Created to provide a level playing field for rising talents to compete at the sport’s highest level in identical Ford Fiesta R2s using the same Pirelli tyres, the series has proved a big hit. And it all comes down to the season-closer in Great Britain when Egon Kaur, from Estonia, and Irishman Craig Breen will scrap for title glory.
Kaur, the winner of the first three events, is in the ascendency with an advantage of 20 points over Breen, who claimed his maiden victory in Germany back in August. With 25 points available to the winner, Breen’s chances, on paper at least, look pretty slim. But with one point up for grabs for every stage won, the destination of the WRC Academy Cup - and the huge career-advancement prize - is wide open.
In addition to the battle for first place, Alastair Fisher is only 10 points adrift of Yeray Lemes in third and on a high following his triumph in France last time out. Fisher actually inherited the spoils from Lemes on that event when the Spaniard was penalised for twice transgressing speeding rules. However, having led in Portugal and Finland the Northern Irishman’s success was richly deserved.
Australian Brendan Reeves is fifth in the table and relieved to be back competing on gravel after frustrating runs on the two asphalt events. Czech Jan Cerny, sixth in the standings, admits to lacking experience in gravel. Jose Suarez, Andrea Crugnola, Fredrik Ahlin and Timo van der Marel complete the top 10 heading to Wales.
Like Germany’s Christian Riedemann, who is 11th in the classification, the quartet has all claimed a podium finish this season. Riedemann also led the second round in Italy before a broken driveshaft stopped him at the start of day two. Although his Academy performances thereafter are by no means the stuff of legend, he’s already on Volkswagen Motorsport’s radar having been allowed to opt out of the WRC Academy on his home event to drive its Skoda Fabia Super 2000 as part of the German make’s ongoing driver assessment programme.
Other drivers keen to impress in Wales are Molly Taylor, the UK-based Australian, and Miko-Ove Niinemae from Estonia, the youngest of the 17 WRC Academy pilots competing this week.
The WRC Academy welcomes two new recruits for its season finale: Christopher Duplessis from the United States and Germany’s Valentin Hummel will be in action on the gravel event although neither will be eligible for points because they registered after the entry deadline.
Meanwhile, South African Ashley Haigh-Smith returns after he was injured in a crash on his category debut in France.