtiṇš Sesks (Latvia) Opel Adam R2
2017: Chris Ingram (Great Britain) Opel Adam R2
2016: Marijan Griebel (Germany) Opel Adam R2
2015: Emil Bergkvist (Sweden) Opel Adam R2