Where every Junior WRC champion ended up

This week a new JWRC champion will be crowned. Here are the footsteps they'll be looking to follow

Rally Catalunya-Costa Daurada, Salou 2-5 10 2008

The World Rally Championship has evolved greatly since 2001, and so has the Junior support category that has existed since then.

But one thing has remained constant: become Junior World Rally champion, and you’re one step on your way to greatness.

William Creighton, Laurent Pellier, Diego Domínguez and co. will all be hoping to add their name to the roll of honor this weekend, and what a roll of honor it is.

As a reminder of just how important a JWRC title can be, here’s a look at where every past champion has ended up.

It didn’t work out for everyone of course, but there are some serious names in here with some some serious career achievements:

Sébastien Loeb

2001 Acropolis Rallyworld wide copyright: McKlein

Whatever happened to him? We’re pretty sure he ended up just pootling around on some national rallies after winning the maiden JWRC title in 2001.

Err… no. More like rewriting the entire WRC history book instead.

In fact even when he was vying for the Junior title, Sébastien Loeb had his foot in the right door: Citroën’s.

Contesting some events in the Xsara WRC in 2001, Loeb was a WRC winner two years later and world champion by 2004. Eight more titles would follow in a career that netted a ridiculous 80 wins.

Undoubtedly the biggest advert for the JWRC you could ever imagine.

Dani Solà

Rally di Gran Bretagna 2002

Dani Solà didn’t scale the same heights as Loeb, far from it, but his career still progressed after he became the second ever JWRC champion in 2002.

Stepping up to four-wheel-drive and the PWRC for 2003 and ’04, Solà’s first WRC chance fell in 2004 with Mitsubishi before a partial season in 2005 behind the wheel of a BP Ford World Rally Team Focus.

But aside from a sixth place on home ground with a Lancer, the Spaniard’s results were poor and he failed to make an impression in the WRC’s top class.

That would mark the end of Solà’s WRC story, but he returned home to Spain to scoop a couple of national titles in 2006 and ’07.

Brice Tirabassi

Rally Italia - Sardegna 19-21 05 2006

For those au fait with the UK game show Pointless, Brice Tirabassi has to be what’s known as a ‘pointless answer’.

That’s not to say he wasn’t a quality rally driver, he’s just not the first that’s ever remembered.

And unfortunately the 2003 JWRC title, claimed in a Renault Clio S1600, didn’t propel him onto WRC stardom.

Some PWRC outings in 2005, and actually a return to JWRC in 2006 with a Citroën C2 (pictured) showed his career had stalled, but the Frenchman did eventually contest some WRC events in a World Rally Car – steering a works Subaru Impreza S14 WRC in Corsica and Spain 2008.

Per-Gunnar Andersson

Neste Rally Finland 2005

The only ever double JWRC champion, P-G first claimed the title in 2004 before doubling up three years later in ’07.

Both successes were claimed with Suzuki – the first in the Ignis S1600 before the Swift replaced it halfway through 2005 – and the Swede’s loyalty to the Japanese marque was rewarded as it built a World Rally Car, the SX4 WRC, for 2008.

And Andersson was enlisted to drive it.

Unfortunately, the less said about that project the better. By 2009 Andersson was out of the WRC completely, although he did fight his way back into the SWRC in the early 2010s with some select outings in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC for good measure.

Dani Sordo

Rally Catalunya-Costa Daurada 27-30/10/2005

A huge success story of JWRC, as proved by the fact he has competed in the WRC every single season since he clinched the title in 2005.

Claiming that success with Citroën, Sordo was immediately promoted to the main team as fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz bowed out of professional rallying.

Citroën would be Sordo’s home for the next five years where he played second fiddle to world dominator Loeb. When Mini launched its WRC project, Sordo was lured away to lead the team but returned to Citroën for 2013 after Mini pulled out.

Claiming a long-awaited maiden WRC win in Germany, Sordo then migrated to Hyundai as it rejoined Hyundai and has remained there ever since – winning another two WRC events, both in Sardinia.

Patrik Sandell

Wales Rally GB 1-3 12 2006

Like Swedish compatriot Andersson, Patrik Sandell defended his JWRC title after lifting the title in 2007 – but he split that with a season in the PWRC as well.

The various WRC support classes would become Sandell’s home as he stepped up to SWRC when it was formed in 2010, too.

A maiden WRC outing in a World Rally Car would have to wait until 2012 when Sandell got his hands on a Mini JCW WRC for Sweden and Portugal. Eighth in Sweden was the highlight as he crashed in Portugal.

That proved to be Sandell’s final WRC event, but he did find success Stateside driving for the works Subaru team in 2018, winning three ARA rallies on the bounce.

Sébastien Ogier

Rallye de France - Tour de Corse, Ajaccio 10-12 10 2008

Ever heard of him?

