Junior WRC in 2018:
Super Swedes show their class
The tussle for the FIA Junior World Rally Championship proved to be a head-to-head battle between compatriots Emil Bergkvist and Dennis Rådström in 2018.
The Swedish duo were in a class of their own for much of the six-round series and
we had to wait until the final event at Rally Turkey to discover who would have their name written into the WRC history books.
That honour eventually went to Bergkvist, by virtue of him safely guiding his Ford Fiesta R2 to a double victory on Turkey’s tricky gravel stages as Rådström hit trouble.
Experience proved to be key this season. Both men used the knowledge they gained during 2017 as junior category rookies to score the results that ultimately kept them at the head of the standings from the first event at Rally Sweden.
Rådström won that snowy encounter and also took victory at Vodafone Rally de Portugal. But his non-finish at Neste Rally Finland proved costly. Bergkvist did not win until his twin Turkish triumphs, but his consistent results on the other four events were enough to carry him to the title by 18 points.
Jean-Baptiste Franceschi was their closest challenger, but he trailed Rådström by 41 points in the final standings.
The highlight of the Frenchman’s season came on home soil as he used his asphalt skill and experience to earn a maiden category win at Corsica linea – Tour de Corse.
However, bad luck and mistakes ruined his chances of mounting a sustained title challenge. A broken driveshaft relegated him to ninth in Portugal while an over-exuberant drive in Turkey ended with him rolling into retirement.
Ken Torn was the only other winner as he took victory in Finland. But crashes in Portugal and Turkey meant he finished the season fifth, behind consistent rookie Callum Devine.
Only registering one retirement helped Devine seal fourth place in the championship. The Irishman could have finished even higher had it not been for bad luck and a touch of inexperience.
In Corsica, a puncture on the penultimate stage dropped him from third to fifth at the finish, while he dropped out of a comfortable second place in Portugal when he out-braked himself and snapped his car’s steering.
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