Rallye Mont-Blanc Morzine winner Julien Saunier dominated round three of the Alpine Elf Rally Trophy at the Rallye Cœur de France.
The Sébastien Loeb Racing driver claimed his second consecutive win ahead of Nicolas Hernandez and Jean-Luc Roché while finishing fifth in the general classification.
Two years after its public debut on this same rally, the Alpine A110 Rally impressed with a top-three overall result and the win in the two-wheel-drive category with Cédric Robert.
Round three of the inaugural Alpine Elf Rally Trophy season, the Rallye Cœur de France also welcomed the return of the Alpine A110 Rally to the roads of the Loir-et-Cher, where it was the zero car two years ago. To celebrate this anniversary in style, the crews at Vendôme were determined to shine before tackling the last two events in the best possible conditions.
Julien Saunier kept the momentum going after his victory on the Rallye Mont-Blanc Morzine earlier this month. The Sébastien Loeb Racing driver set the fastest time in Mazangé, Celle and Bonneveau-Sougé while battling with the Rally2s and quickly distanced himself from his pursuers led by Nicolas Hernandez, before repeating the feat in the second running of the three timed sectors.
While Nicolas Hernandez put an end to his supremacy in the short Vendôme special stage, Julien Saunier ended the first day with a 53.4s lead, but also a top-five and six top-ten finishes overall. Jean-Luc Roché, who was consistent on Friday, was third with a 1:33.3s advantage over Stefaan Prinzie.
On Saturday, Julien Saunier claimed three more scratch times to extend his lead to 1:24.4s ahead of the final loop. While the leader went on for a comfortable win, Nicolas Hernandez prevented him from taking all the stage wins on the second leg, edging him by 3.4s on the final timed sector. The podium was completed by Jean-Luc Roché, who scored his first success in the Gentlemen category despite an off on SS9.
With his second triumph on the bounce, Julien Saunier now trails Nicolas Hernandez by 10 points in the general classification while Jean-Luc Roché moves up to third place ahead of the final round of the season at Rallye Antibes Côte d’Azur (6-9 October).
In addition to the trophy, the Alpine A110 Rally shined in the hands of Cédric Robert. On pace with the best Rally2 cars from the start of the event, the French rally veteran was a consistent top-five finisher on Friday before jumping on the podium, at less than one second per kilometre to the winner, a three-time French Champion entered in a four-wheel-drive car.
Cédric Robert thus claimed the second overall podium result for the Alpine A110 Rally in the FFSA French Tarmac Rally Championship while also winning the two-wheel-drive category, with Julien Saunier finishing third in the class. The nine Alpine A110 Rally cars entered in addition to the zero car all made it to the finish, demonstrating once again the reliability of the car designed by the A arrowed brand and Signatech. The performance level was also on point, with five cars finishing in the overall top 12 of the Rallye Cœur de France.
Julien Saunier: "It was a great experience. We came to this Rallye Cœur de France with some preconceived ideas about the type of roads there but once the rally began, the stages turned out to be extraordinary! The long high-speed bends, where you throw the car from one apex to the next, were a lot of fun. In addition, the work of our friends at the service park and our safety crew allowed us to be competitive against the Rally2 cars right from the first timed sector. The next day, the rain allowed us to discover the Alpine on a wet surface. We are thoroughly satisfied, and we can't wait to meet up with the Alpine folks again in Antibes in this fantastic trophy."
1. Julien Saunier-Frédéric Vauclare 1h50:59.4s
2. Nicolas Hernandez-Candice Melocco +1:56.6s
3. Jean-Luc Roché-Alexandra Robin-Roché +9:40.1s
4. Stefaan Prinzie-Sharon Vermeulen +13:35.0s
1. Nicolas Hernandez – 50 points
2. Julien Saunier – 40 points
3. Jean-Luc Roché – 28 points
4. Michel Bonfils – 20 points
5. Loïc Panagiotis – 15 points
6. Sérgio Pinto – 12 points
7. Raphaël Marry & Stefaan Prinzie – 10 points