*Austrian campaigns Peugeot 208 R2 in ERC Junior Under 27
*Step up from national to international level begins in Poland
*Opportunity to prove talent against strong opposition key to move
Austrian Simon Wagner has become rising star number 23 to sign up for the FIA European Rally Championship’s hugely successful Junior category in 2017 and will contest the upcoming ERC Junior Under 27 rounds in Poland and Czech Republic.
Wagner, who is also working to extend his programme to include the maximum of four scoring rounds by adding the season-closing events in Italy and Latvia, is embarking on his first international campaign having stepped up from his national championship.
“I’ve chosen ERC Junior Under 27 because of the great competition with drivers in similar cars and of course the great rallies on the calendar,” said 24-year-old Wagner. “My target is to learn and get more experience as it’s my first international season after winning the junior and two-wheel-drive categories in Austria last year.”
Wagner, whose Peugeot 208 R2 will be co-driven by fellow Austrian Gerald Winter, continued: “Rally Rzeszow and Barum Czech Rally Zlín are 100 per cent but I try everything to find more partners and sponsors for the last two events. In Poland we will try to find a good rhythm, get used to the stages and the Tarmac there and try to set some top-five stage times on the second day.”
ERC Co-ordinator Jean-Baptiste Ley said: “We’re very pleased to welcome Simon to the FIA European Rally Championship and we’re especially delighted he’s chosen ERC Junior Under 27 for his first international campaign as he graduates from his national championship. Simon will be proving his talent amid strong competition but it’s the perfect way to learn and build his experience.”
A technician by trade, the Linz-born Mauthausen resident lists Ott Tänak as his inspiration and made his ERC debut on Barum Czech Rally Zlín last season having taken part on his first rally in 2011. He’s combining his ERC Junior Under 27 campaign with a Czech championship bid.
ERC Junior U27 is for drivers born on or after 1 January 1990 competing in R2 cars on Pirelli tyres. Competitors count their best four scores from a possible six with the eventual champion receiving 100,000 euros to use for an ERC Junior U28 campaign in 2018 when they will step up to R5 machinery. Stéphane Lefebvre, Emil Bergkvist and Marijan Griebel are among the notable ERC Junior graduates.