ERC Junior – Preview: Azores Rallye

ERC Junior – 2019 Azores Rallye – Preview

Eighteen future stars will chase ERC Junior points on the Azores Rallye from 21-­23 March with six runners in the R5-­based FIA ERC1 Junior Championship and 12 in the FIA ERC3 Junior Championship for R2 cars on Pirelli tyres.

Of the 18, eight will line up in the Azores as ERC Junior rookies although 10 have previous experience of the spectacular gravel event, which features 15 stages over 223.93 kilometres.

The Azores Rallye is the first of six events to count for ERC Junior points in 2019, with three taking place on asphalt and three on gravel. The eventual FIA ERC1 Junior champion receives 100,000 euros for their participation on the ERC season-­closing events in Cyprus and Hungary in an R5 car and with a team they choose, while the ERC3 Junior champion gets two fully-­funded drives in a Pirelli-­equipped Motorsport Italia ŠKODA Fabia R5 in the FIA ERC1 Junior Championship in 2020.

This is what the ERC Junior drivers have had to say ahead of the season-­opening round.

Mattias Adielsson (SWE) ERC1 Junior

Co-­driver: Andreas Johansson (SWE) Team: Sweden National Team Car: Citroën C3 R5

“Obviously we are looking for the most points possible. I don’t have much experience of the R5 abroad but I’m a competition guy and I want to win. We won’t be pushing like hell to make good stage times on every stage and go off the road, we have a whole championship to do so we will have a good strategy. And we have a great car and great team with experience at all levels.”

Pedro Almeida (PRT) ERC1 Junior

Co-­driver: Nuno Almeida (PRT) Team: ARC Sport Car: ŠKODA Fabia R5

“We are adapting to the ŠKODA Fabia R5, which in Fafe gave us good indicators of what we can do this season. We want to improve the pace and be closer to the top places. In the Azores we will have drivers from the European championship, a greater competitiveness that also makes us grow. At this level we want to improve and evaluate what we can do, and maybe to face the future in the ERC.”

Miguel Correia (PRT) ERC1 Junior

Co-­driver: Pedro Alves (PRT) Team: ARC Sport Car: Ford Fiesta R5

“We are very excited to race in the Azores, one of the most beautiful gravel events in the world. It will be only my second time there and our second event ever with the Fiesta R5, after the debut in Fafe. We are still discovering the car so our goal right now is to finish all the events and get the experience, both in the rally and with the R5. It’s also a very important event for our sponsors, like Socicorreia, with all the media attention and amazing fans, so we’ll try to get to the finish line and maximize this opportunity.”

Chris Ingram (GBR) ERC1 Junior

Co-­driver: Ross Whittock (GBR) Team: Toksport WRT Car: ŠKODA Fabia R5

“I know the rally, it’s one of the best there is. I won my class last year and with a full year in an R5 car I know I can be even quicker. We’ve had quite a few setbacks with sponsorship but we’re not giving up. With Toksport and the ŠKODA I have the best chance to win the title, that’s what we’re trying to do.”

PierreLouis Loubet (FRA) ERC1 Junior

Co-­driver: Vincent Landais (FRA) Team: 2C Compétition Car: ŠKODA Fabia R5

“In Azores last year we had some problems with the engine after six kilometres. That was a big disappointment after the long journey to get to the island and that is one of the reasons why we come back this year. When we [restarted] on the last day our times were good with no experience. We work hard to return this year and I am more than confident to do a good result. It’s a great event and also great for my experience.”

Alexandros Tsouloftas (CYP) ERC1 Junior

Co-­driver: Antonis Chrysostomou (CYP) Team: Toksport WRT Car: ŠKODA Fabia R5

“The ERC is the ultimate training ground for young drivers aiming for the top. With events on all kinds of surfaces and conditions and promoted on a global scale on Eurosport and other networks, the ERC is the go-­to championship to build up your career before the highest level. And ERC1 Junior is great to showcase myself. My target is the ERC1 Junior title and thereafter try to aim as high as possible in the overall classification. However, I know that the first year is for building up experience of all events.”

Pedro Antunes (PRT) ERC3 Junior

Co-­driver: Paulo Lopes (PRT) Team: FPAK Portugal Team ERC Car: Peugeot 208 R2

“Everyone starts the season thinking they can win but in the end there can just be only one winner. It is my first full year in ERC Junior so we don’t know what we can do but the podium will be our objective. The opportunity I have with FPAK Portugal Team ERC is really good for us and for the people in Portugal who like motorsport. I am very happy to have this opportunity and very thankful.”

Dominik Brož (CZE) ERC3 Junior

Co-­driver: Petr Tĕšínský (CZE) Team: ACCR Czech Rally Team II Car: Peugeot 208 R2

“I would like to make lot of tests, train my driving skills and pacenotes. But as a lot of our budget is paid from our family business, between races I must work in the car service of my father. So during the day I am working on customers’ cars and in the evening I work on my rally car. So my first test for this season will be on Monday in Azores. This year’s Azores Rallye will be different to previous ones, a lot of new parts to the stage. But for sure it will be an advantage for me to know stages from previous years. So I know where I can push and where is better to be more careful.”

