What do the following WRC drivers have in common? Sébastien Loeb, Dani Sordo, Sébastien Ogier, Craig Breen, Elfyn Evans and Stéphane Lefebvre.
WRC aficionados should have no problems with that. For those who are struggling, the answer is that all won the championship’s junior title before cementing themselves in a factory team at the sport’s top level.
Spanish hotshot Nil Solans is aiming to follow that same route. Having already secured the WRC 3 crown in Germany last month, he is within touching distance of claiming the FIA Junior WRC title after dominating the season.
Victory at the opening three rounds and second in the next two encounters means the 25-year-old needs just three points from RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España (5 - 8 October) to follow in the footsteps of those illustrious names.
He doesn’t even need to finish the mixed surface event. He only requires three bonus points by winning three special stages to seal the title – and he has already taken 30 of those.
Solans and co-driver Miki Ibañez are taking nothing for granted despite the final round taking place in his native Catalonia - a rally he has tackled four times.
“We know we have to work a little bit more to make three more scratches in this rally, our event. It’s quite easy it looks like, but we need to work because nothing is sure,” said Solans.
“I want to try to win my home event and I know I can. I was really competitive every time I competed there and for me it’s easy to be very, very fast compared to other places. It’s my home event and we’re used to driving these kind of roads.”
The Ford Fiesta R2T pilot does not favour either asphalt or gravel, but admits to a soft spot for Catalonia’s smooth, circuit-like sealed surfaces.
“The feeling on Tarmac when you’re going flat out in Catalonia is amazing. I prefer the Tarmac there because the gravel isn’t so fast. If I have to compare the other events, the gravel roads in Finland are amazing as well,” he said.
Victory in Corsica’s opening round provided a huge confidence boost for Solans, who gained initial WRC experience via the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy in 2014 and 2015, and a limited WRC 2 campaign in the latter year.
“At the beginning of the season we knew we had the speed and the experience, but we wanted to start by winning in Corsica. If we won there then we could fight for the win on all the rallies. It’s difficult to be fast everywhere and I was unsure about that round,” he added.
Solans has already bagged four prize drives in WRC 2 next year and could take a clean sweep of all seven. If that proves the case, he is ready to metaphorically knock on the door of the manufacturer team bosses in his Fiesta R5.
“I would need to prepare very well for next year, because the prize is only for one season. We would need to make a good step, a very good performance to show the teams that we’re fast and can do something big,” he explained.
First things first – three stage wins on Friday’s opening leg in Spain would do nicely.
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