Clio Rally5, which has run strong on all surfaces, takes a new step in its expansion programme with a dedicated trophy on gravel. The inaugural round of the Clio Trophy France Terre will take place this week with nine crews entered for Rallye Castine Terre d’Occitanie (2-4 July).
Since its competition debut, Clio Rally5 has demonstrated the efficiency of its versatile chassis with promising performances on all surfaces. After winning Rally Guanajuato Mexico in its first rally, Clio Rally5 has continued to shine on the roads of Chile, but also in France with Jean-Sébastien Vigion and Florian Bernardi.
With this potential and growing demand, Clio Rally5 now has its first trophy exclusively on gravel. Organised over four rounds, the Clio Trophy France Terre will allow competitors to show what they’ve got on this terrain while also having the possibility of competing simultaneously on tarmac thanks to the complementary dates of both calendars.
The battle promises to be incredibly open among the nine crews entered, making it difficult to distinguish a favourite on this first go in Occitania.
Quentin Ribaud will be the first to set off on Saturday. The former French Junior Rally Championship competitor made quite an impression when he won his first stage with Clio Rally5 on the Rallye Mont-Blanc Morzine. The Frenchman will be looking to confirm his form in a completely different environment to win both the general classification and the Junior category, where he will go up against Catalan Marcel Abad, who will be determined to make his rivals choke on his dust.
Runner-up in the two-wheel-drive category of the Gravel French Championship in 2015, Jean-Paul Monnin is also among the favourites for the win. Ten years after being a frontrunner in the 2011 Twingo R2 Trophy, he will rely on his experience to celebrate his return to the feeder series on the top step of the podium.
Simon Heinemann, who has shown promise in the French Rally Cup and Gravel French Championship, could be a strong contender, as could John Laroche, who took part in the Clio Trophy France Asphalte at the Rallye Vosges Grand Est. Fourth in the 2019 Michelin Swiss Trophy and currently fifth in the Clio Trophy Swiss, Sébastien Studer will also be a key challenger on the rough tracks of the Castine.
With so many unknowns on this rally, experience and a cautious approach could be the keys to success. Richard Paget, the leader in the Clio Trophy France Asphalte Gentlemen’s category, will try to find the right balance, just like Grégory Perrard, who has made a name for himself in France, Belgium and internationally.
The only competitor with prior experience on the Rallye Castine Terre d’Occitanie, Serge Chapus will start with an advantage over his rivals. The Frenchman is a gravel specialist and sampled Clio Rally5 on two rallies in Spain to fast-track his learning curve and give himself the best chance to be the first winner of the category.
As with every trophy organised by Alpine Racing, competitors will battle for extremely attractive prizes and bonuses in several categories : General, Juniors, Teams and the Renault Dealership Challenge.
Rallye Castine Terre d’Occitanie will begin Friday with the traditional technical and administrative checks. On Saturday, the crews will face two identical loops of three special stages, kicking off with the longest timed sector of the weekend, Cazillac (19 km). On Sunday, three new stages will each be run twice before the finish in Bretenoux. The 12 special stages will total 134 kilometres of action.