Peugeot Rally Academy – FIA ERC | Round #5/6, 21-23 September

The 5th round of the European Rally Championship (FIA ERC) was held in Poland this weekend, for the 75th edition of the 'PZM Rally of Poland'. Laurent Pellier and Geoffrey Combe were tackling their second gravel rally of the season, driving the PEUGEOT 208T16. After a good performance in the Czech Republic at the end of August, the crew of the PEUGEOT Rally Academy started on a good pace on a surface that was deemed to be ruthless, which was part of the WRC calendar in 2017. Despite their efforts, the 2 juniors were forced to retire on the Saturday, after going off the road in SS6. Starting in the Rally 2 category on Sunday, the duo achieved good times throughout the second leg, always aiming to continue learning, in view of the last event of the season in Latvia in mid-October. Laurent Pellier tells the full story.

PEUGEOT Rally Academy driver
"We came back from the Barum Rally very satisfied with our performance. It had been a difficult but very rewarding rally. We gained experience, accumulated the kilometres and we mostly overcame this ‘Czech monster’ dreaded by all drivers. A feat in itself since we were discovering the test and we had done very little driving in the previous weeks. Our 10th place overall in the Czech Republic had brought us a lot and we were proud to have approached the result of Craig Breen on the same rally - 5th in 2015 at the wheel of the PEUGEOT 208T16.
In order to approach Rally Poland as serenely as possible, I rigorously followed my training plan. I spent a few days in August at 321 Performance. There, I was able to take stock of my physical and mental condition with experts. Access to high-level competition is deserved and requires commitment at all levels. I invest tirelessly and I feel a clear progression since the beginning of the season.
Before Rally Poland, we participated in a local rally of about sixty kilometres: the Warminski Rally. It was important for me to be able to find my rhythm on gravel before starting the European event. We had not faced this surface in four-wheel drive since the Azores Rally (Portugal) in March. This allowed me to discover the very fast stages typical of the region. We then went on to a test session, which allowed us to perfect the setup of the car. The car suited me perfectly. We took the start of the rally confidently and at ease in the PEUGEOT 208T16. Faced with the demands of an ex-WRC rally, it was important to be in harmony with the car.
After the Super Special on Friday night, we approached the 1st stage of Saturday morning with suspicion. The roads were very fast but mostly very slippery and tricky. Despite very good times, we struggled to feel confident and to express ourselves as we wished. The 2nd part of stage 1 was supposed to allow us to attack. The grip was there, the stages cleaned by our morning pass in loop 1. But only 2km after the start of the SS6, following a long braking, the rear stepped out and sent us into a straw bale. An error that resulted in damage to the radiator. We were unlucky! With Geoffrey, we did our best to find a solution, repair the car and go to the stop point. Unfortunately it was not enough to take part in the remaining 3 stages of the day in ERC U28. We were forced to retire. The PEUGEOT Rally Academy Team did a tremendous job repairing the car and allowing us to start again on Sunday in Rally 2.
The goal for the 2nd leg Sunday was simple: drive, get experience and achieve the best times possible. The last round of the European Championship was fast approaching, we wanted to mix with the best times. We started the day by posting the 7th best time. We wanted to reassure ourselves after our exit from the road the day before. The following two stages proved to be more complicated, the car moved a lot, we were not confident yet our feeling became much better during the last part of stage 2. We stayed in the top 10. This event was a good experience of a gravel rally. We still need to learn and progress for Rally Liepaja in Latvia on the 12, 13 and 14 of October, where we should meet a field similar to Poland."

Co-driver PEUGEOT Rally Academy
We had started the rally well with a provisional 9th place at the end of the 5th stage. We were pretty happy with our performance on the 2nd rally of the season with the 208T16. The roads are atypical and very fast here in Poland. Unfortunately, we made a mistake with a direct consequence: retirement. The team went out of their way to return in Rally 2 and continue our apprenticeship ... The next and last event of the FIA ​​ERC season in Latvia is only 3 weeks away. The more we drive, the better our chances will be to make a beautiful last round.”
NEXT FIA ERC U28 ROUND : Rally Liepaja (Latvia), 12-13-14 October

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