Wed 14 Sep 2022

Virves: Junior title means 'everything'

Cash-strapped youngster Robert Virves is living the dream after wrapping up the 2022 FIA Junior WRC title last week.

Virves made history by becoming the first Estonian driver to win the one-make M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally3 series when he beat nearest challenger Jon Armstrong by 17.5sec at EKO Acropolis Rally Greece.

His prize includes four fully-funded WRC2 drives in 2023 with an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2 and 200 Pirelli tyres as well as a pre-event test before each rally. 

It was an against-all-odds effort from the 22-year-old, who fought hard to finance his campaign throughout the season. 

He even began the recce of the penultimate round not knowing whether he would be able to start the rally - with Hyundai Motorsport driver and fellow Estonian Ott Tänak stepping in at the final hour to ensure his participation. 

“It basically means absolutely everything,” Virves said. “I mean, the beginning of this year was totally crazy. In terms of sponsors, the times were really bad and I basically had nothing for my budget.

“For the last two years, I’ve had one guy from Estonia - Jüri Käo - who has been basically making everything possible. He has really carried me through all of this and has always been supporting me. Without him, it wouldn’t have even been possible to compete last year or this year.”

Virves’ and co-driver Julia Thulin’s Acropolis win was aided by consistency. While Armstrong and other rivals Sami Pajari and Lauri Joona dropped time with problems inflicted by the rough gravel roads, Virves’ only issue was a puncture towards the end of one stage.

WATCH: FIA Junior WRC Champion 2022

He also had the rare opportunity to test prior to the rally - something Virves believes helped massively. 

“On the rough rallies, it’s mostly about avoiding punctures,” he explained. “In Portugal I had seven of them, so it’s something I have been really working on to see what works best. 

“We got to do two days of pre-event testing before the weekend and that really helped us. We managed to get only one puncture on the second stage of the rally, and even then it was at the very end of the stage. 

“I would say it was a combination of luck and something else together, but I have been trying to achieve this for a long time. It feels amazing.”

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM