*Austrian to chase coveted title and 100,000 euros career progression fund
*ERC Junior Experience training sessions will equip youngster with vital knowledge
*Saintéloc Junior Team to guide Wagner during six-event campaign
Simon Wagner will contest the FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship in 2018, as he follows in the wheel tracks of rising talents Jari Huttunen and Stéphane Lefebvre by contesting the young driver training series.
After impressing on two ERC Junior appearances in 2017, which included a podium finish on Barum Czech Rally Zlín, the 24-year-old from Austria is preparing to bid for the coveted title – and the 100,000 euros career progression fund, offered by ERC promoter Eurosport Events to the eventual champion, to use towards an ERC Junior Under 28 campaign in 2019 when they step up from an R2 to an R5 car. Factory world rally drivers Huttunen and Lefebvre are among a number of notable ERC Junior graduates.
Driving a Peugeot 208 R2 for the Saintéloc Racing Junior Team in the six-event contest, Wagner will also be enrolled into the ERC Junior Experience, a series of training workshops and seminars organised during the season. Topics covered include driving tuition, car set-up, vehicle extrication and first aid, social media dos and don’ts, interview techniques and sponsorship acquisition.
Wagner’s step up to ERC Junior full time for 2018 is in line with championship promoter Eurosport Events’ aim to provide a clear path of progression from national to international level. Having won the Austrian Junior crown in 2016 and challenged for Czech 2WD honours in 2017 alongside selected ERC Junior outings, Wagner will embark on a full-season ERC Junior bid alongside experienced co-driver Gerald Winter. They will contest three events on asphalt and three on gravel starting with the loose-surface Azores Airlines Rallye from 22-24 March.
And Wagner underlined his potential when he came close to winning last month’s International Jänner Rallye in an ageing Mazda 323 GT-R – a reduced-budget effort aimed at showcasing his talent to a wider audience – only to retire from the lead on the road section heading to the finish.
“Even with the bitter retirement on the last road section, the Jänner Rallye was an absolute highlight,” said Wagner. “I am completely aware that the difficult and changing conditions of the rally contributed to the fact that we were able to end up being first after the last stage with an old car. Nevertheless, or perhaps because of that, I am proud of what we were able to show there. Now I'm looking forward to the challenge of FIA ERC Junior and I want to thank all supporters and sponsors for the unique opportunity to tackle this championship with the official Peugeot Sport team Saintéloc.”
Vincent Ducher, the Saintéloc Racing Team Manager, said: “We already had an eye on Simon before the Jänner Rallye and have been in contact with him regarding a potential cooperation in 2018. Saintéloc has successfully helped and developed talented young drivers already in the past and we really look forward to welcome Simon and Gerald to our junior team in 2018.”