PEUGEOT RALLY ACADEMY: YOHAN ROSSEL AND CATIE MUNNINGS CLIMB THE LEARNING CURVE
PEUGEOT RALLY ACADEMY I ROUND #1: FIA ERC RALLY AZORES
This year, the Peugeot Rally Academy – an initiative launched to boost the careers of up-and-coming young drivers in the sport – features 24-year-old Frenchman Yohan Rossel, co-driven by his compatriot Benoit Fulcrand, and 21-year-old Briton Catie Munnings backed by Peugeot UK, co-driven by Veronica Engan from Sweden. Both tackled a steep learning curve on the European Rally Championship season-opener that was also one of the most difficult events of the year: the all-gravel Azores Rally.
The Azores Rally took place on the Portuguese island of Sao Miguel, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, on narrow and undulating stages with a sandy gravel surface. There is little margin for error, particularly on the famed Sete Cidades stage which runs along the rim of a volcanic crater. The island’s location means the weather can change quickly between sunshine, rain and fog. Many of the stages are not much wider than the actual car, adding to the precise and technical nature of the challenge for Yohan and Catie. In total there were 15 stages over 223.93 kilometres.
Former overall winners of the event include World Rally Championship stars Juha Kankkunen, Kris Meeke, and Andreas Mikkelsen: an indication of the calibre of Rally Azores.
At the wheel of the Peugeot 208 R2, Yohan Rossel finished sixth in the ERC3 two-wheel drive category while Catie Munnings was forced into retirement after showing plenty of potential.
For Catie, this was the first event of the season. Yohan had two rallies under his belt already in 2019: Rallye Monte-Carlo, where he was the top two-wheel drive finisher in the Peugeot 208 R2, and Rallye du Touquet in France at the wheel of the Citroën C3R5. This was part of Yohan’s factory Citroen Racing programme following his title in the 2018 208 Rally Cup.
The privateer Peugeot 208R2 of Spaniard Efren Llarena, co-driven by Sara Fernandez, won the ERC3 two-wheel drive class and ERC3 Junior in the Azores: nearly a minute ahead of Norwegians Sindre Furuseth and Jim Hjerpe, also in a Peugeot 208R2. An impressive one-two!
In total, there were 7 Peugeot 208R2 cars in the final top 10 of the ERC3 category with 13 examples competing in the Azores in total. This meant that more than a quarter of the entire entry list was made up of the French pocket rockets.
WHAT THEY SAID:
“For me it was the first time on the Azores and the first time on the European Rally Championship, so we had everything to learn. In the end we came away with some points but it was a tricky event that didn’t exactly go the way we planned. Still, we took plenty of experience and had the chance to try out a few different settings on the car. Being chosen to be part of the Peugeot Rally Academy has been the nicest surprise of my life – and it feels like part of a real family tradition, as my dad is a Peugeot dealer in the south of France. Now it's down to me to maximise the opportunity.”
“Hopefully we got all our bad luck out of the way for the year! On Saturday’s stage 12, Tronquiera, we just slid wide on a slippery left-hander, clipped a bank, and rolled: a pity, as we had found a good feeling with the car. We’d had problems the day before as well with a double puncture and unfortunately only one spare on stage 7. I’ve got a new co-driver this year in Veronica Engan: she has so much experience, having navigated for former World Champion Petter Solberg before, and I’m already feeling the benefit of her knowledge. We’ll be back stronger on the next round.”
Laurent Guyot, Peugeot Sport Customer Competition Manager
“Catie and Yohan follow in the long tradition of drivers who have used Peugeot’s junior formulae to progress their careers. They both have a solid grounding in rallying, and this season the focus is on learning. However, it’s not an easy task, and the Azores Rally underlined the complexity of the challenge. Under the circumstances, they both did a good job and banked plenty of experience. Congratulations also to Efren and his co-driver Sara, runners-up in the 2017 208 Rally Cup, on their great win as well as all the other Peugeot crews who filled the top 10 of ERC3 in the Azores. These excellent results show the effectiveness of Peugeot Sport’s customer competition programme and the Peugeot 208 R2. Now we look forward to the next round on the calendar.”
For more information please visit: www.fiaerc.com
PEUGEOT RALLY ACADEMY 2019 FIA ERC3 CALENDAR
March 21-23 / AZORES AIRLINES RALLY (Portugal) Gravel
May 2-4 / RALLY ISLAS CANARIAS (Spain) Asphalt
May 24-26 / RALLY LIEPĀJA (Latvia) Gravel
June 28-30 / RALLY POLAND (Poland) Gravel
July 19-21 / RALLY DI ROMA CAPITALE (Italy) Asphalt
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Laurent GUYOT (Customer Competition Programmes Manager, PEUGEOT Sport)
Étienne DEVIERRE (Communications and Marketing Manager, PEUGEOT Sport)
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