Mon 19 Feb 2024

Wonderful winter weekend for ERC graduates

Several FIA European Rally Championship graduates excelled on the snow and ice-coated roads of Rally Sweden last weekend, further underlining the key role the ERC performs in developing WRC drivers of the future.

Esapekka Lappi (below), the 2014 ERC champion, won the event outright for the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team. Oliver Solberg, winner of the Junior ERC title for Rally2 cars in 2020, claimed victory in WRC2 aboard a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, while Mille Johansson came out on top in WRC3 and Junior WRC on the back of a fine debut in rallying’s top tier driving a Ford Fiesta Rally3.  

Aged 18, the Junior ERC graduate from Sweden snatched first place in both WRC3 and the M-Sport Poland-run Junior WRC on stage six and never looked back, scoring a double win by 48.9sec. He completed his home rally with eight additional Wolf Stage Win points in Junior WRC after setting the pace eight times alongside co-driver Johan Grönvall.  

“I was not thinking I would be the fastest, but the feeling has been great all weekend, just some small driving mistakes losing some time, but we have taken that back and had a strong pace all weekend,” Johansson said.

Norbert Maior was also in action on Rally Sweden as he embarks on his season-long Junior WRC prize drive for winning the Junior ERC title in 2023. Co-driven by his sister Francesca, Maior won the penultimate stage on his way to ninth in class out of 19 entrants.  

“It was a big weekend for us, we experienced a lot of different things but I want to be positive because it was our first rally in WRC and our first proper rally in a four-wheel-drive car,” the 25-year-old from Romania said. “It was more difficult than we expected but it was also nice, a dream come true for us. Ten years ago when I started rallying my goal was to be here and here we are so it’s an amazing feeling.”  

He continued: “We had three damaged tyres and also hit a snowbank and had a lot of snow in the radiator and air filter in one stage, we lost almost one minute for this. But all in all it was an interesting weekend for us, a good experience and a lot of learning. We can be better in the next rounds with this car.”

Meanwhile, Cameron Fair, the 2023 ERC3 champion co-driver, partnered FIA Rally Star programme member Max Smart to 10th position in Junior WRC.  

The six-round 2024 FIA Junior ERC Championship season gets under way on Rally Hungary from 12 - 14 April when a Junior WRC prize drive in 2025 will be up for grabs.   

Drivers planning to take part must be younger than 27 on 1 January, compete in a Rally4 or Rally5 category car, register for the FIA ERC4 Championship, and also complete the WRC Promoter GmbH Junior Driver Agreement, which is available here:

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