Romain Di-Fante back on top heading to Clio Ice Trophy season-finale

Romain Di-Fante back on top heading to Clio Ice Trophy season-finale

Tension rose a notch in the penultimate round of the Clio Ice Trophy. Romain Di-Fante (Naudon Rallye Services) won the event after two  eventful races on the track, ahead of his team manager Nathael Naudon (Naudon Rallye Services) and Belgian driver Benoît Verlinde (Q-Grafix Racing). Heading to the final round of the calendar, three drivers are still in contention for the inaugural Clio Ice Trophy title.  


After a week's break, the Clio Ice Trophy was back in action on Saturday with round three of the season in the Crèdit Andorrà GSeries. The discipline demonstrated, once again, its growing popularity with a record field of fifteen entries thanks to the arrival of several protagonists from the Clio Cup scene, rallying and other horizons.


VERLINDE QUICKEST, LANNEPOUDENX MOST CONSISTENT
Round three, held at an altitude of 2,400 metres above sea level, offered a third different layout of the Pas de la Casa circuit. Mathieu Lannepoudenx (Brunet Competition) was the quickest to adapt on the 702-metre track, besting Benoît Verlinde in free practice before the positions were reversed in qualifying, when the Belgian driver took pole position, despite running in the first group on the track. Mathieu Lannepoudenx, however, scored maximum points in the intermediate classification ahead of Romain Di-Fante and Benoît Verlinde thanks to his best accumulated time over the five laps.


DI-FANTE AND NAUDON GO ON THE OFFENSIVE
In the B Final, Romain Di-Fante took the lead from Benoît Verlinde at the start. The poleman tried to fight back, but the new leader went on to win with a five-second margin. Pierre Paul Baltolu (Naudon Rallye Services), who led the general classification coming into the weekend, finished third in the Clio Ice Trophy and the two-wheel-drive category. Spaniard Tomas Martinez (Brunet Competition) was next, followed by Arthur Bourion (Brunet Competition), Eric Sauteur (Andorra Location) and Thibaud Ries (Driveland), who rounded out the order after the withdrawal of Jochen Claerhout (Q-Grafix Racing) for personal reasons.


In the A Final, Mathieu Lannepoudenx held on to the lead early on, but Nathael Naudon and Bernard Bathedou (Andorra Location) made it a race. Despite the increasingly heated on-track action, the Naudon Rallye Services team manager got the upper hand in the final laps to take the win ahead of Mathieu Lannepoudenx, who was penalized ten seconds for an on-track contact, dropping him behind newcomers Bernard Bathedou (Andorra Racing) and Jordi Palomeras (Driveland). The Catalan had earlier cleared Koen Verlinde (Q-Grafix Racing), while Pauline Dalmasso (Naudon Rallye Services) found an opening on Allison Viano (Q-Grafix Racing) to finish sixth and take a first step towards the best female spot in the general classification.


AN INTENSE FINAL IN SIGHT
With his second victory of the season, Romain Di-Fante reclaims the lead of the Clio Ice Trophy before the season-finale scheduled for Saturday, 5 February. The Nice native is eight points ahead of Pierre Paul Baltolu and eleven to the good from Mathieu Lannepoudenx, the only two drivers now in a position to deny Romain Di-Fante the title. Meanwhile, the Clio's continue to sit on top of the Crèdit Andorrà GSeries two-wheel-drive championship. This crown will also be decided among the three contenders next week.


Romain Di-Fante: "I have mixed feelings after this round. Qualifying was closer than ever and it shows the level is becoming more balanced and more competitive with some new drivers, more used to close racing than us rallymen. Everything went well in my final with a very clean overtake on Benoît, and I thank him for his sportsmanship. The fight in the second final went my way, but I can't fully enjoy this victory even if I reclaim the lead in the general classification. I am not expecting to be racing next Saturday, but it has been a great experience and I have had a lot of fun discovering a new category and new sensations with Clio Rally5."

ROUND 3 – FINAL CLASSIFICATION

ROMAIN DI-FANTE - 38 POINTS
NATHAEL NAUDON - 32 POINTS
BENOIT VERLINDE - 29 POINTS
MATHIEU LANNEPOUDENX - 27 POINTS
PIERRE PAUL BALTOLU - 24 POINTS
BERNARD BATHEDOU - 23 POINTS
JORDI PALOMERAS - 15 POINTS
TOMAS MARTINEZ - 15 POINTS
ARTHUR BOURION - 14 POINTS
KOEN VERLINDE - 10 POINTS
PAULINE DALMASSO - 9 POINTS
ALLISON VIANO - 8 POINTS
ERIC SAUTEUR - 8 POINTS
THIBAUD RIES - 6 POINTS
JOCHEN CLAERHOUT - 0 POINT


GENERAL CLASSIFICATION (ROUND 3/4)

ROMAIN DI-FANTE - 103 POINTS
PIERRE PAUL BALTOLU - 95 POINTS
MATHIEU LANNEPOUDENX - 92 POINTS
BENOIT VERLINDE - 56 POINTS
PAULINE DALMASSO - 44 POINTS
BRYAN DUFAS - 41 POINTS
DYLAN DUFAS - 34 POINTS
ARTHUR BOURION - 34 POINTS
NATHAEL NAUDON - 32 POINTS
KOEN VERLINDE - 30 POINTS
FERNANDO NAVARRETE - 23 POINTS
BERNARD BATHEDOU - 23 POINTS
GUILLERMO MILLAN - 17 POINTS
JORDI PALOMERAS - 15 POINTS
TOMAS MARTINEZ - 15 POINTS
MARKEL DE ZABALETA - 13 POINTS
PATRICK CHIAPPE - 13 POINTS
ENRIQUE HERNANDO - 12 POINTS
ALVARO LOBERA - 12 POINTS
JONATHAN ARNOULD - 8 POINTS
ALLISON VIANO - 8 POINTS
ERIC SAUTEUR - 8 POINTS
THIBAUD RIES - 6 POINTS
JOCHEN CLAERHOUT - 0 POINT


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