ERC Junior: New format, same opportunities for young stars to prove their talent
The format might have been revamped for 2021, but the opportunities for young stars to prove their talent in the FIA European Rally Championship remain just as widespread as ever before.
As has been the case since 2017, a two-tier ERC Junior format will again be operated during the upcoming six-round season based on driver experience and car performance.
ERC Junior, which has been introduced as a replacement for the Rally2-based ERC1 Junior category as a more affordable first step on the international four-wheel-drive ladder, is for drivers 28 and under at the start of 2021 competing in new-generation Rally3 cars on Pirelli tyres.
ERC3 Junior for drivers aged 27 and under on January 1, 2021, which was launched for the 2014 season as a joint initiative from promoter Eurosport Events and governing body the FIA, continues as a multi-brand category for Rally4 and Rally5 cars featuring Pirelli as the control tyre supplier.
The ERC Junior categories are complemented by the newly-announced Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT, which provides accessible international competition in entry-level Renault Clio Rally5 cars on Michelin tyres on an arrive-and-drive basis.
And for drivers under the age of 28 on January 1, 2021, competing in Rally2 machinery, a package of incentives designed to lower their own financial outlay and increase exposure is being finalised with full details to be announced in due course.
Career progression prizes for ERC Junior champions
As part of an alliance between governing body the FIA, M-Sport – the company behind the Ford Fiesta Rally3 – tyre firm Pirelli and ERC promoter Eurosport Events, the winner of the 2021 FIA ERC Junior Championship will secure a step up to the FIA Junior WRC Championship in an M-Sport Fiesta on Pirelli tyres for five events in 2022.
For the 2021 ERC3 Junior champion, a prize of three 2022 ERC Junior rounds in a Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally3 awaits. However, if the champion uses a Fiesta Rally4 during his or her ERC3 Junior season, M-Sport will increase the final prize to include all six ERC Junior rounds in 2022 in a Ford Fiesta Rally3 using Pirelli tyres.
Six events in store for ERC Junior drivers
The 2021 ERC Junior and ER3 Junior championship consist of six rounds on gravel and asphalt with drivers counting their best five scores.
Recent graduates with big ambitions
Since it was launched in 2014, a whole host of drivers stepping up from national level aiming for the top of the sport have used ERC Junior as a platform of progression. Here’s just a small selection of recent ERC Junior graduates.
Nikolay Gryazin (ERC1 Junior champion in 2018, WRC2 event winner in 2019)
Jari Huttunen (ERC3 Junior driver in 2017, WRC3 champion in 2020)
Chris Ingram (ERC3 Junior champion in 2017, ERC champion in 2019
Tom Kristensson (ERC3 Junior driver in 2018, JWRC champion in 2020)
Pierre-Louis Loubet (ERC1 Junior driver in 2018, 2019, WRC2 champion in 2019)
Filip Mareš (ERC3 Junior driver in 2018, ERC1 Junior champion in 2019)
Catie Munnings (ERC3 Junior driver in 2017, 2018, Extreme E driver in 2021
Mārtiņš Sesks (ERC3 Junior champion in 2018, JWRC runner-up in 2020)
Oliver Solberg (ERC Junior driver in 2019 and 2020, Hyundai WRC2 driver in 2021, pictured)
Rhys Yates (ERC1 Junior driver in 2018, WRC2 driver in 2019, 2020)