Florian Bernardi, the hot favourite for the 2018 Clio R3T Trophy France, did not disappoint in the first event. The 2017 runner-up quickly stamped his authority on the roads of the Rallye du Touquet, which he won from Olivier Delaporte and Thibaut Poizot who snatched third place on the podium in the final stages.
On Friday, the crews set off on the 58th Rallye Le Touquet – Pas-de-Calais roads in spring sunshine. Florian Bernardi took the lead right from SS1. The big surprise came from Sara Williams who set the second-fastest time. Although the British driver spun in the following stage, she confirmed that her performance was no flash in the pan by clinching another second-quickest time in SS3.
Bernardi set three scratch times in the first loop and arrived back in the service park at midday with 22sec in hand over Olivier Delaporte. The driver from Burgundy who had moved up from the French Cup had no problems getting to grips with the Clio R3T. Guillaume Jean also adapted to the car with ease and was a bit surprised to find himself in the provisional top 3 on his very first outing in the Renault.
The hierarchy was confirmed in the second passage as Bernardi again set three fastest times against one for Delaporte. At the end of the first leg the gap between the two leaders had stretched to 46sec. Locked in battle for third place Jean and Poizot were a minute further back. William Pitot completed the top 5 followed by Mathieu Walter, Sara Williams and José Javier Perez, the highest-placed of the Spanish contingent.
On Saturday the cold snap that hit France didn’t spare the Côte d’Opale. In the morning four different drivers set the fastest times: Bernardi, Jean, Delaporte and Tozlanian. The first loop was marked by the retirement of Sara Williams whose car’s battery discharged in a regrouping park.
With the finish in sight Poizot went pedal to the metal and set three fastest times on the bounce to take the lead in the Juniors from Jean!
After the final stage on the Le Touquet sea front Bernardi opened his 2018 season with victory followed by Delaporte (1st gentleman), and Poizot (1st Junior). Behind Jean and Walter, Pitot held on to sixth place thanks to his fastest time in SS16. Tozlanian, Perez, Jérôme Aymard and Alex Sabater also scored points by finishing in the top 10. Riquelmo Gomis, who rejoined in Rally 2 after being the victim of a gearbox problem, completed the finishers.
Manu Guigou and Cédric Robert who entered for the rally outside the Trophy classification put on stunning performances. The latter gradually opened up a gap, and he emerged victorious in this top-level face off and went on to win the R3 class.
The next round of the Clio R3T Trophy France will take place in the Rallye Lyon-Charbonnières (19-21 April).
Florian Bernardi: “Obviously I’m very happy to scoop the board with the thirty points that go with victory and the title of the best performer. This opening weekend everything went off like a dream with the team and the return of Victor Bellotto on my right in the car. I applied what I’d learned last year in my battles with Cédric Robert. I pushed when I felt at ease and I controlled things when the terrain became more challenging.”
Benoit Nogier, Renault Sport Racing Commercial Director: “With a field of 12 cars that’s going to grow from the next round onwards, the Clio R3T Trophy France is in robust health! Whether the entrants are looking for sheer speed or just the pleasure of driving they seem to like the ambiance and the services on offer from Renault Sport with this formula. Bravo also to Manu Guigou and Cédric Robert for their performances and the show they put on!”
Clio R3T Trophy France – Rallye du Touquet
1. Florian Bernardi – Victor Bellotto – 2:03:30.9
2. Olivier Delaporte – Sébastien Voitey +1:16.4
3. Thibaut Poizot – Marion Grand +1:59.3
4. Guillaume Jean – Loris Pascaud +2:14.0
5. Mathieu Walter – Thibault Raincourt +3:48.8
6. William Pitot – Romain Brun +4:47.4
7. Damien Tozlanian – Pierre Blot +4:53.2
8. José Javier Perez – Alberto Espino +5:43.1
9. Jérôme Aymard – Sandrine Aymard +9:49.2
10. Alex Sabater – Oriol Julia +15:27.5
11. Riquelmo Gomis – Miki Ibañez +4:17:26.1
Clio R3T Trophy France overall classification
1. Florian Bernardi, 30 points (25 + 5)
2. Olivier Delaporte, 21 points (18 + 3)
3. Thibaut Poizot, 16 points (15 + 1)
4. Guillaume Jean, 12 points
5. Mathieu Walter, 10 points
6. William Pitot, 8 points
7. Damien Tozlanian, 6 points
8. José Javier Perez, 4 points
9. Jérôme Aymard, 2 points
10. Alex Sabater, 1 point