All eyes are on home drivers Tom Kristensson and Pontus Lönnström as 16 young hotshots kick-off their FIA Junior WRC Championship challenge at Rally Sweden this week (13 - 16 February).
Top honours have gone to a Swede on each of the three occasions the rally has opened the junior series. Kristensson, championship runner-up last year, bids to repeat his 2019 event win but faces a strong challenge from Swedish junior champion Lönnström.
Both face tough competition from fellow Nordics Sami Pajari, who was pushed all the way to last year’s Finnish SM3 Championship by compatriot Lauri Joona, as well as another product from the Solberg family production line. Oscar is the son of Henning and nephew of Petter.
Estonian’s Ken Torn and Latvia’s Mārtiņš Sesks are no strangers to winter rallying and should not be discounted on the forest roads of Sweden and Norway.
Others may not be as used to the conditions but 2019 championship graduates Raul Badiu, Fabrizio Zaldivar and Enrico Oldrati can draw on the experience gained 12 months ago, while Ruairi Bell is no novice in snow having competed regularly in Latvia.
Fellow Brit Catie Munnings sampled ice and snow when she drove a modified Bentley Continental GT3 at Austria’s GP Ice Race earlier this month.
Two of the series’ most well-known entries are Fabio Andolfi and Jon Armstrong. Andolfi scored a WRC 2 victory in Corsica last season en route to fifth in the standings, while 2018 WRC eSports champion Armstrong’s CV includes two Fiesta Trophy victories in 2016.
Italians Tommaso Ciuffi and Marco Pollara’s only previous WRC outings have been in the heat and dust of their home county fixture in Sardinia – far removed from what they will encounter this week!
All drive Ford Fiesta R2Ts in the first of the five round championship which also features rounds in Italy, Finland, Germany and Britain.