Peugeot Rally Academy – FIA ERC | Round #4/6, 24-26 August
Last weekend, the PEUGEOT Rally Academy crew of Laurent Pellier and Geoffrey Combe took part in the fourth round of the European Rally Championship (FIA ERC) in the Czech Republic at the Barum Czech Rally Zlin. This is renowned as one of the most difficult events of the season, with some changeable weather making the roads – which were already very technical – slippery and hazardous as well. At the end of three days of competition, the French duo placed their PEUGEOT 208 T16 4th in the U28 classification.

LAURENT PELLIER : PEUGEOT Rally Academy driver
Discovering a legendary rally
“The Barum is a classic event in rally history, so it was a dream for me ! Every year, some of the best ERC and WRC drivers take the start. It was a really good opportunity for me to start this legendary rally and compare myself to the top drivers at this level on terrain that is well known for its difficulty. This event has a reputation for being very demanding, with roads that are changeable, narrow, and very fast. In order to prepare, we arrived at the start of the week, for some testing in the Czech Republic close to the Austrian border. We then got on with the rally recce, where we soon understood that the playing field over the weekend would be difficult to get to grips with but a lot of fun at the same time.”
A rainy opening leg
“After the super special in town on Friday night, Geoffrey and I attacked the serious stuff on Saturday morning, with changeable weather. Although we had the recce in boiling hot conditions, leg 1 got underway with rain ; a new experience for me with four-wheel drive ! We made a small mistake in SS2, which culminated in a spin and a time loss of about 10 seconds, but we made the time back in SS3 after a solid performance. We started the day 20th overall and fought our way back up to 11th by the end of SS3. This was a nice surprise for us, as we were driving a PEUGEOT 208 T16 with a completely new set-up, which had been adjusted in view of the weather. I had a great feeling with the car ; it was an absolute pleasure to drive it.”
Strategy at the heart of success
“Above all, we wanted to be consistent and not make any mistakes, in order to get to the end of this rally without any problems. The uncertain weather was a determining factor, which we had to deal with in the most strategic way possible. None of the competitors were dealing with exactly the same conditions at the same time, with the stage capable of going from waterlogged to completely dry in just a few minutes. Under these circumstances, there’s always a bit of luck involved as well when it comes to making your tyre choice. To attack the second part of leg one, we decided to stiffen up all the settings of our 208T16, especially when it comes to the tyres. At that point we thought that the stages would be relatively dry. We were half right : SS6 and SS7 were still greasy and damp. So we lost a bit of time. Still, it wasn’t such a bad compromise, as we were able to make the difference on the two following stages, which were really enjoyable to drive. We even managed to set a better time than Dani Sordo on SS8, under normal circumstances ! It was a satisfying day ; we ended up just outside the top 10, which we didn’t expect at the start of the rally, given the level of opposition. I felt more comfortable in the rain and the car was working well. The second leg seemed to be trickier, with more rain on the way. So we had another night to decide the best technical and tyre choices, with the objective of making our way into the top 10…”
A tricky leg 2
“On Sunday morning we took the start of the 1st stage with a ‘new’ car : the tyres and the set-up were completely different to the day before and also different to what we had tested up to now. It was tricky to adapt to it and we were caught out on the 1st stage : the lack of grip due to the wet surface meant that we went off the road, but without any serious consequences. We lost time but were able to carry on, albeit with our confidence severely tested. We soon got together with the PEUGEOT Rally Academy team to work out our strategy for the end of the leg. We decided to go for more aggressive tyres and a different set-up, which allowed me to feel more comfortable while driving. So the 2nd half of leg 2 went better for us.”
A positive outcome, so on to the next challenge !
“We got to the end of the Barum Rally with the car in good condition. We obviously made a few mistakes but that was all part of the learning process, especially in such difficult conditions. We were lucky enough to have a well-prepared car at our disposal, and we finished 10th overall and 4th in ERC U28. That’s a very satisfying result given the complexity of the weekend. Now we have to prepare ourselves for Rally Poland, which is a brand new event for us. It’s a gravel rally that used to be on the WRC calendar, and I’ve been looking at several old videos. We’ll have to cope with an unusual surface with some sandy patches. Like the Barum Rally, we’ve got a test session planned to prepare for the conditions. I can’t wait to get there !”
GEOFFREY COMBE : PEUGEOT Rally Academy co-driver
“We’re very happy with our result from the Barum Rally, to be in the top 10 on Skoda’s home territory is a really good outcome. We’ve learned a huge amount, especially about driving the R5 in extreme conditions. We obviously struggled a bit to find the necessary grip to be among the very quickest. The 2 small mistakes we made didn’t particularly get in our way – they only delayed us – and that’s just part of racing. The PEUGEOT 208T16 behaved very well. We’re now already concentrating on Rally Poland in mid-September and our return to gravel, a surface that we haven’t been on since the opening round in the Azores. I’m going to be working a lot with the in-car videos to help us be as competitive as possible and take another step forward in the collaboration with Laurent. Many thanks to PEUGEOT for all the support.”

FIA ERC U28 classification result - Barum Czech Rally Zlin (round 4/6) : 4th place.
FIA ERC overall result - Barum Czech Rally Zlin : 10th place
Next FIA ERC U28 round : Rally Poland, 21-22-23 September

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