by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Sean Johnston Racing

Of the 55 crews to finish Rally Sweden, only one of them featured a pair of Americans in the cockpit. And those Americans put forth an impressive effort to crack the top five in their class.

Sean Johnston and Alex Kihurani placed fifth in the Junior World Rally Championship standings in Sweden in their series debut. Driving a Ford Fiesta R2 prepared by M-Sport Poland, they finished the 19-stage event in 3:26:32.0, putting together a clean and consistent event overall. Johnston and Kihurani beat a group of fellow JWRC drivers who combined to win 17 of the event’s 19 stages, proving the importance of mistake-free driving in the overall classification.

Johnston made his switch to rally last season with a sixth place championship effort in the ADAC Opel Rallye Cup. His break in motorsport came in 2011 when he was selected to compete in the North American Nissan GT Academy, an event set up to transition top Gran Turismo 5 players into real-world vehicles. After multiple seasons in sports car racing in both North America and Europe, Johnston took a sabbatical from professional motorsports before returning to pursue a rally career.

Kihurani is one of the United States’ most familiar and well-traveled co-drivers, having competed consistently since 2003 in various championships around the world. In Rally America events, he’s competed alongside top drivers like Joseph Burke, Chris Duplessis, George Plsek, and Dave Mirra. Kihurani’s first European event came in 2008, and he competed in seven countries in 2018, primarily alongside Johnston.

Johnston and Kihurani will have a full plate ahead of them in 2019. Alongside their JWRC efforts, they’ll be competing with Sainteloc Racing in the FIA European Rally Championship-3 in a Peugeot 208 R2. Past drivers to compete with Sainteloc include WRC veterans Craig Breen, Stephane Lefebvre, and Kevin Abbring. The JWRC season continues with Rally Guanajuato Mexico on March 7-10, while the 2019 ERC season kicks off with Azores Rallye on March 21-23.