This is another thing the WRC’s two great Sébastiens have in common: they’re both JWRC champions. And like Loeb, Ogier was driving a Citroën World Rally Car the same year (2008) he achieved it – stunning to win his very first stage before it all went awry.

But Ogier’s future career needs no explanation. Eight world titles for three different teams (Volkswagen, M-Sport Ford and Toyota), the only small blot on his copybook is he never managed to win a title with Citroën despite two separate spells with the French outfit.

Martin Prokop

Cyprus Rally, Limassol 12-15 03 2009

Martin Prokop’s 2009 season was something quite extraordinary, as he aimed for the JWRC/PWRC double. He reached gold in the Juniors, but unfortunately could only claim silver in the production class.

Still, that JWRC title win boosted his profile and he committed to the SWRC for the next two years with a Fiesta S2000 before upgrading to a WRC version for 2012.

Running in his own team, Prokop’s pace was modest compared to the world’s best but he did achieve some fine results – not least fourth in Argentina 2012 and Germany the following year.

Prokop was a WRC regular until 2016 where he only entered four events, while the shift in regulations for 2017 limited his appearances further as Prokop stuck with his older car.

But he’s still active in the WRC today, competing in WRC2.

Aaron Burkart

Rally of Turkey, Istanbul 16-19 04 2010

Remember him? And we’re not being facetious this time!

Aaron Burkart is a unique case here though, as he had actually driven a WRC car in the WRC before winning the JWRC.

That World Rally Car bow came on Rally GB 2009, where he drove a Citroën Junior Team-entered C4 WRC to 12th overall.

Winning the JWRC in 2010 with a Suzuki after five years of trying, Burkart didn’t progress as he would have liked but did secure a Ford Fiesta RS WRC for his home round in Germany, but struggled to just 23rd overall.

That was the last we saw of him in the WRC.

Craig Breen

Wales Rally GB, Cardiff 10-13 11 2011

It may have taken him longer than he would have liked, but the late Craig Breen made superb use of his epic WRC Academy (as it was called then) title success to launch a top-flight WRC career.

Initially elevating himself into the SWRC and winning that too, Breen spent a few seasons with Peugeot in the European championship before Citroën finally brought him into the WRC – and he grabbed a podium in his first season.

But never quite able to clinch a full season, Breen was dropped for 2019 before Hyundai rescued him and enabled him to capture the best form of his career with a scintillating run of form at the end of 2021.

A failed move to M-Sport Ford in 2022 followed but Breen had refound the magic with a stunning run to second in Sweden this year for Hyundai, only for it all to be tragically cut short when he lost his life in a testing accident two months later.

Elfyn Evans

Rally de Portugal, Faro 29/03 01/04 2012

The early 2010s was a real sweet period for Junior talent, as a year after Breen Elfyn Evans won the championship and became another of the feeder series’ big success stories.

Making good use of his Ford Fiesta R5 WRC2 prize drive, Evans was snapped up to drive for M-Sport’s works team in 2014 – but not before an impressive stand-in for Nasser Al-Attiyah in Sardinia where he finished sixth.

Aside from a season back in WRC2 and his native British championship in 2016, Evans has been in the WRC ever since – coming alive when he moved to Toyota in 2020 and almost won the title at his first attempt.

He’s currently the WRC’s most recent winner having triumphed in Finland last month.

Pontus Tidemand

WRC Rallye Deutschland, Trier 21-25 August 2013

In terms of careers at the very top of the WRC, Pontus Tidemand’s has to be chalked up as a slight missed opportunity. But his JWRC title, claimed in 2013, did propel him onto big things in four-wheel-drive cars.

Particularly Škodas.

Like Evans the year before him, initially Tidemand drove a Fiesta R5 as a prize drive in WRC2 and actually won an event in Germany. But the following year he was picked up by Škoda Motorsport and won the APRC title.

A regular return to the WRC stages netted a WRC2 title in 2017 which he almost successfully defended in ’18 before Tidemand went full circle and rejoined M-Sport for select WRC events in a Fiesta WRC for 2019.

Unfortunately it proved to be a slight struggle, and the best the Swede could manage was seventh on Rally GB.

Stéphane Lefebvre

Rally de Portugal, Faro 02-06 04 2014

Stéphane Lefebvre took to the WRC like a duck to water. Embarking upon his first full season at the top level in 2014, he ended it as the JWRC champion.

But despite all the promise, things never quite worked out as they perhaps should have.

Citroën was suitably impressed with its latest young Frenchman and supported him for the following year’s WRC2, as well as handing him four runs in a DS3 WRC in Germany, Corsica, Spain and GB.

That led to more World Rally Car drives in 2016 as Citroën contested its partial season with development of its new C3 WRC in mind. Lefebvre, effectively auditioning for a drive, claimed a best finish of fifth on the Monte which proved enough to earn him a partial season in 2017.

