The fourth edition of the Clio R3T Trophy France will kick off next weekend at the Rallye Le Touquet Pas-de-Calais (15-17 March). Twelve crews will be gunning for glory in northern France, starting with Florian Bernardi, overall runner-up and winner of the Junior category in the 2017 Clio R3T Trophy France.
After winning the Junior title in last year’s Clio R3T Trophy France, Florian Bernardi is back this time around aiming to succeed Cédric Robert as overall winner. Alongside Victor Bellotto once again, his co-driver from his time competing in the Twingo R1 Trophy, the Vaucluse driver understandably heads into the new season as the favourite.
Nevertheless, he won’t be expecting an easy ride from his title rivals. After finishing just shy of the podium on his debut in Le Touquet last year, Damien Tozlanian has opted to stick with Renault for the tenth year running and his third in the Clio R3T Trophy France.
Whilst the Isère driver is determined to gate-crash the party at the front, he won’t be the only one with such hopes. Runner-up in the 2016 Clio R3T Trophy France, William Pitot will be aiming to return to form after several months out. Among the Juniors (drivers born in 1990 and after), the Auvergne driver has the advantage of experience since he has already competed at the Rallye du Touquet, unlike his four rivals, including José Javier Perez and Thibaut Poizot.
Strong performers at the Rallye du Var at the end of 2017, the Spaniard and the Gap driver would love to confirm their good form in northern France. Meanwhile, Guillaume Jean and Mathieu Walter will be experiencing the joys of the Clio R3T Trophy France for the first time, having performed brilliantly in the N3 and R3 categories respectively at the French Rally Cup.
One of the best amateurs in the French Tarmac Rally Championship, Jérôme Aymard is set to drive a Renault Clio for the first time since 2004. In the Gentlemen category (drivers born in 1973 and before), his rival is Olivier Delaporte. A debutant at Le Touquet, Olivier finished third in his Clio R3T in the R3 class of the Rallye Régional du Pays Avallonnais at the start of the month.
An international flavour to the Trophy
Three Spaniards and a Briton also feature in the line-up. A former competitor in the Clio R3T Trophy Iberia, José Javier Perez is joined by his fellow countrymen Alex Sabater, a regular at historic rallies, and Riquelmo Gomis, winner of the Rallye Ciutat de Xixona in the R3 class. The only woman taking part, Sara Williams would like to build on the experience she acquired during her first season racing in mainland Europe. Now competing alongside co-driver Patrick Walsh, she returns to Le Touquet with much higher aims than a year ago.
The "big names"
Emmanuel Guigou and Cédric Robert – not competing in the Trophy – will be among the favourites in the R3 class. Among the leading lights in the French Rally Championship, both men will be aiming to win the two-wheel drive category, whilst providing all the main contenders in the Clio R3T Trophy France with a very useful benchmark.
The Rallye Le Touquet Pas-de-Calais is due to start on Friday, 16 March with two loops of four stages. On Saturday, the competitors will then tackle another four repeated stages, including two runs on the Front de Mer du Touquet test.
The regulations in brief
• At the end of each rally, the competitors will be awarded points based on the final standings, using the standard FIA scale.
• The three drivers with the most stage wins will be awarded five, three and one "Performer" bonus points.
• Whoever has amassed the most "Performer" points by the end of the season will be awarded the "Jean Ragnotti Best Performer" trophy.
• The winner of each round will earn a prize of €7,000 and the top-twelve finishers will receive prize money. At each of the six rallies, race prize money will also be awarded based on the top-three in each of the categories (Juniors, Gentlemen and Feminine).
• All the crews starting an event will be given two Michelin tyres and a full tank (53 litres) of ETS Extramax fuel.
• Only the best five results will count towards the overall final standings.
• At the end of the year, the winner of the Clio R3T Trophy France will receive a Renault Clio R.S.
Clio R3T Trophy France – List of entries
#29 Florian Bernardi – Victor Bellotto
#30 Damien Tozlanian – Pierre Blot
#31 Thibaut Poizot – Marion Grand (J)
#32 José Javier Perez – Alberto Espino (J)
#33 William Pitot – Romain Brun (J)
#34 Sara Williams – Patrick Walsh (F)
#35 Jérôme Aymard – Sandrine Aymard (G)
#36 Guillaume Jean – Loris Pascaud (J)
#37 Mathieu Walter – Thibault Raincourt (J)
#38 Olivier Delaporte – Sébastien Voitey (G)
#39 Alex Sabater – Oriol Julia
#40 Riquelmo Gomis – Miki Ibañez
(G): Gentlemen, drivers born in 1973 and before
(J): Juniors, drivers born in 1990 and after
Clio R3T Trophy France 2018 race calendar
16-18 March: Rallye Le Touquet Pas-de-Calais
20-22 April: Rallye Lyon-Charbonnière
6-8 July: Rallye Aveyron Rouergue Occitanie
7-9 September: Rallye Mont-Blanc Morzine
28-30 September: Rallye Cœur de France
23-25 November: Rallye du Var