*Category winner Gryazin makes first start of 2018
*Suárez returns to category in Hyundai Motor España i20 R5
*Zawada steps up from ERC Junior U27 for R5 debut
Nikolay Gryazin, José Suárez and Aleks Zawada will join the FIA ERC Junior Under 28 ranks when the category for young stars in R5 cars resumes on Rally Islas Canarias from 3-5 May.
But while Gryazin and Suárez have ERC Junior U28 experience from their impressive exploits in 2017, Zawada is stepping up from ERC Junior U27 – where he challenged for the title in 2017 – to drive a top-of-the-range R5 car in competition for the first time.
“This has been a dream for a long time,” said Pole Zawada, 26. “The competition will be really stiff with so many top drivers and it won’t be easy to be on the pace immediately. Even a top five spot won’t be easy but I never compete to come second. I’m really excited and massive thanks for my partners.”
Like Zawada, Spaniard Suárez is also embarking on unchartered territory. Having campaigned a PEUGEOT 208 T16 in ERC Junior U28 last season, Rally Islas Canarias marks the 27-year-old’s first European championship appearance in a Hyundai I20 R5, which he’ll use for a programme of Spanish and international events with support from Hyundai Motor España.
“I am sure we can do well in the Hyundai even if we haven’t done that many kilometres in testing,” said Suárez, who may add August’s Barum Czech Rally Zlín to his roster of ERC events. “I’m not thinking about a particular result, I’m just thinking about driving with all my professionalism and speed and we will see what we can achieve. But I don’t want to lie, I will push like hell to stay up the front.”
Gryazin scored a breakthrough ERC Junior U28 and outright championship win on the last year’s season-closing Rally Liepāja. He was fourth in class on Rally Islas Canarias in 2017 and has triumphed on two of the seven rallies he’s started so far in 2018 in a Sports Racing Technologies ŠKODA Fabia R5.
Azores Airlines Rallye ERC Junior U28 winner Chris Ingram will continue his title challenge and pursuit of a World Rally Car prize drive in a Toksport WRT ŠKODA Fabia R5. German champion Fabian Kreim will represent ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland with Team OSCARO’s Pierre-Louis Loubet driving a BRC Racing Team Hyundai. Hubert Ptaszek will drive for TRT Krezus Rally Team, while Laurent Pellier has the support of the PEUGEOT Rally Academy behind him in his step up to R5 machinery following success in the 208 Rally Cup one-make series in his native France.
The ERC Junior U28 contingent are among 28 drivers in R5 cars appearing on the entry list for Rally Islas Canarias, with 23 in action on the international section of the all-asphalt event.