Charles Martin rounds off near-perfect season with a fifth win

Charles Martin, having already sealed the Clio R3T France Trophy title with victory in Morzine in September, finished his season in style. Alongside co-driver Thierry Salva, he won the Rallye du Var to record his fifth consecutive victory this year. The Île-de-France driver can now focus fully on next year’s Rallye Monte-Carlo, which he will contest in a Renault Clio R3T as reward for his Clio R3T France Trophy title. Third in Sainte-Maxime behind Jérôme Chavanne, William Pitot finishes as runner-up in the final Trophy standings.

Although Charles Martin topped the Clio R3T France Trophy standings after the opening stage of the Rallye du Var, his lead was rather slender, just a tenth of a second ahead of Jérôme Chavanne, an early indicator of the hotly-contested rally to come. However, the newly-crowned Clio R3T France Trophy champion kept up his good form to set leading times on the next two stages, ending Friday’s leg with a 12.8s lead over Jérôme Chavanne. Boris Bazalgette held third place, 2.9s ahead of Kevin van Deijne. William Pitot was fifth, in front of Charlotte Dalmasso, Stéphane Boissy, Damien Tozlanian, Pascal Bérad and Pascal Aimé, bunched together with less than thirty seconds separating them.

Jérôme Chavanne got off to a strong start on Saturday, winning the La Môle and Bormes-les-Mimosas stages, which also featured on Friday’s leg. He then landed a telling blow on Collobrières, moving ahead of Charles Martin to become the new leader of the Clio R3T France Trophy standings, 4.3s clear of his rival who finished second on each of the morning’s stages. However, the Île-de-France driver immediately reclaimed the lead at the end of SS7. He then extended his lead to 4.2s going into SS10, Pignans, the longest stage of the rally at almost 40 kilometres. Third-placed Boris Bazalgette was running ahead of Kevin van Deijne, who looked set to secure the final runner-up spot in the Clio R3T Trophy.

However, as suspected, Pignans proved to be the weekend’s decisive stage. Jérôme Chavanne set the fastest time, making up more than thirty seconds on Charles Martin! He therefore took over as the leader ahead of the third and final leg. Pascal Bérard set the second fastest time, promoting him to third place, behind Chavanne and Martin, and in front of Pitot. Bazalgette lost more than five minutes after picking up a puncture, ending his hopes of a podium finish, whilst van Deijne went off; the Dutchman therefore left the way clear for his rivals to fight it out for second place in the Clio R3T Trophy.

Charles Martin began Sunday’s leg with the clear intention of closing on Jérôme Chavanne, despite the 28.4s gap between them and the fact that there were only three stages left. He won the Garde Freinet speed test, but Chavanne responded on Plan de la Tour, meaning he held a 26.9s lead going into the final stage. By the end of Gonfaron, however, Charles Martin’s bold gamble had paid off as he beat his rival by more than thirty seconds, whilst Charlotte Dalmasso produced an equally impressive performance to set the second fastest time. The winner of the Clio R3T France Trophy therefore added a fifth win to his fantastic record in 2016, finishing 6.3 seconds clear. Pascal Bérard finished third but slipped down to fourth in the final standings of the Clio R3T France Trophy.

William Pitot, fourth in Sainte-Maxime, finished as the eventual runner-up in the Clio R3T France Trophy, benefiting from the retirement of Kevin van Deijne – who ended third in the 2016 Trophy – and the points lost by Pascal Bérard in discarding his poorest result. Charlotte Dalmasso finished fifth in the Var, ahead of Stéphane Boissy and Javier Bouza.

The Spaniard could take great satisfaction from his strong overall performance and the times he set. Bouza, whose victory in the Dacia Sandero Rally Cup in Spain saw him awarded the opportunity to compete at Rallye du Var in a Clio R3T, thus celebrated his prize in the best possible way. Boris Bazalgette, who for long periods looked like being the surprise package of this round despite contesting only his third rally in a Clio R3T, eventually ended up eighth on his first outing in the Clio R3T France Trophy. Damien Tozlanian and David Sauvaigo took the final classified places.

Emmanuel Guigou, not competing in the Trophy, once again demonstrated the qualities of the Renault Clio R3T, winning the R3 class whilst finishing tenth overall, and on the final podium of the French Rally Championship.

Clio R3T France Trophy standings – Rallye du Var
1. Charles Martin – Thierry Salva 2:35:10.9
2. Jérôme Chavanne – Romain Montvignier +6.3
3. Pascal Bérard – Caroline Bérard +4:41.9
4. William Pitot – Romain Brun +5:42.6
5. Charlotte Dalmasso – Gwenaëlle Le Poëc +6:14.7
6. Stéphane Boissy – Jérôme Bard +7:06.9
7. Javier Bouza – Ivan Bouza +7:32.8
8. Boris Bazalgette – Mathieu Maurin +11:08.7
9. Damien Tozlanian – Pierre Blot +11:24.3
10. David Sauvaigo – Nicolas Gillet +12:12:54.9

Best performer ‘Jean Ragnotti’
Charles Martin 5 pts ; Jérôme Chavanne 3 pts

Final overall standings
1. Charles Martin 148 points
2. William Pitot 69 pts
3. Kevin van Deijne 68 pts
4. Pascal Bérard 67 pts
5. Jérôme Chavanne 37 pts
6. Benoît Vaillant 35 pts
7. Damien Tozlanian 34 pts
8. Charlotte Dalmasso 28 pts
8. Philippe Corneau 28 pts
8. Stéphane Boissy 28 pts