Next-generation Rally3 cars for FIA ERC Junior, champion gets FIA Junior WRC prize drive
The vastly successful two-tier FIA ERC Junior format continues in 2021 but with a difference. Following FIA World Motor Sport Council approval, the FIA ERC1 Junior Championship becomes the FIA ERC Junior Championship from the upcoming season with drivers competing in next-generation Rally3 machinery on Pirelli tyres.
This exciting change is in line with ongoing measures to make international rallying in four-wheel-drive cars more accessible for young talents and offers a more achievable next step for drivers graduating from ERC3 Junior or national championships.
By switching to Rally3 regulations, FIA ERC Junior, which remains open to all teams, is leading the way as the very first championship reserved for Rally3, a category that is set to become increasingly important in the years ahead.
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. The framework of the championship, including the car category to be used, is expected to be announced by the FIA at the start of 2021.
ERC3 Junior continues as a multi-brand category for Rally4 and Rally5 cars featuring Pirelli as the control tyre supplier. Details of the prize package appear in a section below.
World championship chance awaits ERC Junior champion
The 2021 ERC Junior champion receives a five-event FIA Junior WRC Championship campaign in 2022 as their prize. Details of the full package on offer and the conditions will be included in the competitor registration document available soon.
Yves Matton, Rally Director, FIA, said: “This is the first action in the process of redefining the rally sporting pyramid with more announcements due at the start of 2021. In the meantime, any initiative that creates a clear path between the FIA European Rally Championship and the FIA World Rally Championship is to be applauded and I am very pleased that we could sit down with M-Sport, Pirelli and Eurosport Events with the clear objective of achieving our shared goals. It’s vital for the future of our sport that young drivers are given accessible opportunities to build their international experience in four-wheel-drive machinery and this project does exactly that.”
Jean-Baptiste Ley, ERC Co-ordinator, Eurosport Events, said: “It would be easy to rest on our laurels after a very good ERC1 Junior season when several young stars proved their talent in Rally2 machinery by scoring overall podiums and victories. But we made two important observations. The first is that those drivers have demonstrated they have what it takes to challenge for the overall title and that’s what we hope they will continue to do next season. At the same time, it’s clear the step between ERC3 Junior for 2WD and ERC1 Junior for 4WD, is not getting any smaller, while the finances required are proving increasingly harder to obtain due to the global pandemic. The all-new Rally3 category from the FIA is therefore the perfect answer to the needs of ERC Junior with a smart balance between cost and 4WD experience.
“As well as being in a position to chase the overall title, drivers under 28 in Rally2 cars will benefit from a package of incentives to be announced soon as we value their participation highly. Meanwhile, ERC3 Junior graduates and other young hopefuls stepping up from national level will get the opportunity to compete in the exciting Rally3 category.”
Malcolm Wilson OBE, Managing Director, M-Sport, said: “Developing young drivers has always been at the heart of our business, and the FIA European Rally Championship has long been a proving ground for some of the world’s best up-and-coming talent. We’re dedicated to providing a clear and cost-effective route whereby the most promising youngsters can reach the very top of our sport, and this new series adds another string to that bow. I look forward to seeing what talent comes to the fore in 2021, and to monitoring their progress as they work towards the ultimate goal of becoming a future world champion.”
Terenzio Testoni, Rally Activity Manager, Pirelli, said: “At Pirelli, we’ve always been extremely proud to support initiatives that promote the careers of young rally drivers, from the Pirelli Star Driver scheme to the recently-announced FIA Rally Star programme. As a result, we’re delighted to supply the brand-new ERC Junior category for Rally3 cars in the FIA European Rally Championship. This will enable talented champions of the future to take the next step up the career ladder, all the way towards the very top of the sport, which we also supply.
Same successful format, new prize for ERC3 Junior
ERC3 Junior, 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 2021 ERC3 Junior champion receives a prize of three 2022 ERC Junior rounds in a Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally3. 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. Full conditions will be detailed in the competitor registration document.
May start for six-event ERC Junior/ERC3 Junior seasons
The 2021 ERC Junior and ER3 Junior championship consist of six rounds with drivers counting their best five scores. The season is scheduled to start on Rally Islas Canarias from May 6-8 and is due to conclude on Rally Hungary from October 22-24. The calendar is as follows:
Round 1: Rally Islas Canarias (Asphalt), May 6-8, 2021
Round 2: 77th Rally Poland (Gravel), June 18-20, 2021
Round 3: Rally Liepāja (Latvia, gravel), July 1-3, 2021
Round 4: Rally di Roma Capitale (Italy, asphalt), July 23-25, 2021
Round 5: 50th Barum Czech Rally Zlín (Asphalt), August 27-29, 2021
Round 6: Rally Hungary (Asphalt), October 22-24, 2021
Incentive planned for young drivers in Rally2 cars
Drivers under the age of 28 on January 1, 2021, planning to contest the 2021 FIA European Rally Championship in a Rally2 car will be eligible for a package of incentives designed to lower their own financial outlay and increase exposure. Full details will be announced in due course.