The Rally di Roma this weekend will showcase some of the best junior rally talent in Europe, counting both towards the FIA Junior European Rally Championship and the Italian Junior Rally Championship. Italy’s capital is where the top two-wheel drive exponents in rallying will come to do battle, with 12 drivers in the ERC Junior Under 27 series, and another eight drivers in the Italian Junior series (where drivers have to be 26 or under).

Both championships have Pirelli as their sole tyre supplier, underlining the Italian firm’s commitment to promoting the careers of young drivers. The European Championship contenders can use a maximum of 12 tyres for the entire rally, whereas the Italian Championship runners can use up to 16 tyres.

But Pirelli’s commitment to young drivers goes above and beyond just supplying tyres. Throughout the season, Pirelli’s technicians have also supplied training courses for the young drivers, showing them how to choose and get the best possible use out of their P Zero tyres for asphalt and Scorpion tyres for gravel. Whoever wins the ERC Junior U27 title this year will be given a budget towards an ERC Junior Under 28 programme next year, using a top R5 four-wheel drive machine in the leading category. A similar prize is offered in the Italian Championship, with the leading Peugeot Competition Top 208 driver claiming a factory Peugeot Italia drive for 2019.

ERC Junior Under 27. Portuguese driver Diogo Gago (Peugeot 208 R2B) is the man to beat, but young Latvian Martins Sesks (Opel Adam R2B) has sprung a big surprise with his incredible performances, despite his lack of experience. Other drivers to have shown notable speed include Austria’s Simon Wagner (Peugeot), Spaniard Efren Llarena (Peugeot), Dominik Broz from the Czech Republic (Peugeot) and Sweden’s Tom Kristensson (Opel). Italy’s Mattia Vita (Peugeot) is also set to be a highlight of his home event this weekend as he makes his debut with a new team.

Italian Junior Championship. Peugeot driver Damiano de Tommaso, who has also been seen on selected World Rally Championship rounds, currently leads the Italian junior standings by five points at the halfway point of the season.

ERC Junior Under 27 classification after 2 of 6 rounds: 1. Diogo Gago 77 points, 2. Martins Sesks 57, 3. Simon Wagner 29, 4. Efren Llarena 28, 5. Dominik Broz 23.


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