With track temperatures over 40°C at Dijon during the weekend, round four of this year’s Clio Cup France was a wonderful spectacle with titanic clashes for the win. Nicolas Milan (Milan Compétition) and Benoît Castagné (Raiwoit Racing) came out on top in these hard-fought battles and the championship is wide-open with four races remaining in the season!
On Friday, the drivers had two 30 minute sessions to sort out the elevation changes and challenging corners of the circuit in the heart of France’s Burgundy region. In the morning, Vincent Brunerie (Milan Compétition) set the pace with a lap of 1:30.398s. Nicolas Milan was quickest in the afternoon, but just off the pace of his team mate.
RACE 1: MILAN AND CASTAGNÉ, DO VILLENEUVE AND ARNOUX PROUD
Despite the early moments of qualifying dominated by Pierre Tierce (Tierce Racing) and Nicolas Milan, Benoît Castagné threw down the hammer half-way through the session with a lap of 1:29.637s. His rivals didn’t have an answer and the native of Albi finished ahead of rival Nicolas Milan by nearly 0.4s!
At the start, Benoît Castagné held on to the lead, while Nicolas Milan was soon under threat from David Pouget, Thibaut Bossy (TB2S) and Pierre Tierce. David Pouget was the first to find a chink in the armour of the multiple Clio Cup France Champion, but the driver-preparer resisted the attacks coming from Thibaut Bossy and Pierre Tierce, who went off circuit.
The action further back was just as explosive with Junior Category competitors Anthony Jurado (Setup Racing), Corentin Tierce (Tierce Racing) and Marc De Fulgencio (Team VRT) battled hammer and tong, just like the Gentleman racers David Pajot (Vic’Team), Emmanuel Raffin (Autosport GP) and Mickael Carrée (T2CM) behind them!
On lap six, Nicolas Milan began his comeback charge by surprising David Pouget before attacking Benoît Castagné. A battle for the ages got underway as the leaders in the general classification passed, repassed, and passed some more and then criss-crossed one another on the Fouine straight and in the Villeroy double-right hander! David Pouget and Thibaut Bossy were in a mano-a-mano of their own, while also closely watching the battle ahead of them, hoping to profit from any missteps.
At the beginning of the final lap, Benoît Castagné went for it by trying to intimidate Nicolas Milan, but the latter didn’t flinch and crossed back to the inside at turn one and go on for the win. Thibaut Bossy wrestled third place away from David Pouget, who eventually finished eighth behind Yoann Baziret (Setup Racing), Alexandre Gadois, Dorian Gundelfels and Antoine Prétin (GPA Racing).
The on track winner among the Juniors, Marc De Fulgencio was disqualified in post-race scrutineering. In the end of the race battle between the two top Gentleman drivers, David Pajot and Emmanuel Raffin, Corentin Tierce inherited the category win.
RACE 2: CASTAGNÉ IN A THRILLER!
On Sunday, Benoît Castagné took another pole with a best time of 1:29.838s ahead of David Pouget, Corentin Tierce and Dorian Guldenfels (GPA Racing), but everything was turned upside down just prior to the start when a violent storm battered Prenois.
The race started with the first two laps behind the safety car. When the race began in earnest, the positions at the sharp end of the order didn’t change much, except for when Nicolas Milan overtook his team mate Mathieu Lannepoudenx (Milan Compétition) ahead of a field that was gradually finding their marks on the drying track surface.
It didn’t take long for David Pouget to go on the offensive and pass Benoît Castagné for the lead. The Albi resident tried to answer back, but he was soon being pressured by Nicolas Milan, who used all his experience in these conditions to leave his title rival with no room for error.
Benoît Castagné hung on, and then picked up the pace in the last five minutes, to close in on David Pouget and found himself in a similar duel to the one the day before! The Raiwoit Racing driver tried to use the slipstream as best he could on the Fouine straight, but David Pouget just barely managed to hold on to the lead each time!
The suspense was reaching the boiling point at the start of the last lap and even in the final corner because Benoît Castagné got a perfect exit out of the Courbe de Pouas to get past David Pouget. The two Clio Cup aces were now in a sprint to the finish line... And Benoît Castagné took the chequers by a scant 0.004s!
The victory for Benoît Castagné was made that much more significant when Nicolas Milan was edged off the podium by Dorian Guldenfels in the last lap as well. Benoît Castagné also retook the lead in the general classification, although he knows the throwing out of a driver’s worst result isn’t still in his favour.
Behind the usual front runners, the top spots were earned by those drivers who gave it all they ad in the race. Antoine Prétin turned a few heads in finishing fifth in his second race of the year in the Clio Cup France. He was followed by Mathieu Lannepoudenx and Yoann Baziret. Further back, Junior driver Marc De Fulgencio won by just 0.7s from Corentin Tierce. Anthony Jurado was third in a category he has been dominating in the championship. David Pajot took his fourth consecutive win in the Gentleman Driver category to surpass Stéphane Auriacombe (Tierce Racing) in the number of victories!
While the battles in all the categories are as intense as ever, the Clio Cup France now takes a well-earned summer holiday before returning for the penultimate weekend of the season at Circuit Nevers Magny-Cours (September 7-9).