Brothers Fabien and Jonathan Pailler are aiming to spring a ‘surprise’ in the FIA European Rallycross Championship this year, with the most successful outfit in French rallycross history having signed up to a full season in the series’ headlining Euro RX1 category.
Pailler Compétition has clinched no fewer than 13 domestic rallycross titles in the Supercar class – and more than 110 victories – making the team truly a force to be reckoned with on the national scene.
Having repeatedly proved its credentials at home, the Brittany-based squad is now eager to showcase its capabilities at international level, with a pair of ex-Peugeot Sport 208 WRX Supercars for the Pailler brothers, sons of 1993 FIA European Rallycross Champion Jean-Luc Pailler.
A two-time French Rallycross Champion in his own right, Fabien Pailler made his FIA World Rallycross Championship debut at Lydden Hill in 2014, narrowly missing out on progressing through to the semi-finals in a bumper 37-car field while reaching the Euro RX final at the same event.
The following year, he contested four of the five Euro RX rounds, ascending the rostrum with a third-place finish in Germany and sealing sixth in the overall standings.
Subsequent seasons have been characterised by sporadic European and World Championship appearances at Mettet, Höljes and on home soil at Lohéac, with the 35-year-old scoring points in both events he entered in World RX in 2019.
“After our first proper programme at European level in 2015, we’re thrilled to be returning to FIA Euro RX!” he enthused. “Over the past two years, we have learnt a lot about our Peugeot 208 WRX Supercars and we now feel ready to put them through their paces on the European stage. Our performance at Höljes in 2019 gave us a lot of confidence regarding our potential in international competition.
“It’s still too early to say where we will be in the pecking order. Höljes and Lohéac are two of the tracks we know the best, and it definitely helps to be starting the season at circuits where we have some prior experience, but Riga and Spa will both be completely new to us, so we will need to adapt as quickly as possible in order to acclimatise to their specific demands.
“I think the Euro RX1 calendar is very well-balanced, with two high-grip circuits in Riga and Lohéac and two ‘looser’ tracks in Höljes and Spa. It’s sure to be a very exciting season, and it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top.”
Younger brother Jonathan made his own World Championship bow at Lohéac in 2014, following that up with similar one-off appearances at his home event in 2015 and 2019 and at Höljes in the latter of those seasons, falling just short of securing a semi-final berth in Sweden.
In FIA Euro RX, the 32-year-old contested four of the five rounds in 2015 – advancing to the final in Germany and the semi-final everywhere else en route to tenth in the points table – and was a semi-finalist on home soil at Lohéac in 2017 in a 35-strong field.
“Our experience of racing in the World Championship at Höljes and Lohéac two years ago gave us a good understanding of the commitment required to be competitive at the pinnacle of rallycross,” he acknowledged. “Our technical crew was able to demonstrate its ability, and it’s vital to be able to rely upon a team that is accustomed to competing at a high level when you participate in a championship like this.
“On paper, I know we have a car that is capable of running right up at the front, but rallycross has never been an exact science, and there are far too many unknowns to be able to set any real expectations at this stage. Our performance at Höljes will give us a much clearer idea of where we really are.
“It’s very positive for us to be beginning the season in Sweden, on a track where we came extremely close to reaching the World RX semi-finals in 2019. We know how the circuit goes, and what we need to focus on to give ourselves the best possible chance there. As ever, we will need to adopt an intelligent approach, and we have the firm intention of being one of the surprises of 2021.”
The pair will compete in all four Euro RX1 rounds this year, beginning at Höljes on 20-22 August, before moving on to Lohéac (3-5 September), Riga (18/19 September) and Spa-Francorchamps (8-10 October).