WRC 2 2018 – Season Preview
Challenging season ahead
WRC 2 is a very challenging category, with young guns eager to show their speed in WRC events and impress teams for a factory drive, fighting against more experienced or even local competitors in event.
The WRC 2 Champion titles for Teams, Drivers and Co-Drivers will be awarded to the team, driver and co-driver who have scored the highest number of points from 6 of the first 7 rallies which they have entered to score points. With Skoda Motorsport, M-Sport, Hyundai Motorsport and Citroen Racing all involved in the championship, the fight is expected to be intense in every event. Although we don’t know the exact program of most drivers, which is being scheduled as the year is progressing, we already have some knowledge on the drivers who are taking part and are expected to make a hype, so let us share it with you…
Reigning champions Pontus Tidemand-Jonas Andersson will defend their title, starting the year on home soil, in Uddeholm Rally Sweden on February 15-18, sharing a factory Skoda Fabia R5. Many drivers will try to “steal” the crown, involving their own teammates, as Skoda Motorsport has 5 factory crews this year, competing in various championships, including WRC 2. Monte Carlo winners Kopecky-Dresler will definitely be in the mix, especially on tarmac, whilst Norwegians O.C. Veiby- Stig Rune Skjærmoen who won last year in Poland, will try to claim wins especially in fast gravel events. Meanwhile, Finnish teen sensation Kalle Rovanpera, is having his first year as factory driver at the age of 17 and will be co-driven by Jonne Halttunen, while Juuso Nordgren-Tapio Suominen will also be part of the team. The exact program of each driver has yet to be confirmed.
After managing the “double” in the big league last year, the British outfit is eager to win the WRC 2 title during 2018, as well. Frenchmen Eric Camilli-Benjamin Veillas seem to be the leading crew, while talented Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula who drove in Monte Carlo, are expected to return in WRC 2 during ADAC Rallye Deutschland, as they will drive Ford Fiesta WRC in 8 rounds of the championship. Talented Brit Gus Greensmith is also expected to fight for podiums this year, as his speed is proven and consistency will become the main target. Meanwhile, Kevin Abbring who took part in Monte Carlo will also be present in Sweden, hoping to add more outings to his calendar for the rest of the season. Under the M-Sport banner, we expect to see young Spaniard Nils Solans, the 2017 Junior World Champion who will benefit from his prize this year, driving a Fiesta R5 in selected rounds of the championship.
The involvement of Hyundai in WRC is huge and their WRC 2 participation in 2018, comes as a solid proof. After holding a shootout with many young drivers involved, the team chose 23 year-old Finn and Marcus Gronholm protege, Jari Huttunen, who will be co-driven by Antti Linnaketo, to compete in WRC 2 with a factory prepared Hyundai i20 R5. The promising driver, who won the category in Finland last year, is fast on both gravel and tarmac and his performances, as well as those of his car that will be run by Sarrazin Motorsport, are eagerly anticipated.
New car, new hopes. That’s how we could begin the story of Citroen in 2018 WRC 2 championship. With a brand new Citroen C3 R5 ready to tackle the world rally stages shortly after final homologation, which is expected soon, Frenchmen Stephane Lefebvre-Gabin Moreau will represent their team in this competitive championship, as official crew. It’s worth noting that Lefebvre has been both Junior World and European Champion in the recent past, while he was member of Citroen WRC team last year, so both his speed and experience will count. Furthermore, French champion Yoann Bonato, has been part of testing and is expected to take part in some events as well.
If you think that’s enough, you are wrong… In mid-summer, another brand new car is about to come in competition. The VW Polo GTI R5, that’s been tested by Pontus Tidemand as well, is expected to debut in Germany and its performance is highly anticipated. Apart from the official drivers, many more crews are expected to tackle the prestigious series, in an effort to combine themselves with some of the most talented drivers out there. Pole Lukasz Pieniazek will tackle 8 rounds in a Skoda Fabia R5, while Italian Umberto Scandola is expected to participate in some rounds driving a Fabia R5 prepared by Skoda Motorsport in Italy. Also, Mexican Benito Guerra and Italian Fabio Andolfi will return in the series in Skoda Fabia R5 prepared by Motorsport Italia, while young Bolivian Marquito Bulacia will participate in 6 events behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R5.
If we had to draw some early conclusions, it seems that factory drivers will have the upper hand over private drivers, both due to car preparation and more competitive kilometers. Pontus Tidemand, who is the driver with most WRC 2 wins (8) ever starts the season as favorite, with teammates Jan Kopecky and Ole Christian Veiby being able to challenge him in some rallies. Frenchman Eric Camilli is also expected to fight at the top, especially if he combines his pure speed with consistency, while we can hardly know what to expect from Citroen and Hyundai official crews. Our essence is that Jari Huttunen will set good times and challenge for podium in some events, like Sweden, whilst Stephane Lefebvre or Yoann Bonato will be able to fight for podiums and even wins in their Citroen C3 R5.
Are you ready for a thrilling WRC 2 season?