Erik Cais (CZE) ERC3 Junior

Co-­driver: Jindřiška Žáková (CZE) Team: ACCR Czech Rally Team I Car: Ford Fiesta R2T

“The ERC is a big challenge for me and one of my big dreams comes true. I always wanted to compete internationally and get great results, I hope I will achieve them in the ERC. The Fiesta is completely different car from my previous Peugeot and it will not be easy to get used to this car, but I will do my best.”

Sindre Furuseth (NOR) ERC3 Junior

Co-­driver: Jim Hjerpe (SWE) Team: Saintéloc Junior Team Car: Peugeot 208 R2

“I don’t know the Azores, but in the end my only goal is to win the championship so we will have to learn fast in the tests and prepare very good to keep up. With a bigger team that I am now in there will be more people, more engineers to help me.”

Efrén Llarena (ESP) ERC3 Junior

Co-­driver: Sara Fernández (ESP) Team: Rally Team Spain Car: Peugeot 208 R2

“We face this new season in ERC really excited. It’s the second year for Rally Team Spain, the Spanish project which started one year ago. We are looking forward to win rallies during the championship for giving back the support we are receiving from Rally Team Spain and all the Spanish federation overall. They are working really hard to promote young talents from our country, and they deserve it. I think we can succeed this season working together.”

Elias Lundberg (SWE) ERC3 Junior

Co-­driver: David Arhusiander (SWE) Team: ADAC Opel Rally Junior Team Car: Opel ADAM R2

“I am really excited facing my first outing in the FIA ERC3 Junior Championship as well as with the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team. It is tough to be fully prepared for such a big task. Mainly I watch as many on-­ board videos as I can to both get a feeling of how the roads look like in the Azores and how the car works. I expect probably the biggest challenge of my career so far and I am looking so much forward to get behind the wheel of my ADAM R2. I know my co-­driver David and myself have a fantastic team behind us and are driving the benchmark car in the R2 category, so it will be on us to get the best possible result out of this strong package. But we are very well aware of the extremely tough competition in the ERC3 Juniors so we better won’t think too much and rather focus on delivering meticulous work.”

Grégoire Munster (BEL) ERC3 Junior

Co-­driver: Louis Louka (BEL) Team: ADAC Opel Rally Junior Team Car: Opel ADAM R2

“I can’t wait to tackle those terrific stages in the Azores in my ADAM R2. I am preparing the start event of the FIA ERC3 Junior like every other rally before, completing a specific physical programme and watching on-­boards of different drivers from the previous year. As I am also competing in the Belgian championship, I will contest the Spa Rally the weekend before so I won’t have much time to get to the Azores. But on the other hand I hope it will help us to find a good rhythm in the car quickly and I know I will get the best possible support from my ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team. I am still missing some experience on gravel but my co-­driver Louis and myself will do our best to fight at the top.”

Steve Røkland (NOR) ERC3 Junior

Co-­driver: Marius Fuglerud (NOR) Car: Ford Fiesta R2T

“The Azores is a fantastic rally and it’s a rally I’ve done twice before. I was on the podium on my last visit in 2016 and hopefully we can do a strong result with the new Ford Fiesta. I’ve not tested the car yet, I will do that on the Monday before the rally, but it looks strong. The ERC is a really good with really great rallies and the competition is really strong as well.”

Roman Schwedt (DEU) ERC3 Junior

Co-­driver: Lina Meter (DEU) Team: Team ROMO Car: Peugeot 208 R2

“I’m really looking forward to the new challenges and the strong competition that will await me in ERC Junior. I’m sure there is still some catching up to do on gravel with my experience. There will be young talent coming from almost every European country and I’m already looking ahead to the first battles.”

Roland Stengg (AUT) ERC3 Junior

Co-­driver: Alessandra Baumann (DEU) Team: Stengg Motorsport Car: Opel ADAM R2

“After the last ERC race in Latvia I did another gravel event in Austria to fine tune our set-­up. We can’t really use this set-­up 1:1 in Azores as the rally has a completely different character, but we’ve made some plans and will use the official test to see if they work. I have also a new co-­driver in Alessandra Baumann. We initially just planned to do the Rallye W4 together, but it worked out pretty well so we decided to drive the whole season together. It’s difficult to tell where we will finish in this strong entry list, but we are hoping for a top-­six finish.”

Jan Talaš (CZE) ERC3 Junior

Co-­driver: Ondřej Krajča (CZE) Team: ACCR Czech Rally Team I Car: Peugeot 208 R2

“My main target for the Azores Rallye will be to gain experience on loose surfaces. I hope we will be able      to make a decent result but the most important target will be to learn unknown roads in co-­operation with   my new co-­driver.”

Simon Wagner (AUT) ERC3 Junior

Co-­driver: Gerald Winter (AUT) Team: Stengg Motorsport Car: Opel ADAM R2

“The Azores is definitely one of the season highlights as this island is just amazing. I am really looking forward to tackle these unbelievable stages again. Last year was for learning and building experience. We didn’t stop working hard and this year we are here for winning rallies, as many rallies as possible. I did one rally in the Opel ADAM back in 2017 to help my brother Julian win the Austrian 2WD title when we finished first and second. It was a great experience and, of course, these great memories are still here. I only drove one rally with this car but I totally enjoyed it and it has been the benchmark car for the last few years in the R2 category.”

ENDS

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