Courtesy of WRC Media Service Team
Spanish rally driver Jan Solans hails mentor Sainz after junior WRC title win.
Jan Solans broke through last season with victory in the Junior World Rally Championship and the Spanish driver has revealed that rally legend compatriot Carlos Sainz was a big inspiration behind his 18-point victory over chief rival Tom Kristensson of Sweden.
The 22-year-old comes from a motorsport family and received a Junior R2 Scholarship in 2018 so he could drive a Ford Fiesta R2T the following JWRC season, in which he won in Italy and Great Britain to seal the title – two years after his brother Nil Solans did.
Here is what he had to say ahead of Rally Turkey from September 18-20 where he will line up with co-driver Mauro Barreiro in the WRC3 category:
1. What was it like to win the JWRC title?
For me, it was like a dream come true to win the Junior World Rally Championship. Winning a world championship has been one of my goals from the beginning of my motorsports career. Honestly, I didn’t expect to win the Junior WRC in my first year. In the WRC you normally need a lot of experience to be successful, so winning in my first year was unexpected.
2. Did your brother Nil play a big part in your entry into the rallying world?
I have a really good relationship with Nil and he has always been my teacher. He’s older than me, so he has more experience. He has competed in the Junior WRC for three years, so he knows perfectly how the championship works and what must be done to achieve success. I’m really grateful for his help and everything he has done for me.
3. Was there sibling rivalry growing up or even now you are both in your twenties?
With Nil, there has never been rivalry between us. In rallies, you mainly compete against the clock rather than against other drivers. Even so, in the rallies we have both competed in we always help each other with pace notes and places where we need to take care. We’re always in touch and trying to help each other.
4. Were you gripped the moment you tried rallying and how young were you?
My family has always been involved in the world of motorsport. Since I was a child I always wanted to compete in rallying. However, in Spain, you must be 18 and have a driving licence to compete. I started out with karting, then in autocross with a cross kart. I won the Junior Cross Kart Spanish Championship then – when I was 18 years old – I started rallying with Mitsubishi and Repsol, and have been going step by step since then.
5. You did a lot of co-driving initially. Was that a possible career course for you or simply aimed at making you a better rally driver?
At the beginning, I did some co-driving because I wasn’t yet 18. It was the best way to learn how everything about rallying works. I did some rallies as a co-driver with my brother. I think it was the best way to introduce myself into the world of rally.
6. Spain has a rich history in motorsport. Who were your driving inspirations?
Without any doubt Spain has a rich history in the world of motorsport. We have some really great icons and some really great drivers. From my point of view, Carlos Sainz was the most revolutionary. He created a lot of impact around the world – he has also done a lot for the Spanish sport. Now we have Dani Sordo, another talented driver that I really appreciate. We also have Fernando Alonso in Formula One.
7. You are mentored by Carlos Sainz. How did that whole relationship come about?
I was leading the Junior World Rally Championship and I reached out to Carlos because I knew he was the right guy to guide me. I needed the help of someone to guide me on the right path. Carlos knows the way to arrive to the top, because he’s the only Spanish driver that has achieved that. I called him to ask if I could visit and we ended up talking on the phone for around two hours. He told me that he will do all he can to help me and I really appreciate having his support. Carlos has an amazing knowledge of every aspect of rallying. Every piece of advice that he has given me has been very useful. I always pay attention to everything he has to say. Carlos is always there for me despite having his own very busy life. He has no obligation to help me, but he does it. I think this says a lot about him as a person. I know that without the help from Carlos my career would not be where it is right now.
8. Is the ambition one day to achieve what he did and be crowned world rally champion?
My ambition is to reach the top of the FIA World Rally Championship. I’m aware of how difficult this is going to be, but I’m willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it. I will put all my effort to try for this goal.
9. As for 2020, what’s the goal this season in WRC3?
2020 will be my first season in an R5 rally car and in the in WRC3 the level is very high. I know that in the world of motorsport, you don’t have a lot of time to show your talent so I want to make an impact this year. My main goal is to be the fastest driver in the Ford Fiesta R5, because you’re always compared to the drivers that have the same car as you. After that, my next goal is to beat the other brands at each rally and achieve some WRC3 podiums.
Here is what two-time WRC champion Carlos Sainz had to say about the young charger that he mentors:
“Jan is young. He has won the Junior World Rally Championship in a nice way and shown lots of potential. On top of that, I think Red Bull is always looking for two things; the best and giving good opportunities to people who have merited it. I think Jan has merited this opportunity and can fit very well as a Red Bull athlete. It’s now up to him to make the next step. It’s important to have support as a young driver. Red Bull normally choose wisely and give a lot of opportunities to young drivers. I hope this time it is also working well for a young Spanish driver. In my early days I also had some support from sponsors and it was really the only way to move forward. As a young driver you set a lot of targets and are always pushing yourself to go forward. In my early days, sometimes, I was a little bit impatient. I see Jan has talent and now is his time to prove it. Thank you to Red Bull for supporting a young Spanish driver.”