*National graduate focused on European young driver category in 2018
*Azores Airlines Rallye participation confirmed, further outings planned
*Larsen and Eriksen form all-Norwegian crew in Ford Fiesta R5
Frank Tore Larsen hopes his Azores Airlines Rallye redemption mission will be the catalyst to an FIA ERC Junior Under 28 Championship attack in 2018.
Larsen tackled selected ERC events in 2016, including the mid-Atlantic Ocean archipelago showpiece. Despite the rally holding mixed emotions after he hit trouble on his Azores debut two years ago, going off the road on the opening leg in the Ford Fiesta R5 co-driven by fellow Norwegian Torstein Eriksen, the 27-year-old is raring to return for the European season opener from 22-24 March.
“It’s the attitude I have approaching everything,” Larsen explained. “If I need to improve in something I train more to become better. I had a bad rally at Azores in 2016 so I need to go back to redeem myself, to be better than before. It’s the most beautiful event in any championship in the world. But it’s extremely difficult, especially with the weather conditions changing all the time. It was a bit sad we weren’t able to do all the stages two years ago but we have the experience now of how the weather can change so quickly, meaning we will be a lot more prepared than in 2016.”
Larsen has yet to finalise his ERC schedule for the upcoming season but is determined to mount a title push in ERC Junior U28, the category for young stars in R5 cars. “I am working really hard every day to secure as many rallies as possible,” Larsen said. “This is the first time we are not doing any events in the Norwegian championship. Instead we are focusing all our budget and effort on the ERC. I am confident we will be able to do more rounds with support from Røhne Selmer Motorsport and my goal is to be able to do enough rounds to get a good result in the ERC Junior U28 Championship.”
By winning the ERC Junior U28 title, Larsen will be in line to receive a prize drive in a World Rally Car on a European round of the world championship in 2019. He admits it’s a “big motivation”, adding: “For us it will be a bit of a make or break season. We have been working really hard for the last 10 years, starting with a cheap national car and fighting through to drive the R5 we are in now. We don’t have to win the championship this season but at least we need to prove we have the potential to be a contender. Of course if we have a perfect season the prize would be a really good next step unless we follow what Marijan Griebel has done and take more ERC events instead.”
Jean-Baptiste Ley, ERC Co-ordinator, said: “It’s always a pleasure to welcome drivers with talent and ambition to the ERC and that’s certainly true for Frank Tore. We wish him every success as he looks to build his knowledge and experience and make his mark on a very competitive championship.”