*Argentine begins new ERC campaign on Azores Airlines Rallye
*Happy memories from 2016 behind decision to return
*ERC2 wins and a title challenge the objective for Mitsubishi driver
Juan Carlos Alonso is hoping he can be competitive against the established ERC2 stars when he returns to the FIA European Rally Championship this season.
Alonso embarked on a three-event ERC2 campaign in 2016, claiming a third, fourth and fifth in the category for standard production cars.
His comeback will begin on the Azores Airlines Rallye later this month with fellow Argentine Juan Pablo Monasterolo co-driving his RMC Motorsport-run Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.
“I have chosen the ERC because I found it to be a really good championship with beautiful rallies and fantastic media coverage,” Alonso explained. “When I was competing in 2016 I really felt very comfortable and the ERC staff were very friendly with us all the time.”
Of his objectives for the season, Alonso said: “The most important challenge for me is to try to be competitive. I know this year a lot of very good drivers will be in ERC2. I will try to win some rallies and for sure I will try to get to the finish of the season with a serious chance to fight for the ERC2 title.”
Alonso has been keeping rally-ready by testing his own Lancer Evolution X in his homeland. “I have been trying to keep a good rhythm and feeling with the car,” he said.
The 48-year-old placed third in ERC2 on his previous Azores Airlines Rallye outing in June 2016. This year’s event takes place from 22-24 March and counts as the opening event of the 2018 season.
So far, Alonso has confirmed he’ll compete in the Azores and on May’s Rally Islas Canarias. “After Canarias I will be able to confirm the rest of the rallies for our ERC season,” said the Argentine.
ERC Co-ordinator Jean-Baptise Ley said: “It’s great to have Juan Carlos back in the championship. His experiences from 2016 clearly left a lasting impression on him and it’s another boost for what is shaping up to be a very exciting ERC2 season.
“In a change to the ERC2 rules for 2018, drivers will only count their best four scores rather than the previous six in response to calls from drivers aiming to control their expenditure and time commitment. It’s another reason why Juan Carlos has chosen to return to the ERC.”
Defending champion Tibor Érdi Jr from Hungary, Italy’s Zelindo Melegari and Russia’s Sergei Remennik have all confirmed their plans to return to ERC2 in 2018.