Formerly the WRC Academy, the Junior WRC Championship will take place over six rounds of next year’s FIA World Rally Championship with drivers using identical Ford Fiesta R2s prepared by British firm M-Sport from a base in Krakow, Poland.
Mahonen, once the driving force behind Neste Oil Rally Finland and a man who has long since championed the cause of young drivers, said: “I believe strongly that the Junior WRC is needed to identify real talent, the stars of the future. They compete with the same cars and the difference is made between the steering wheel and the seat. This is also a very good opportunity for the ASNs to support their youngsters taking their first steps towards an international career. The drivers get experience of the top level at the same time as they are under the supervision of motorsport professionals.”
Mahonen explained that he wanted to create a simple process for drivers contesting national championships to be able to step up to the Junior WRC.
“We shall investigate if it is also possible to create ladders en route to this championship,” he said. “Junior championships created within all FIA Regional Rally Championships could be the starting point with FIA-specified R2 cars and then, when drivers come to the WRC level, they could test the slightly more demanding R3 car. I hope to also see this championship as a Nations’ Cup where drivers are fighting for their countries and the federations they represent.”
Mahonen also outlined the commitment of the FIA, motorsport’s world governing body, to the series. “This is a very important project for the FIA,” he said. “We are responsible for the programme and want to see drivers from different parts of the world participating. At the same time hopefully we can increase the awareness of the sport and the drivers in their home countries.”
"I believe strongly that the Junior WRC is needed to identify real talent, the stars of the future"