*Ingram leads young driver category in first season driving Adam R2
*Griebel scores first win in Ypres in ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team 1-2-3
*Top competition is why we are here - Schrott
Opel Motorsport Director Jörg Schrott says the high level of competition is the reason why the manufacturer is engaged in the ERC Junior Championship, which is led at the midpoint of the season by its driver Chris Ingram.
In the ERC Junior Championship, drivers born in 1989 or later compete against each other on six rounds of the FIA European Rally Championship, driving R2-specification two-wheel drive cars on Pirelli tyres.
Three second-place finishes from the first three events have given British driver Ingram, who turned 22 last week, a 15-point advantage at the top of the standings over team-mate Marijan Griebel.
Germany’s Griebel scored a long-awaited maiden win in the category on last month’s Kenotek Ypres Rally in Belgium, leading a podium lockout for Opel and the Adam R2 model with Ingram second and Julius Tannert in third.
“For me the ERC Junior Championship is definitely the best competition in Europe,” said Schrott. “This is the reason why we are here and why we are here competing. We are here now for the second full year, and even last year there was such close competition and there are really good young drivers.”
Opel’s participation in ERC Junior forms part of a larger “pyramid” strategy in rallying, according to Schott, which begins with the ADAC Opel Rallye Academy and then the ADAC Opel Rallye Cup, which is based in Germany alongside similar series in France and the Czech Republic. The three champions of the German competition so far – Griebel, Emil Bergkvist and Tannert – have all progressed into ERC Junior, with Bergkvist winning the 2015 title.
Ingram says: “I had a very warm welcome in the Opel Rallye Junior Team and feel a very strong support in getting myself and the fantastic ADAM R2 to the limit. Now I really know why it was so hard to fight these guys last year. For sure our main goal now is to maintain the championship lead. I feel consistency will be a key.”
Griebel adds: “Ypres was a big relief for all of us. We never were in doubt concerning the performance and potential both of ourselves and the Adam R2, but to be successful at the high level that is required in ERC Junior you also need some luck. Now we are back in the fight for the championship. I promise I will do everything to give my team mate Chris a hard time!”
For Tannert, the Ypres podium was a turning point. “Our main goal for our first season as members of the Opel works team was to learn and develop ourselves as much as possible,” he said. “We showed good speed from the very beginning of the season but there were also some mistakes where no one else but us was to blame.”
The ERC Junior Championship resumes on auto24 Rally Estonia this weekend (15-17 July), followed by Barum Czech Rally Zlín on 26-28 August and Rally Liepāja on 16-18 September.
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