Friday | 18 Nov 2022

2022 Season Review: Junior ERC

Today, we look back on how Laurent Pellier and Marine Pelamourgues clinched the FIA Junior ERC crown with one round to spare.

Canarias: Recovery drive
The opening round of the FIA Junior ERC - Rally Islas Canaria - provided a sign of things to come as Opel Corsa Rally4 driver Laurent Pellier signalled his intent with a near-perfect drive throughout the asphalt fixture. 

It wasn't all plain sailing for Pellier, however, and he started on the wrong foot when an uncharacteristic mistake during Thursday night's super special stage left him well down the order. 

But the Frenchman hauled himself back up the leaderboard on Friday and, by the end of the opening leg, had leapfrogged Renault Clio youngster Andrea Mabellini - winning all five stages to build up a 28.7sec advantage. 

He further extended the gap on Saturday with another clean sweep of fastest times, arriving at the finish almost 45 seconds to the good. Óscar Palomo completed the podium, albeit 49.5sec further back in his Peugeot 208.

Poland: A tight affair
Pellier proved he was equally comfortable on the high-speed gravel roads of ORLEN 78th Rally Poland - taking out yet another victory. This time, however, things were a lot tighter at the top. 

Finnish sensation Toni Herranen made his ERC debut at the event with a Ford Fiesta Rally4 and pushed Pellier every step of the way. The 18-year-old moved into the lead early on the final morning and held the upper hand right up until the penultimate test, where Pellier retook the lead.

The pair were split by just four-tenths of a second going into the rally-ending Power Stage but Herranen's hopes quickly disintegrated when he ran wide on a corner and damaged the rear end of the car.  The mishap cost only a handful of seconds but was enough to ensure Pellier emerged victorious by 10.1sec.

Palomo, for the second time in as many events, netted third with another clean drive while a broken driveshaft forced Mabellini into retirement.

Latvia: Trouble at the top
At July's Tet Rally Liepāja, the stage was set for another Pellier push. And that's how things got underway, with the Frenchman setting the pace early in the rally. 

However, for the first time in an otherwise unmarked season, Pellier made a mistake - rolling his Corsa just a few stages into the event and completing the majority of Saturday with no front windscreen. 

Pellier's time loss was, unsurprisingly, sizeable, and left him unable to climb any higher than 10th overall. Mabellini was also in trouble and haemorrhaged time, first when the windscreen wipers on his car failed during a rain shower and also with a Sunday puncture. 

Picking up the pieces was none other than Palomo, who clinched his maiden Junior ERC victory while leapfrogging Pellier to take the championship lead at the tender age of 18-years-old. Behind him was Herranen - only 14.5sec in arrears.

Rome: Normal service resumes
With the car returned to full health following his Latvian excursion, Pellier was in dominant form once again and snatched back the championship lead with a scot-free drive. 

Mabellini set the early pace on his local roads but was unable to hold off the charging Frenchman, who seized the top spot on Saturday afternoon before extending his buffer to a hefty 42.1sec by close of play. 

Roberto Daprà came home third while fourth-placed Palomo dropped to second in the standings and now trailed the leader by six points.

Barum: Win or bust
With a six-point advantage heading into the penultimate round at Barum Czech Rally Zlín, and three victories already to his tally, Pellier knew another triumph would leave him with an unassailable points lead. 

As such, he wasn’t taking any prisoners on the treacherous Czech roads. Having duly built up an advantage of almost three-quarters-of-a-minute through Saturday, the Opel Corsa ace extended that margin on Sunday's final leg to ultimately wind up 1min 32.2sec clear of second-placed Mabellini. 

The success enabled Pellier and co-driver Marine Pelamourgues to wrap up the coveted crown with one round to spare while also securing a prestigious 2023 FIA Junior WRC prize drive with it. 

Palomo – the only driver who could realistically have deprived Pellier of the title - secured second in the series by placing third in the rally, while Mabellini filled the final podium spot at the end of the year.