The 2018 FIA European Rally Championship (FIA ERC) kicked off last week in the Azores, Portugal, where PEUGEOT SPORT’s new young French crew Laurent Pellier and Geoffrey Combe made their maiden appearance in the PEUGEOT Rally Academy-tended four-wheel drive PEUGEOT 208T16.
Last year’s 208 Rally Cup winner Laurent Pellier, from France’s northern Alps, has an FIA ERC-based programme in 2018. Throughout the season, the 22-year old will be keeping a journal of his first taste of international competition and keep track of his thoughts, impressions, joys and disappointments. Here he looks back at his debut in the four-wheel drive PEUGEOT 208T16.
“It’s great that the season is under way at last! Geoffrey and I could hardly wait for competitive action to begin and go head-to-head with our new internationally-reputed opponents. The Azores Rallye is one of the most challenging rounds of the championship because of its complex stages and the variety of surfaces you come across. Some places are extremely slippery and you never know how much grip you’re going to find. The weather was highly changeable, too. In a matter of minutes, you could switch from rain to fog to a clear sky, so you’re constantly adjusting to the conditions.
“We learnt so much during our pre-start test and during the rally itself, and we were able to get to know the team’s mechanics, technical staff and coordinator. We were also treated to an incredible welcome in the Azores, both at Wednesday evening’s City Show and on the event. There was a big turnout of spectators and it was really nice to compete in such a warm atmosphere.
“Okay, we didn’t come away with the sort of result we had been hoping for and a technical issue meant we didn’t get as many competitive kilometres under our belt as we would have liked, but it was an important step for us and we will now have a better idea of what to expect next time out. That will be the highly-technical, all-asphalt Rally Islas Canarias at the beginning of May. Recce will be important and we will need to be completely focused so as not to make any mistakes in the PEUGEOT 208T16. Geoffrey and I will give it our very best shot and our aim is to take our time to learn in the company of the PEUGEOT Rally Academy, score championship points and achieve the best results possible.
“On April 13, we will travel with the team to Spain to take part in the Rallye Sierra Morena. That will be more of a test than a genuine competitive outing and it will help me to continue familiarising myself with the car and finetune my driving technique. I also intend to continue my fitness training programme. I lead a healthy lifestyle but rallying is a physically demanding sport, so it’s essential to be as fit as possible.”
Laurent Guyot (Manager, Customer Competition Department, PEUGEOT SPORT):
“It was an encouraging weekend for the PEUGEOT Rally Academy and its new crew for 2018. Laurent and Geoffroy were studious and focused and we succeeded in picking up our first points in this year’s FIA ERC U28. It was a good start for their first run in the 208 T16 on what was arguably the most exacting round of the championship. Laurent soon made himself at home in the car and his feedback was very good. He and Geoffrey work well together and it didn’t take them long to settle in and find their marks with the team. They are good listeners, work hard and want to make progress. We are now looking forward to the next round in the Canary Islands in May and we plan to prepare for that event with a participation on the Rallye Sierra Morena which is a round of the Spanish Championship.”
Result – Azores Airlines Rallye: 8th (FIA ERC U28)
Next FIA ERC U28 round: Rally Islas Canarias, Spain, May 3-5
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