Media centre

Press release

18 MARCH 2018


Round 1 of 6: Azores Airlines Rallye, 22-24 March

Joakim Sjöberg (SWE) Team: CA1 Sport Car: ŠKODA Fabia R5

“I did two years in the British Rally Championship where the competition is at a very high level, especially on gravel, so after that I felt I wanted a new challenge. We looked towards WRC2 or ERC, and we ended up with ERC because we’ve done a lot more WRC2 events than we have ERC so it will be all new. The Azores will be our first gravel event of the year after our events on the snow in Sweden but I’m feeling quite confident as gravel is my preferred surface. In previous years I have proved that I was on par with [WRC driver] Elfyn Evans’ pace on gravel so I am sure we can have a good rally but it is always hard. Azores is a new event for me so we are just going to go out there and drive as fast as we can, and hopefully it’ll be enough for a good result.”

Filip Schovánek (CZE) Team: ŠKODA Slovakia Motorsport Car: ŠKODA Fabia R5

“I can’t wait for the Azores, it’s a new challenge for me and it looks to be quite an enjoyable rally so I’m looking forward to it. We did a two-day test in Germany last week which was quite nice to do, I’ve never driven the Fabia R5 on gravel before so that was our first try and I got a good feeling from the car. Of course I have some targets but I don’t want to share them just yet, but I will try to do my best. I have no idea what the competition in the ERC is like but I’m sure it’s at a good level.”

Ross Whittock (GBR) Team: Toksport WRT Car: ŠKODA Fabia R5

“I have been aiming to compete in the top tier of the European Rally Championship for a long time. Thanks to the 100,000 euros prize fund for winning the ERC Junior U27 title last year it has made that dream a possibility. There were many, many discussions and options on the table so it has been an incredibly difficult task to choose the right one. Having met with Toksport in Germany in February I am very confident with my decision, they are a passionate and top team and their offer was too good to refuse. They want to win as much as me so it makes perfect sense. I can’t wait to drive the Fabia R5 for the first time and to start a new title fight in the Azores next week with the new team and car. The Azores is one of my favourite rallies in the world, however I’ll face a big challenge.”

Damian Syty (POL) Team: Tiger Energy Rally Drink Team Car: Ford Fiesta R5

“It’s going to be my third time in Azores, but I think the event is becoming more and more difficult thanks to an increase in R5 competition year by year. I have never competed against so many quality drivers, so I think a top 10 finish for any of us would be a really good result. Last year we were heading for a top 10 result before we were stopped abruptly with a mechanical failure. You have to respect Azores and tackle the stages with great attention. With ever-changing grip, loose gravel with moist surface under it and many other surprises you need to be 110 per cent sure where you can push and where you can’t. Knowing this last year, I kept my cool in order to finish the event without any pointless risks which almost paid off, so this year my approach will be no different. I want to finish and get through each stage at a good pace.”

Frank Christian (DEU) Team: ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland Car: ŠKODA Fabia R5

“My feeling ahead of the Azores Rallye is good, despite the fact I have not sat in the car for over a year on gravel. My last gravel rally was in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship in India in December 2016. I know that the Azores is one of the most difficult rallies in the world and our preparation so far has gone well. We had a good test in Germany two weeks ago which has helped me build up some confidence. Our target for the first event of the season is definitely to make the finish on Saturday evening, and hopefully with a good result for the ERC Junior U28 championship! Big thanks to ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland for the trust and this possibility for me to get back in a rally car at a really high level.”

Torstein Eriksen (NOR) Team: Larsen Motorsport Car: Ford Fiesta R5

“We have done a few small tests back in Norway and we did one round of the Norwegian championship, but all of the tests have been on snow and ice so I’m really looking forward to getting down to the Azores and doing a proper gravel test before the event. I did the event in 2016 but we retired on the Thursday evening and weren’t able to do any of the stages on Friday so I’ve done approximately half of the stages. When we were there it was in June and now it’s in March, and from what I’ve heard it’s even more difficult now with even more rain. To be honest I don’t where our pace will be. If we get a good feeling with the car, the set-up and the tyres and everything I think we can fight for a podium place. The ERC is the championship that I think fits me best because we are a small team with a small budget but we are hopefully able to make a package where we can be competitive and the quality of competition and the events are some of the best in the world.”

Vincent Landais (FRA) Team: BRC Racing Team Car: Hyundai i20 R5

“The Azores will be our first rally in the Hyundai i20 R5, I will only have done one test in it a week before the rally. The stages on the Azores look very narrow and quite difficult but I think if you are focused and avoid doing any mistakes it can be possible to do well, but it’s definitely not an easy rally. The objective is to be close to the top and we will see. I will try to do my best and we will see about the result. I don’t know how competitive we will be as it is a tight field, I would like to be up there but we will see.”

Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL) Team: G.Car Sport Car: Ford Fiesta R5

“The Ford Fiesta R5 is a new car to me, the only test I will get is on the Azores leading up to the event, so the rally will be a big challenge. I am really excited about this opportunity which is all down to my partners, especially my team and Pirelli. I am going to try my best and enjoy every second of it. I have done the rally once last year in a front-wheel-drive car so the pacenotes and driving style will be completely different. At the minute we don’t have the budget to do the full season but I am looking to find it. The main aim for the Azores though is to keep it clean and improve my driving step by step.”

Geoffrey Combe (FRA) Team: PEUGEOT Rally Academy Car: PEUGEOT 208 T16

“I have no previous experience whatsoever of the Azores Rallye. That said, I’ve watched and analysed a lot of on-board footage to get a feel for the terrain and start thinking about an initial set-up. So much has changed since I won the 208 Rally Cup in France in 2017. The prize put up by PEUGEOT Sport for that means I have a factory programme with the PEUGEOT Rally Academy team in the PEUGEOT 208 T16 this year, and this has given me a sort of freedom. I have PEUGEOT Sport’s full backing, so that is extremely motivating, and I’ve been working on my fitness which has already produced some tangible results. I’ve had a chance to drive the car and I’ve been getting some coaching from ex-PEUGEOT Sport driver Enrique García Ojeda. I had never driven a four-wheel-drive car before so I have a great deal to take on board to adapt. You need to put the reflexes you develop in a two-wheel drive car behind you and, in a way, it’s almost like learning to drive all over again. That said, I find driving a four-wheel-drive car is easier. By that, I mean you can be more competitive if you get the technique right.”

Maciej Szczepaniak (POL) Team: Tagai Racing Technology Car: ŠKODA Fabia R5

“At the moment it’s difficult to talk about our expectations, it’s more about our plan for the opening round in Azores. The ERC is a new adventure for me, so we need to be focused on the job right from the recce. I want to draw on my experience form WRC2 and create the perfect pacenotes that will ensure I go fast on the rally. We have done a lot of preparation for this, with three days of testing and around 300 kilometres under our belts, and we have a test on the island lined up too. I’ve done many stages in my life and I think I will find some similarities with the ERC events compared to WRC2. The championship and the events may be new but I still know where the pedals and the steering wheel are.”

Jorge Henriques (PRT) Car: Ford Fiesta R5

“This rally is the main event in the Azorian championship which I normally do, as it’s difficult for drivers over here to attract enough sponsors to do more than one ERC event. But of course we want to do more so we will try to get a good result and find more sponsors to do more than one rally. This year is our third in the Ford Fiesta R5 so I have more experience and more confidence with the car so we now have to focus on the rally and find a good set-up in the test. Of course I would like to win the rally but there is a huge field of R5 cars with some very good drivers coming so it will be difficult to understand where we will be against them. We are waiting for some parts for the car as we have done a rebuild and have upgraded our Fiesta so hopefully that will be ready in time to test on Monday.”

Elliot Edmondson (GBR) Team: CA1 Sport Car: ŠKODA Fabia R5

“We love ERC after getting a taste for it on the Circuit of Ireland in 2016. The plan was just to do Rome but because of the cancellation of the Malcolm Wilson and Border Counties rallies in the UK, some space was freed up for us to do Azores so we put an entry in against what’s looking like a seriously competitive field. If we go to Azores and really enjoy it, we may do a full ERC season as well as the the British Rally Championship. We did a two-day test in Sweden which was the first time I drove the ŠKODA, and got about 320 kilometres and then we did a day at Sweet Lamb in Wales. I’m just itching to get into a rally now. You can test and test and test but there’s nothing like making your own pacenotes and doing an actual rally. I’d like to say I’m going to have a bit of fun and soak up the experience but I just can’t help but be competitive. I’m not going there thinking I’m going to win the event but I think if I can keep my nose clean and survive through it I think I can be there or thereabouts with a good result. I’m in a nice position to be in a team with Fredrik [Åhlin], as he is a great benchmark alongside me as one of the fastest R5 drivers out there.”



Fredrik Ahlin-jpg
Fredrik Ahlin-jpg

Martin Koci-jpg
Martin Koci-jpg

Laurent Pellier-jpg
Laurent Pellier-jpg

Download all visuals

Press contacts

Press enquiries:
Richard Rodgers,
+44 7503871575
TV enquiries:
Pascal Petit:
Vianney Castillo:
Drivers and teams: