Nordgren nets Skoda drive

Young gun Juuso Nordgren will drive a factory Skoda Fabia R5 at next month’s WRC fixture in Spain as the Czech manufacturer becomes the latest team to launch a young driver scheme.

The 20-year-old Finn will tackle RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España (5 - 8 October) alongside regular driver Jan Kopecký as Skoda begins its search for talented youngsters.

Skoda Motorsport boss Michal Hrabánek said the team would take advantage of clinching the WRC 2 teams’ title and the drivers’ crown with 26-year-old Pontus Tidemand at ADAC Rallye Deutschland last month to begin its hunt immediately.

“This Young Drivers Programme will be launched at RallyRACC Catalunya - Rallye de España and will continue with testing promising new talents like Juuso Nordgren. He attracted our attention as a young driver with an interesting potential,” he said.

Nordgren was Finnish junior champion in 2015 and earned a fully-funded drive on his home WRC round last year after being named Future Rally Star of Finland. He finished third in the Junior WRC category.

He drove a private Fabia R5 at Neste Rally Finland in July (below) and ran as high as second before hitting problems and falling back.

Tidemand’s WRC 2 title followed Esapekka Lappi’s win in 2016. Lappi graduated to the headline World Rally Car category this year with Toyota Gazoo Racing and the 26-year-old scored a remarkable maiden victory in only his fourth start in Finland.

Hrabánek was joined in the title celebrations on the podium in Germany by Skoda Auto’s board member for technical development, Christian Strube. His presence prompted speculation about the Czech company’s future plans in WRC.

Skoda’s scheme follows the launch of Hyundai Motorsport’s driver development programme. Eight drivers from an original pool of 16 are fighting to win a WRC 2 programme in a privately-run i20 R5 next season.

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