*Sylvain Michel chooses ERC Junior U28 for next challenge
*Accessible budgets and substantial Eurosport TV coverage key to decision
*Fellow Frenchman Jérôme Degout will co-drive ŠKODA Fabia R5
French asphalt champion Sylvain Michel has become the latest emerging talent to choose the new-for-2017 FIA ERC Junior Under 28 Championship as the perfect platform for career progression.
The class for young stars in R5 cars rewards its eventual champion with a coveted FIA title and a free drive in a World Rally Car on a European round of the WRC in 2018.
To control costs, drivers – who must be born on or after 1 January 1989 to be eligible – count their best four scores from a possible six with events taking place on gravel and asphalt to provide vital experience and skills for a possible future world championship campaign. Drivers also benefit from substantial airtime on Eurosport dedicated to ERC Junior U28 as well as a number of other promotional opportunities.
“It was necessary to step from national championship level and the ERC quickly proved to be the only possible choice for our budget,” said Michel, whose entry brings the total number of countries currently represented in the ERC to 17. “There is exceptional coverage on Eurosport and the level of competition is very interesting. We did not manage to be at the start of the first race in the Azores but it was inconceivable to miss Rally Islas Canarias, the first asphalt event of the season. Even though it is my favourite surface, I still have a lot to learn and the rally will undoubtedly be a major step in my development.”
While the ERC and its rallies will mark unchartered territory for Michel, his decision to continue in a Michelin-shod 2C Compétition ŠKODA Fabia R5 alongside regular co-driver Jérôme Degout will provide welcomed continuity. “We experienced many magical moments with 2C Compétition last season and it was important for me to live this adventure with them and Jérôme, who has really brought me on in terms of my driving. All Sports Management will be in charge of my programme. Add to that the ŠKODA Fabia R5 and I’m sure we can achieve beautiful things together.”
Michel, who will enjoy continued support from partners including Les Sybelles and Delta Savoie, will test in Gran Canaria on 1 May with the event taking place from 4-6 May. Before then, he will contest a 24-hour off-road event in Morocco as part of his physical preparation.
Jean-Baptiste Ley, the ERC Co-ordinator, said: “In Sylvain Michel, ERC Junior U28 welcomes another highly promising and accomplished driver who is keen to prove his talent in a very competitive championship. While the rallies will be all-new for Sylvain, he has all the ingredients in place to achieve his objectives in 2017.”