The Junior WRC Championship will enter a new phase when the 2014 World Rally Championship returns to Europe in April, as the FIA begins its long-term strategy to define a pyramid for the sport.
With the World Rally Championship at its pinnacle, the governing body hopes to streamline rallying on a national and international basis, giving talent the opportunity to rise. As such, the FIA and European Rally Championship promoter have already introduced a new initiative for competitors under the age of 25 to contest the ERC Junior Championship in an R2 car with control tyres.
With the intention of rolling the initiative out across other regional championships, drivers will have the opportunity to hone their skills on an international stage in a cost-effective formula, building experience before making the step up to the JWRC.
From 2014, JWRC competitors - with an upper age limit of 28 - will take to the wheel of a more competitive car in the shape of the Citroën DS3 R3. In order to maintain a cap on costs, the cars will all run on Michelin tyres and fuel from the FIA's designated supplier.
Any driver registered for the Junior WRC Championship will be eligible for - and automatically entered in - the FIA WRC 3 Championship. Registration for the championship may only be made in the name of a driver. However, entry to individual events may be made in the name of a driver, team or sponsor, or in the name of an ASN designated team, ensuring that competitors do not have to commit to the whole Championship but can be classified in the standings. Competitors are also permitted to register for the JWRC Championship, or individual events, using their own DS3 R3. Seasonally allocated numbers (51-70) will be given to each driver registered.
Points for each round will be awarded to drivers and co-drivers based on the JWRC overall classification, although a single point will no longer be awarded for stage wins. All the results will count towards the championship battle, with the 2014 title-winner receiving a prize that helps further their career in the sport, including six rallies counting towards the 2015 FIA WRC2 Championship, driving a Citroën DS3 R5.
“It is our intention to establish this pyramid so that drivers wishing to pursue a professional career in our sport have a clear path, learning on all levels as they progress,” FIA rally director Jarmo Mahonen said, “Now drivers can compete for a prestigious junior title in the European Championship in a smaller capacity car, at a very reasonable cost, before graduating to the slightly more powerful Citroën DS3 R3 in the Junior WRC.
“Here, in front of influential manufacturers, they have the chance to make their mark and with a drive in an R5 car for the winner, this really completes the logical path to the full WRC.”
In a change to previous years, Citroën Racing has put together an all-inclusive package for competitors, which includes car, tyres and fuel, mechanic and engineer, shakedown, entry fee for the JWRC and WRC3 championships, accommodation for the crew, insurance and overalls.
The 2014 JWRC kicks off on the Rally de Portugal over 3-6 April, before continuing through the rounds in Poland, Finland, Germany, France and Great Britain.