Mid-term review: Junior WRC
In the first of our half-term reports, we run the rule over the FIA Junior WRC category.
Typically, the battle between the Ford Fiesta R2 runners has been fierce, with three different winners from the first three rounds. But it’s a familiar-sounding Spaniard who tops the class.
Being the younger sibling of an especially scholarly sort has never been easy – especially when your brother dominated the class in the sort of emphatic fashion Nil Solans managed in 2017.
Jan is, however, making a strong case for the Solans family to take two junior titles from the last three years.
The Spaniard’s conservative approach to the Rally Sweden opener paid dividends with third place in the snow.
Solans’ hopes of improving on that next time out in Corsica were dashed with a second-stage puncture. The speed he showed in battling back to fourth served as a warning of what was to come in Sardinia (pictured above).
Rally Italia Sardegna delivered a thriller of a finish as Solans overcame a couple of day one errors to move back into contention through Saturday and into the lead on the final morning.
With two stages to go, he was just 1.3sec ahead of Dennis Rådström. Solans finished in strong style to take his first win, moving into the championship lead by nine points.
That lead is over top Swede Tom Kristensson, who won the opening event in his homeland and has delivered a most consistent first half term. Kristensson is the only driver to have stood on the podium on all three rounds, backing up his winter win with second in Corsica and third in Italy.
Rådström starts round four six points behind his countryman and kicking himself for an error which cost a potential win on the opener. Fastest on 10 of the first 12 Sweden stages, Rådström let the result slip with a mistake and ended eighth.
He recovered strongly with third and second places on the following two events and remains firmly in contention with crews dropping the worst of their five scores at the end of term.
Further consolation for Rådström comes from scoring as many fastest stage times as Solans (19).
Julius Tannert is the only other driver to have won a round, clinching a final-stage Corsica victory from Kristensson by 1.9sec. The German is fourth in class ahead of Neste Rally Finland, with Estonian Roland Poom and Briton Tom Williams rounding out the top six.
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