Thu 03 Nov 2022

How Pellier kick-started his Covid-hit career

With this year’s Junior ERC title and a free ticket to next year’s FIA Junior WRC under his belt, Laurent Pellier is a very happy man. But he had to rebuild from zero to get to where he is now.

Pellier, like many of rallying’s rising stars, targeted one-make championships from the get-go. Aged 18 he contested the Twingo R1 Trophy before moving onto the Citroën Racing Junior Trophy - for DS3 R1 cars - which he won in 2015.

All seemed to be going well for the Frenchman. Spirited performances in the DS3 R3T series earned him a one-off entry to the 2016 Tour de Corse where he shocked by winning the Junior WRC category, while glory in the Volant Peugeot Cup led to a works-supported drive with a four-wheel drive Peugeot 208 R5 in the 2018 ERC. 

But when the pandemic hit, Pellier, like many other drivers, was left without a drive. He had to think on his feet - even if it meant starting again from nothing.

“I was driving for Peugeot Sport four years ago and then because of Covid I stopped rallying in 2020,” Pellier told FIAERC.com. 

“After 2020, I had nothing to compete in the big categories or the big championships, so with Saintéloc Racing I restarted my career in the Opel e-Rally Cup - the first electric rally car.”

The Opel e-Rally Cup is a one-make series for identical electric Corsas. Each car produces around 100kW (130hp) with the power being delivered to its front wheels. Having sampled the heights of R5 machinery - the next level down from a World Rally Car - it was something of a backwards step for Pellier. 

Nevertheless, he dominated - winning all six rounds against fierce competition to earn himself a seat with Opel Motorsport in a Rally4-specification Corsa for this year’s ERC.

“It was a big backwards step,” Pellier admits. “Although it was a very good car, it was an entry-level car.  It was almost like I was starting rallying again in my first year! 

“But, at the end of it all, it was a very good move because we won the e-Rally Cup and that allowed us to come back to the ERC with Opel Motorsport.”

Pellier, partnered by co-driver Marine Pelamourgues, has continued that dominance into 2022 - winning five out of six rallies to clinch the Junior ERC title with one round to spare. It could have been a clean sweep were it not for a roll at Tet Rally Liepāja. 

The highlight, arguably, was the finale at RallyRACC Catalunya - Costa Daurada where Pellier and Pelamourgues finished fifth of the ERC contingent and beat a number of Rally2 cars. Their performances, he says, have been partially aided by the chance to get involved with the development of Stellantis Group’s steed.

“This year has been completely incredible for us, but for sure, we finished very well in Spain and our performance there was very enjoyable for everybody involved. To finish with a top-five overall result makes it even more crazy. 

“I have been doing a little bit of driving for Stellantis. I’m not an official driver, but I’ve been driving their cars for quite a few years now. Before the start of the [Peugeot] 208 Rally4 I made a few days of development in 2020, so I discovered the car two years ago now. 

“As you know, the 208 and the Corsa is exactly the same - mechanically it’s the same, just the body and the appearance is different. 

“In fact, I have taken some time this year to take part in some more days of development. Okay, you make kilometres during these days, but you are also driving a different car from which one you are using in competitions. It’s very enjoyable to take part in these kinds of days.”

Next for Pellier is the 2023 Junior WRC, which utilises Ford Fiesta Rally3 cars supplied by M-Sport Poland. His entry to the championship is courtesy of his prize for winning this year’s Junior ERC

“It’s a bit of a dream for me to go into Junior WRC,” he added. “I tried to compete there with my sponsors a few years ago but it was impossible because it was just too expensive. Now, I am finally able to do the championship and I am working hard to prepare with my co-driver. 

“We are also working on something to maybe be present in the ERC as well as the WRC next year, but nothing is confirmed. We will see.”

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