*Frenchman plans six-round campaign in Gemini Clinic Rally Team Fiesta
*Vastly experienced Denis Giraudet to co-drive compatriot
*Strong entry motivates ERC frontrunner in pursuit of more success
Bryan Bouffier has become the latest title-winning driver to sign up for a season-long FIA European Rally Championship campaign.
Following on from French champion Sylvain Michel’s decision earlier this week to prove his talent in the ERC, Bouffier is targeting a six-event programme in a Gemini Clinic Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5, starting with next month’s Rally Islas Canarias (4-6 May).
The three-time ERC event winner, who has three Polish titles and one French title to his name and is a former winner of Rallye Monte-Carlo and Tour de Corse, placed fourth in last season’s European championship having finished second in 2013. He’s highly motivated to try to top the order in 2017.
“It’s always good to fight for a championship,” said the 38-year-old Frenchman. “Last year the competition level was not so fantastic but this year it’s huge, the media coverage is always strong and the championship is affordable. We have a great opportunity and hopefully I can do a good job together with my team to be in a good position in the championship. I will push myself to be faster because the huge challenge means the motivation is there.”
Bouffier’s exact programme following Rally Islas Canarias has yet to be announced but the events being considered are June’s gravel-based Cyprus Rally, the all-Tarmac Rally Rzeszow and Barum Czech Rally Zlín in August, Rally di Roma Capitale, which uses all-asphalt Italian stages in September, and the season-closing Rally Liepāja on fast Latvian gravel roads in October.
“I did Rally Islas Canarias once in 2011 and although my result was not fantastic I remember it was a really amazing rally with so many spectators,” said Bouffier. “Even though Gran Canaria is not a big island, there were a lot of people on the stages and the weather was also nice. For the gravel rallies, it’s true I have more experience on Tarmac but I still feel I can do good results on gravel although I will need some practice because the last time was in 2014.”
Jean-Baptiste Ley, the ERC Co-ordinator, said: “It’s great news that a driver of Bryan’s ability and professionalism has made this commitment to the ERC along with the Gemini Clinic Rally Team. Like Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Alexey Lukyanuk, Bryan is a potential champion but also a reference for the young talents in the ERC Junior Under 28 Championship to aim for.”