Wagner steps up for ERC Junior season decider
Simon Wagner will build on his potential at R5 level when he steps up to the FIA ERC1 Junior Championship on Barum Czech Rally Zlín, a move he hopes will lead to more action in the category for young stars in R5 cars next season.
Wagner began 2019 chasing success in the Pirelli-supported ERC3 Junior only for bad luck to strike on the opening two rallies, which triggered a change of focus.
After winning back-to-back events in his native Austria in a ŠKODA Fabia R5 in May and June, Wagner entered the Czech championship Rally Bohemia last month and beat more experienced opposition to finish a fine fourth overall – and start the process of securing the funding to contest Barum Czech Rally Zlín from 16-18 August as an ERC1 and ERC1 Junior contender.
“For me, Barum is the season highlight in ERC, it’s simply incredible to drive there,” said Wagner, 26. “The spectators, the roads, the unpredictable weather conditions, the different grip, this all makes the Barum one of the most beautiful but also the most difficult rallies in Europe. I really want to thank my sponsors, my co-driver Gerry [Gerald Winter], my family and of course my team Eurosol Racing for making this dream, driving here with an R5 car, come true. I hope I can pay them back with a strong result.”
Wagner is one of eight drivers on the packed Barum Czech Rally Zlín entry list chasing ERC1 Junior points, a prospect he’s relishing. “The competition in ERC1 and especially in ERC1 Junior is very high and everybody needs to go to the limit and give everything. It’s very exciting to see where we will find ourselves in this fight and how far we will get. For sure fighting with the frontrunners is going to be lots of work, especially as we will start with the brand-new ŠKODAFabia R5 Evo and lack the experience.”
ERC is for the long term, Wagner hopes
Simon Wagner doesn’t want his return to the FIA European Rally Championship to be a one-off with a full-time campaign in 2020 a firm target. “It would be a lie to say that this is not the plan,” said Wagner. “For sure I am working to make that happen but it’s very hard to find the budget. For now, I will focus on Barum Czech Rally Zlín 100 per cent, try to enjoy it as much as possible and try to get faster every kilometre. Afterwards it will be a long winter with a lot of meetings and we’ll see what we can do for next season.”
Wagner already alive in R5
While he’s yet to drive in R5 machinery at FIA European Rally Championship level, Simon Wagner’s record in the category is strong with five wins from eight starts. “The first starts in the top category almost felt like a different world to be honest,” said Wagner. “It was great how fast we could adapt both my driving and our pacenotes. Five wins at eight rallies is not too bad. The great backing of our team, Eurosol Racing, was a big factor here and I want to say massive thanks to them for the great support they gave us for our first steps in the R5 world. The fourth place at Rally Bohemia, just behind Kalle [Rovanperä] and the two Jans [Kopecký and Černý], was the greatest highlight so far and would not have been possible without the experience of the team. But Barum will be a completely new story and we want to enjoy every kilometre and minute and keep improving!”