As in Ireland, the Peugeot Rally Academy is fielding its full line-up in the Azores for Round 4 of the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship (ERC). The island of São Miguel will host a 49-strong entry which features the three Peugeot Rally Academy crews, namely Craig Breen/Scott Martin, Charles Martin/Thierry Salva and Diogo Gago/Jorge Carvalho. All three have high hopes of a strong result at the season’s first gravel fixture.
The SATA Rallye Açores is reputed for its predominantly sandy, narrow and twisty stages which should suit the Peugeot Rally Academy’s 208 T16s and 208 R2 which are in their element on every type of surface. The Portuguese island of São Miguel is situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and is known for its fickle climate which means crews are likely to face changeable weather conditions. The early part of the 2015 season has seen the 208 T16 add to its already successful record in several countries and over a wide spectrum of terrains, including Craig Breen’s ERC victories in Latvia and Ireland. Juha Salo (in Finland), Kris Princen (Belgium), Paolo Andreucci, Alessandro Perico and Francesco Rizzello (Italy), Björn Adolfsson (Sweden) and Stéphane Pustelnik (France) have also all claimed victories in the 208 T16 this year. Craig Breen tops the provisional ERC order in the 208 T16 prior to the Portuguese event. After coming second in the series in 2013 in the Peugeot Rally Academy’s 207 S2000, the Irishman has won the last two rounds of this year’s championship and his confidence couldn’t be higher ahead of the Azores clash:
This will be my third visit to the island and I have to say I can’t wait to get started. It’s a place I love. I always enjoy competing here and I’m looking forward to hooking up again with everyone at the Peugeot Rally Academy. It’s a hard event because the rhythm is constantly changing. The Sete Cidates stage is simply breath-taking! My aim is to make it three wins in a row to increase our lead in the championship, but we know it won’t be easy because we face some pretty stiff opposition.
After strong early showings in the 208 T16 (1st in R5 at the Rallye du Touquet, 5th on his ERC debut in Ireland), Charles Martin is looking to keep up the momentum. It will be the 2014 208 Rally Cup winner’s first experience of four-wheel drive on dirt and he will be counting on the 208 T16’s driveability in his bid to secure a top finish:
I’m thrilled at the idea of driving the 208 T16 for the first time on gravel! As on my last two events, I hope it won’t take me too long to settle in to increase my chances of a good finish. The pre-event test in the 208 T16 will be a big help because I am targeting a podium in the Azores, even though that might sound pretentious. Thankfully, I will benefit from tips from Craig and everyone at the Peugeot Rally Academy!
In contrast to the first two clashes of the FIA 2015 ERC which were new to him, Diogo Gago will be on familiar territory since the Azores is his home round. He will be in one of the ten 208 R2s that feature on the 14-strong Junior entry list and his sights are set on victory:
There will be a lot of strong drivers but I intend to fight for the win. The stages are highly specific and not easy for anyone who comes here for the first time, which was my case in Ireland. I haven’t lost sight of the fact that my overriding objective is to finish in the top five of the championship at the end of the year, so a win in the Azores would be nice to boost the points I scored in Latvia and Ireland. I’m obviously hoping to benefit from the experience of the Peugeot Rally Academy and I’m also counting on the 208 R2 to help me achieve my aim.
FIA European Rally Championship standings before the SATA Rallye Açores (Round 4 of 10)
1, CRAIG BREEN / SCOTT MARTIN (PEUGEOT 208 T16), 78 points - 2, Kajetan KAJETANOWICZ (Ford Fiesta R5), 75. 3, Alexey LUKYANUK (Ford Fiesta R5), 43. 4, Robert Consani (Citroën DS3 R5), 40. 5, Siim PLANGI (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X), 28… 12, CHARLES MARTIN / THIERRY SALVA (PEUGEOT 208 T16), 14. Etc.
FIA European Rally Championship Junior standings before the SATA Rallye Açores (Round 3 of 6)
1, Emil BERGKVIST (Opel Adam R2), 78 points. 2, Chris INGRAM (Peugeot 208 R2), 36. 3, Ralfs SIRMACIS (Peugeot 208 R2), 35. 4, Steve ROKLAND (Peugeot 208 R2), 33. 5, Marijan GRIEBEL (Peugeot 208 R2), 30 points. 6, DIOGO GAGO / JORGE CARVALHO (PEUGEOT 208 R2), 25. Etc.
Tuesday, June 2, and Wednesday, June 3: recce
Thursday, June 4: qualifying and start of Leg 1
Friday, June 5: end of Leg 1
Saturday, June 6: Leg 2