For the penultimate time in 2021, final preparations are being made and plans formulated as to how to approach a round of the World Rally Championship.
This week, the world’s best rally drivers are on Spain’s northeast coast for Rally Spain which, this year, has reverted back to its traditional all-asphalt format.
It promises to be a thrilling encounter with the possibility of both the 2021 WRC drivers’ and manufacturers’ championship to be wrapped up, while the Junior WRC title will definitely be settled as Spain is the final round.
Arguably then, JWRC is the support class to be glued on this weekend. But this piece will focus solely on the runners in WRC2 and WRC3 as we’ve already done a separate feature on the Junior title equation which you can check out here.
Seeded entry list:
|20||Marco Bulacia||Marcelo Der Ohannesian||Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo|
|21||Mads Østberg||Torstein Eriksen||Citroën C3 Rally2|
|22||Nikolay Gryazin||Konstantin Aleksandrov||Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo|
|23||Jari Huttunen||Mikko Lukka||Hyundai i20 N Rally2|
|24||Teemu Suninen||Mikko Markkula||Hyundai i20 N Rally2|
|25||Georg Linnamäe||James Morgan||Volkswagen Polo GTI R5|
|26||Sean Johnston||Alex Kihurani||Citroën C3 Rally2|
|27||Eric Camilli||Maxime Vilmot||Citroën C3 Rally2|
|28||Erik Cais||Jindřiška Žáková||Ford Fiesta Rally2|
There’s plenty at stake in WRC2, but sadly it’ll be more of an aggregate battle than a thriller on the special stages.
The intrigue is between Mads Østberg and Andreas Mikkelsen who are disputing the title this season. Both drivers have one rally left to complete for their mandatory seven-round season, with Østberg choosing Spain and Mikkelsen electing Monza in November.
Currently Mikkelsen heads Østberg both on gross points and when dropped scores are applied too, so Østberg really needs a win this weekend if he’s to take a second WRC2 title in as many years.
That won’t be an easy task though, and there are plenty of threats ready to take him down this week.
Marco Bulacia could do his Toksport team-mate Mikkelsen a huge favor in Spain if he’s able to rip points from Østberg’s grasp, but perhaps the real dangermen lurk further down the entry list.
Nikolay Gryazin switches to a Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo for Spain, declaring the decision is “part of our planning that will help us to decide which way to go in 2022.” It’s a new car but Gryazin has proved his speed on asphalt, while Hyundai’s attack looks strong with Jari Huttunen and for the first time Teemu Suninen. Just what Suninen can do in an i20 N Rally2 will be one of the narratives of the rally.
Erik Cais is a fascinating proposition too as he makes his WRC debut in a Fiesta Rally2. Cais has been rapid in the European Rally Championship this year so could spring a surprise or two.
|29||Kajetan Kajetanowicz||Maciej Szczepaniak||Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo|
|30||Chris Ingram||Ross Whittock||Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo|
|31||Fabrizio Zaldivar||Carlos del Barrio||Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo|
|32||Pepe López||Borja Odriozola||Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo|
|34||Mikko Heikkilä||Topi Luhtinen||Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo|
|35||Josh McErlean||James Fulton||Hyundai i20 R5|
|36||Jan Solans||Rodrigo Sanjuan de Eusebio||Citroën C3 Rally2|
|37||Armin Kremer||Ella Kremer||Citroën C3 Rally2|
|40||Emil Lindholm||Reeta Hämäläinen||Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo|
Just like in WRC2, there’s a title battle raging in WRC3 that won’t actually be happening on the stages themselves but instead calculated for a showdown in Monza.
Yohan Rossel leads Kajetan Kajetanowicz by just 15 points after being disqualified from the Acropolis Rally bluntening his bid badly. Rossel won’t compete in Spain, heading to Monza for his final round, while Kajetanowicz contests both. If he therefore scores more than 15 points (the equivalent of third place), he’ll wrestle the lead from Rossel.
There’s no guarantee of Kajetanowicz managing that though given who he’s up against. Fellow ERC Champion Chris Ingram was revitalized back in a Toksport Škoda on the Acropolis and will be a podium threat, while Pepe López – who has had a stellar campaign to date – will surely revel in the chance to compete at home.
Emil Lindholm is another likely contender given his impressive speed across the board in 2021 while Hyundai junior Josh McErlean has been strong on his limited WRC outings this year too.
Armin Kremer makes his first ever start in a Citroën C3 Rally2 while Jan Solans will be worth keeping an eye on too; although perhaps he’s a little jealous of his brother Nil who’ll pilot a 2C Competition Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in place of the injured Pierre-Louis Loubet.