Fabien Pailler is targeting the top step of the podium in the FIA European Rallycross Championship in his home event at Lohéac this weekend (3-5 September), as he bids to quickly bounce back from the frustration of Höljes two weeks ago.
Pailler was one of the Euro RX1 pace-setters in Sweden, going second-quickest in both Q1 and Q2 before backing that up with further top four times in Q3 and Q4, only for a track marker penalty to deny him Top Qualifier status.
Undeterred, the Frenchman was dominating the second semi-final when his right-front wheel parted company with his Peugeot 208, putting him out on the spot and dashing his hopes of a spectacular season curtain-raising victory. He is determined to use that disappointment to spur him on to success on home soil.
“It’s always difficult to accept a DNF when you’re so close to securing a front row starting spot for the final at such a legendary and challenging circuit as Höljes and can almost sniff the podium, but that is firmly behind me now,” asserted the two-time French Rallycross Champion.
“Lohéac as a track is almost tailor-made for our car. It’s a much less complicated circuit than Höljes, but the flipside of it being easier to learn is that the gaps are likely to be even closer and you can’t afford to give away time anywhere around the lap.
“The starts will be key. That must be our primary focus, while tyre management will be similarly important. We need to ensure we have a strong first day if we want to achieve our goal of progressing through to the final.”
Younger brother and Pailler Compétition stablemate Jonathan Pailler was similarly in the mix for a trophy at Höljes, benefitting from his team-mate’s misfortune to win the second semi-final and going on to classify fifth in the final. After confessing to a somewhat slow start in Sweden, the 33-year-old is optimistic of getting up-to-speed much more quickly around a track that he knows ‘like the back of his hand’.
“In Sweden, it took me the first two qualifying sessions to settle into a good rhythm, so I know I need to get into the groove faster at Lohéac and really go on the attack right from the outset,” he acknowledged. “I know his track like the back of my hand, and unlike at Höljes – where it always takes a little time to re-find the limits – I’m confident of hitting the ground running this weekend.
“It has been a very rapid turnaround since Sweden, with only five days to re-prep our cars to ensure they are battle-ready once again for Lohéac. It has been an intense couple of weeks and this weekend will be no different, but I have high hopes that both Fabien and I can put in a good performance. On a personal level, I’m just a single point shy of third place in the overall standings, so that’s what I’m setting my sights on.”