*Pepe Lopez and José Suarez get set for ERC Junior Under 28 action
*Top 208 Rally Cup youngster at midpoint to enrol in ERC Junior Experience training programme
*Into the future: 208 Rally Cup champion in line for 2018 ERC campaign
Interest in the FIA European Rally Championship continues to strengthen with confirmation of the Peugeot Rally Academy’s eagerly anticipated return to the all-action series for 2017.
Newcomer Pepe Lopez, 21, will contest the new ERC Junior U28 Championship – his prize for winning the 208 Rally Cup in France last year – while fellow Spaniard José Suarez, 26, will continue his partnership with the Peugeot Rally Academy for a second season, again entering the new ERC Junior U28 category. Both will drive the Peugeot 208T16.
Jean-Baptise Ley, the ERC Co-ordinator, said: “We’re thrilled to welcome the Peugeot Rally Academy back to the ERC and, with it, two bright prospects in Pepe Lopez and José Suarez. The ERC is the perfect arena for drivers aiming to develop and learn new skills ahead of the step up to the world championship’s top tier in the future. Indeed, the ERC Junior U28 intake will chase the prize of a one-off drive in a previous-generation World Rally Car on a European round of the WRC in 2018. We’re also very pleased the leading 208 Rally Cup youngster will join the ERC Junior Experience training programme later in the year.”
The Peugeot Rally Academy’s association with the ERC dates back to 2013 during which time it has played a key role in developing the careers of several rallying talents including Kevin Abbring, Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre.
Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport Director, said: “We are extremely pleased with our association with Eurosport and delighted to confirm that the Peugeot Rally Academy’s programme in 2017 will focus on the ERC. We will be running cars for two particularly promising young Spaniards, José Suarez and Pepe Lopez. Our aim will be to give them an opportunity to gain experience and fine-tune their professionalism without pressure as part a of a high-level operation. They will both drive Peugeot 208 T16s, which is the flagship of our rally car range, so it will be a good chance for us to showcase the reliability and competitiveness of the 2017-spec car.”
Furthermore, this year’s 208 Rally Cup winner will get a fully-funded drive in the 2018 ERC, providing another opportunity for an emerging talent to demonstrate their skills in a highly competitive international rally championship.
The all-gravel Azores Airlines Rallye, based on the mid-Atlantic archipelago, opens the new ERC season from from 30 March-1 April.
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