ERC Junior champion Griebel steps up to the big league

ERC Junior champion Griebel steps up to the big league

27/02/2017 at 11:00Updated 27/02/2017 at 13:38

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FIA ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel will step up to the European Rally Championship’s headlining ERC1 category in 2017 when he will prioritise winning the inaugural ERC Junior Under 28 title.

ERC Junior U28 is for drivers born on or after 1 January 1989 competing in R5 cars. As well as chasing that accolade and the prize of a one-off drive on a European round of the world championship in 2018, Griebel will also bid to become the first German since his mentor, Armin Kremer in 2001, to claim the coveted FIA European championship. Indeed, Kremer will play a key role in Griebel’s ERC campaign, providing much-needed sponsorship funds and offering crucial advice and support to his protégé.

“The ERC is a good championship with good rallies and a really good TV package on Eurosport,” said Griebel, 27. “It’s better for me to drive an R5 car in the ERC and be a main player than go to WRC2 to drive for 16thoverall. The ERC is the best place to show my skills and develop in an R5 car. The main target is the ERC Under 28 Championship and to do as many rallies as possible, and I must thank Armin Kremer for his support. My father was his mechanic when I was seven years old playing the rally games on PlayStation. As well as helping me financially, he’s giving me really good advice. It’s really good to have a friend like Armin in the background.”

Griebel, a serving police commissioner in his homeland, has R5 experience from last season’s ERC-counting Cyprus Rally, his prize for winning the 2016 ERC Junior title. Despite limited testing beforehand, Griebel finished an impressive second overall in a Motorsport Italia-run ŠKODA Fabia R5.

“That performance has given me some good confidence and I was able to show a lot of speed on gravel,” said Griebel. “I’ve not been racing since Cyprus so I will do the Rebenland Rallye in Austria from 16-18 March to prepare for the new ERC season. Hopefully I will be as fast as I was last year.”

Griebel will switch to the Austria-based Baumschlager Rallye and Racing outfit – the team behind Kremer’s recent world championship exploits – for this season, while Stefan Kopczyk (pictured right with Griebel) will co-drive. In addition to Kremer’s support, Griebel will also enjoy backing from ADAC Stiftung Sport and Pirelli.

While Griebel has yet to finalise his full ERC schedule for 2017 he has confirmed his participation on the Azores Airlines Rallye from 30 March-1 April.

ERC Co-ordinator Jean-Baptiste Ley said: “Marijan’s announcement is not only great news for him but also for the ERC. It’s fantastic to have a young driver with big talent – the reigning ERC Junior champion no less – competing in the new ERC Junior U28 category, which was established to provide promising drivers the opportunity to showcase their skills against other drivers with similar experience and ability.”