Ford Fiesta junior WRC

The 2021 FIA Junior WRC Championship will be contested across five FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) rounds in a bid to find the next star of the WRC.

A field of Ecoboost-powered Fiesta Rally4s, all exclusively equipped with Pirelli tyres and powered by Wolf Lubricants will do battle on a mixture of surface types and conditions for the biggest prize package in rallying.

This year’s championship will also celebrate FIA Junior WRC’s incredible 20-year history, which goes back to the days of a fresh-faced Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena guiding their Super 1600 car to championship glory. In the two decades that followed, FIA Junior WRC drivers went on to amass a so-far combined total of 16 WRC Championships, 172 WRC event victories and 415 podiums.

Those drivers looking to add their names to the history books with the likes of Loeb will no-doubt face many challenges throughout the five-round championship that will see them lean on every inch of their driving talent. The fight for the 2021 crown will be tightened further with the final championship classification counting each crew’s four best classification results and all stage win points. Double classification points return in 2021 for the final round of the season, only available to drivers who previously entered at least three FIA Junior WRC rounds in 2021, providing an unpredictable and exciting championship battle.

Round 1: Croatia 22 – 25 April

Rally Croatia is a brand-new all-asphalt addition to the WRC which will serve as the curtain raiser for this year’s five-round championship to the delight of Croatia’s passionate rally fanbase. Although a new feature on the WRC calendar, the Croatian event has international pedigree having previously been a part of the FIA European Rally Championship for many years until 2013. The service park will be based in Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb, with the characteristically slippery asphalt stages snaking their way through Karlovac County, Zagreb County and Krapina-Zagorje County. It’s likely that all of 2021’s Junior WRC crews will have limited road-knowledge on the opening round, meaning the critical task of writing and reading of new notes should only add to the drama of 2021’s championship fight.

Round 2: Portugal 20 – 23 May

In stark contrast to the opening round, Rally Portugal is the first gravel event on the FIA WRC calendar and has previously featured on the FIA Junior WRC calendar. Junior WRC’s most recent visit to Portugal was in 2018, leaving nothing on the table when it came to drama through various thrills and spills on the iconic Portuguese stages.

Round 3: Estonia 15 – 18 July

Rally Estonia made its WRC debut in 2020, with Junior WRC witnessing an epic battle between local heroes and talents from further afield on the fast and challenging Estonian roads. Rally Estonia will be a very different gravel round to Portugal, testing crews further by calling upon a completely different skillset to master Estonia’s sweeping corners and jumps. The 2020 edition of Rally Estonia was a hit with drivers and teams, featuring an almighty battle for stage win points as Martins Sesks became Latvia’s first ever Junior WRC event winner.

Round 4: Belgium August

The championship heads to the tricky asphalt roads of Ypres, Belgium, for the penultimate round of the 2021 season in August. The event is a classic with tight competition along its ditch-lined roads, where drivers risk cuts at their own peril, and it is expected to provide a tantalising battle as the championship fight heats up. Crews with three strong classification scores on the board will head to Ypres knowing they can afford to drop a poor classification score and therefore cherry pick stages to push for stage win points on in a bid to help their championship.

Round 5: Spain 14 – 17 October

The championship finale is planned to play out at Rally Spain, with 2021 marking the rally’s 30th anniversary as a WRC event, the event is steeped in history and is regarded as one of the toughest asphalt challenges in the FIA WRC. Double classification points will mean a wide open and unpredictable title fight going down to the wire ensuring every contender will push for every classification and stage point available. With the pressure piled on the championship protagonists, Rally Spain will no doubt be a nail-biter thanks to its racetrack-like surface and extra-wide roads giving opportunity to maximise commitment through every corner. The high speeds also mean increased jeopardy though, with high-speed mistakes usually arriving at a huge and most likely championship-ending cost.

Maciej Woda, FIA Junior WRC Team Director, said: “It’s great to see the 2021 FIA Junior Championship taking shape with a good mix of events on this year’s calendar. I think all five rounds will require a different set of skills to master which is very important for the championship to rigorously test all of our drivers and find out who really has got the talent. No two rounds are the same which is an exciting prospect and should really shake things up for the championship.

“We’ve worked very hard with the FIA and WRC Promoter to ensure the calendar is spaced out evenly enough to help crews prepare for each event and also leave a reasonable gap from the final round of the 2020 championship. Normally the Junior WRC Championship concludes in September or October and it allows the championship and crews a healthy amount of time to prepare and confirm plans for the following season. From speaking with all interested crews and the late conclusion of the 2020 season we made sure to provide interested crews the time needed to put their 2021 programme and plans together.”