Cyprus power: Tsouloftas plots ERC Junior title bid
Young Cypriot Alex Tsouloftas has emerged as an early contender for ERC Junior title glory in 2019 after signing with DBO Motorsport GmbH for an FIA European Rally Championship bid.
Despite limited experience, Tsouloftas finished fourth on his FIA European Rally Championship debut on the SEAJETS Acropolis Rally in 2017, his first event in an R5 car. On the Cyprus Rally two weeks later he was in second position after nine stages until a double puncture dropped him out of contention. But he hit back by completing the event’s Golden Stage as the fastest local driver, earning the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy for his impressive efforts.
Tsouloftas took part on two ERC rounds in 2018. On the EKO Acropolis Rally he retired with differential failure after setting a top-two stage time. He dropped out of the podium fight on the Cyprus Rally due to a mechanical failure but restarted on day two, winning the leg and going fastest by more than 20 seconds on the Golden Stage, a performance that led to Eurosport.com calling him the ERC’s Golden Boy.
Previously successful in powerlifting and strongest man competitions before injury, Tsouloftas will swap his family-run Citroën DS3 R5 for a ŠKODA Fabia R5 from the Germany-based Toksport organisation, which guided Chris Ingram to the runner-up spot in ERC Junior Under 28 in 2018. The 26-year-old will be eligible for points in the overall classification and in ERC1 Junior – the category for drivers who are 28 or younger at the start of 2019 competing in R5 cars.
“The ERC is the ultimate training ground for young drivers aiming for the top,” said Tsouloftas. “With events on all kinds of surfaces and conditions and promoted on a global scale on Eurosport and other networks, the ERC is the go-to championship to build up your career before the highest level. And ERC1 Junior is great to showcase myself. My target is the ERC1 Junior title and thereafter try to aim as high as possible in the overall classification. However, I know that the first year is for building up experience of all events and getting familiar with all kinds of surfaces. At the same time, I will be aiming for the Cyprus championship title with my Citroën DS3 R5, so it will be a year full of fun.”
Jean-Baptiste Ley, the ERC Co-ordinator, said: “We’ve followed Alex closely since he made a strong impression on his ERC debut in 2017 and we’re really pleased he’s been able to put together an ERC Junior campaign with a top team. With experience of only one event on the 2019 calendar, Alex has plenty to learn but he’s already shown an ability to adapt to new surroundings quickly and show a strong pace.”
The 2019 ERC season consists of eight rounds, four on asphalt and four on gravel. Tsouloftas’ home event, the Cyprus Rally, is scheduled for 27-29 September and counts for overall points.