ON RALLYE RHÔNE-CHARBONNIÈRES
Season two of the Alpine Elf Rally Trophy began with the win for Cyril Raymond and co-driver Valentin Salmon on Rallye Rhône-Charbonnières.
While mixing it up with the top drivers of the rally, the Chazel Technologie Course crew won ahead of Grégory Fontalba and Gentleman category winner Fabrice Bect.
The Alpine A110 Rallys were again at the sharp end of the order as Cédric Robert and titleholder Julien Saunier battled for the third place at the expense of several four-wheel drive Rally2 entries driven by the stars of the French Championship.
Alpine also won the first edition of the Rallye VMRS Rhône-Charbonnières in the hands of Manu Guigou.
As with the Alpine Elf Europa Cup, the Alpine Elf Rally Trophy kicked off its 2022 season with the largest field in its history. All the crews in Charbonnières-les-Bains lined up at the start with the hope of succeeding Julien Saunier, now competing in the two-wheel drive FFSA French Tarmac Rally Championship.
Two-time World RX2 champion Cyril Raymond jumped into the lead ahead of Grégory Fontalba and Fabrice Bect. While the leader set the best time on the following stage, his closest rival answered to cut the deficit to 11.3 seconds. Following the neutralisation of SS4, Cyril Raymond put the metal to the peddle with a superb run on Ternand - Saint-Just-d'Avray before taking his fourth fastest time in five timed sectors to relegate his rival to 47.7 seconds, who had a 39.1-second advantage over Fabrice Bect.
On Saturday, Cyril Raymond kept his momentum going by winning the first four timed sectors of the day and three new overall top ten finishes to extend his lead to over one minute. Meanwhile, Fabrice Bect maintained the pressure on Grégory Fontalba with the fastest time on SS11.
With a lead of 1:29.3s heading into the decisive loop, Cyril Raymond continued to push with a grand slam on the last five stages and five top ten times overall. The Frenchman then sealed his success with a 2:27.5s advance on Grégory Fontalba, who kept a 28.1s margin on Gentlemen category winner Fabrice Bec. Raphaël Marry, who received an invitation after his triumph in the Michelin Rallye Tour last year, finished fourth, followed by Guy Bertrand after the retirements of Romuald Lamboley and Hugo Bonfils.
Alpine also excelled with Cédric Robert and Julien Saunier. They won three stages between them with their A110 Rallys. Making full use of the Signatech-designed car, they avoided the pitfalls of the route in their battle for victory in the French two-wheel drive championship and third place in the event. Finally, Cédric Robert got the upper hand by 22.1s, while Cyril Raymond and Grégory Fontalba solidified Alpine's presence as the most represented brand on the leaderboard with four cars in the overall top ten at the finish.
Lastly, Manu Guigou and co-driver Virginie San Jose Lacombe also led their Alpine A110 to victory in the first edition of the Rallye VMRS Rhône-Charbonnières, a modern regularity rally competition,
The Alpine Elf Rally Trophy returns in just two weeks on the Rallye Antibes Côte d'Azur from 19-21 May.
Cyril Raymond: "It was a great rally that we managed to control very well. The work done by the Chazel Technologie Course team paid off, especially on leg two, where we set times very similar to those of Cedric Robert and Julien Saunier. I want to thank my co-driver, Valentin. 2022 is our first year together, but he knew how to guide me and give me confidence. We have found our pace, and I think we will have more wins during the year. The Alpine A110 Rally is an incredible car. It's lively yet easy to handle, even when the terrain is slippery or wet. It is a blast to drive it, and I would like to thank all of my partners, including the Centre Alpine Fréjus, for their support."
Fabrice Bect: "I'm thrilled with my podium result and my victory in the Gentlemen category. The first leg was complicated because we didn't choose the optimal set-up, but we managed to correct that on Saturday to catch up to Grégory. Unfortunately, the gap was too great, but more importantly, we had a lot of fun with the Alpine A110 Rally. That's what is most important!"
1. Cyril Raymond-Valentin Salmon 1h56:56.8s
2. Grégory Fontalba-Stéphan Hermet +2:27.5s
3. Fabrice Bect-Arnaud Michal +2:55.6s
4. Raphaël Marry-Alexis Magand +7:52.8s
5. Guy Bertrand-Louise Jacquot +12:30.2s
DNF. Romuald Lamboley-Aurélien Benzal
DNF. Hugo Bonfils-Olivier Brouze
1. Cyril Raymond 20 points
2. Grégory Fontalba 15 points
3. Fabrice Bect 12 points
4. Raphaël Marry 10 points
5. Guy Bertrand 8 points
NC. Romuald Lamboley & Hugo Bonfils 0 point