But for 2018 he was dropped down to the R5 program and hasn’t driven anything quicker since.

Quentin Gilbert

Rallye Monte-Carlo, Gap 19-25 01 2015

After a run of JWRC champions who ended up making big strides, Quentin Gilbert was the first since Aaron Burkart to somewhat plateau.

Winning the title in 2015, he made the logical step up into WRC2 with manufacturer backing from Citroën, and did manage to secure himself an Abu Dhabi World Rally Team drive in a DS3 WRC for Rally GB. But that World Rally Car chance proved to be just flirting, not a fully-blown relationship.

Contesting another WRC2 season in 2017 Gilbert grabbed two podiums, but by 2018 he’d headed back home to France where he’s remained ever since.

Nowadays he campaigns an Alpine A110 Rally RGT.

Simone Tempestini

WRC Rally Finland, Jyvaskyla 28-31 07 2016

In what was probably one of the less competitive years of Junior WRC, Simone Tempestini dominated in 2016 to claim the spoils.

But it didn’t prove to be the catalyst in launching his World Rally career.

Following the tried and tested path of moving up to WRC2, the Romanian failed to make a big impression and ended up fully drifting back to national competition by 2020.

That’s worked out well for him though as Tempestini is a seven-time Romian rally champion, and tops this up by making sporadic appearances in the ERC.

Nil Solans

WRC Rally Deutschland, Bostalsee 17 - 20 August 2017

By this time the Junior WRC was partnered by DMACK and back being run by M-Sport Poland, so the prize of a WRC2 season in a Ford Fiesta R5 was back.

After winning the 2017 title, Nil Solans was therefore automatically rewarded with a step up for 2018. However, like so many others, that failed to have the desired effect.

Although the Spaniard manage to secure himself three WRC2 events in 2019, he regressed back to Spain for 2020.

However a step up to ERC in 2021 unlocked the door to an unexpected Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC drive on his home event, replacing the injured Pierre-Louis Loubet and finishing a respectable eighth.

Solans returned to ERC last season and looked fit for a title challenge before budget constraints got in the way.

Emil Bergkvist


Sadly for Emil Bergkvist, his driving career essentially peaked after winning the 2018 Junior WRC title.

Looking like the real deal as he rose through the Opel ranks in Germany and contested some WRC2 events in 2016 and ’17 with Citroën DS3 R5 led to a JWRC assault which Bergkvist didn’t look set to win until he topped the double points finale in Turkey.

From there however his career dried up quickly. Two WRC2 outings followed in 2019 and he was impressive – particularly in Portugal when he was second – but budget remained an issue and that proved to be his last WRC event.

Now he’s ended up switching both disciplines and sides of the car, competing as Matias Ekström’s navigator in rally-raid for Audi.

Jan Solans


Some stats about Jan Solans for you to kick his section off: he’s the fourth of four Spaniards to become JWRC champion, and is the first brother of a previous champion too!

At 22, Jan became champion much younger than Nil, who’s five years older, did – but sadly his WRC tale was fairly similar.

His 2020 WRC3 season (at this point for Rally2 drivers who weren’t ex professionals or driving for works teams) was a bit of a non-starter, not helped of course by the global pandemic.

Solans has made the odd category appearance since, but mostly his rallying efforts have been focused in Spain where he’s currently fourth in the Superchampionship.

Tom Kristensson


Few Junior WRC champions worked harder to get where they are than Tom Kristensson. But sadly for the Swede, his golden ticket into WRC2 with an M-Sport Fiesta Rally2 in 2021 turned into a living nightmare.

Overworked trying to sort everything for the season, he crashed in Croatia which snowballed into three more retirements in the next four events.

Resessing for 2022, Kristensson won the Polish championship and impressed in ERC before what was supposed to be a full season challenge this year. But the Swede cut things short halfway through the year after a difficult run.

Sami Pajari


Finland’s legend is strong in rallying, but it took until 2021 for the country to spawn its first Junior world champion: Sami Pajari.

Pajari’s star is one that’s continuing to rise, even if he did make the unconventional step of choosing to defend his JWRC title in 2022 and failed to do so.

But the young Finn coupled that with some WRC2 outings for Toksport Škoda which led to a full program this year.

Pajari’s campaign really hit top gear on the recent Rally Finland which he won, to keep himself well in contention for this year’s WRC2 title.

Robert Virves


By far the hardest driver to judge on this list given he’s the most recent JWRC champion, and therefore hasn’t even had a full season post-JWRC.

But Robert Virves, based on pure talent at least, looks like he has a good future.

Results this season haven’t been that spectacular – a crash on the first proper stage of Rally Finland certainly not helping – but he’s done well given it’s his first year in a seriously competitive WRC2 field.

Words:Luke Barry