Benoit Vaillant won the opening round of the 2016 Clio R3T France Trophy, held at Rallye Lyon-Charbonnières. After an unpredictable and hard-fought race, especially on day one, he finished ahead of Rémi Jouines and Jérôme Chavanne. The Clio R3T France Trophy competitors will be back in action next month at Rallye d’Antibes.

Winner of last year’s France area Clio R3T European Trophy, Benoît Vaillant picked up where he left off this weekend at the opening round of the 2016 Clio R3T France Trophy, organised with the support of Michelin, ETS and Sparco. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Picardie driver, however. He had to work hard to grab the lead and put together this performance.

Jérôme Chavanne got off to the best start by winning SS1, followed closely by Rémi Jouines, who then took the lead at the end of SS3, and Benoît Vaillant. These three men proved to be the in-form drivers on the opening leg. At the end of SS5 – the final timed stage of the day following the cancellation of SS6 – Rémi Jouines held a 5.9s lead over Benoît Vaillant and was 8s clear of Jérôme Chavanne. On his maiden outing in a Clio R3T, Charles Martin was impressive to hold fourth place (+21.5s), ahead of Pascal Bérard (+56.1s). Further back, Philippe Corneau (+1:12.0) ended day one ahead of Guillaume Bergeon (+1:14.3) and Kevin Van Deijne (+1:23.5).

Day two began in much the same way as the first leg, with less than five seconds between the top three after SS7. However, Benoît Vaillant took advantage of the next stage, the longest of the rally at 25.3km, to strike a telling blow. Between Marchampt and St Cyr le Château, he finished some 13.6s clear of Jérôme Chavane and 20.1s ahead of Rémi Jouines to become the new leader. Second fastest on the stage (+4.2s), Charles Martin moved closer to the top three, before winning SS9 and then grabbing third overall from Jérôme Chavanne after SS11.

Benoît Vaillant then recorded four consecutive stage wins to move clear at the top of the overall standings, ahead of Rémi Jouines. On the final stage, Jérôme Chavanne set the fastest time and reclaimed third place from Charles Martin, who lost time due to recurrent brake issues. Benoit Vaillant went on to win this opening round, ahead of Rémi Jouines, Jérôme Chavanne and Charles Martin. Philippe Corneau prevailed in the battle for fifth place ahead of Pascal Bérard and Charlotte Dalmasso, the leading female driver who finished strongly to take the fourth fastest time on SS14. Damien Tozlanian, Stéphane Boissy and Guillaume Bergeon completed the final standings. In addition to his overall win, Benoît Vaillant also won the prize for the best Junior and topped the "Jean Ragnotti best performer" standings.

Benoît Vaillant, winner (11th overall) : "It was a very closely contested rally, so we’re glad to end up as the winners ! I knew that we were up against some very serious rivals, so I was expecting it to be an extremely competitive event. To start with, we were pleased to see that we were on the pace. On Saturday’s second stage, we managed to open up a bit of a gap and we were then able to build on it. We had to stay concentrated, because this rally can be difficult in damp conditions like those we had this weekend. We’re delighted to start with a win and top the ’Jean Ragnotti best performer’ standings. But we know that we’ll need to keep fighting at every event to stay in front !"

Tarik Aït Saïd, Customer Racing Motorsport Manager, Renault Sport Racing : "We’re very pleased with this first event, with a fine win for Benoît Vaillant and a very competitive rally between our customers. Our strategy is aimed at rewarding competitors more at each round – the winner picks up a cheque for €7,000 and the top Junior and top Female driver collect €1,000 in prize money – and on this evidence, it seems to be paying off. We are also certain that the end-of-season winner will have had to demonstrate great determination and talent. We would also like to thank our partners for the Clio R3T France Trophy : Michelin, ETS and Sparco. We are delighted with the excellent reliability of our cars and the performance of Manu Guigou, who finished first in the R3 standings in his Clio R3T."

Rallye Lyon-Charbonnières Rhône – Clio R3T France Trophy
1. Benoît Vaillant – Antoine Brule 2:04:05.6
2. Rémi Jouines – Adrien Bonicel +41.2
3. Jérôme Chavanne – Julien Schillaci +1:03.6
4. Charles Martin – Matthieu Duval +3:02.9
5. Philippe Corneau – Grégoire Samuel +4:26.6
6. Pascal Bérard – Caroline Bérard +5:17.7
7. Charlotte Dalmasso – Gwenaëlle Le Poëc +6:12.7
8. Damien Tozlanian – Pierre-Etienne Blot +9:27.8
9. Stéphane Boissy – Jérôme Bard +15:59.2
10. Guillaume Bergeon – Vincent Merlet +17:53.7

Jean Ragnotti best performer standings
1. Vaillant 5 points – 2. Jouines 3 points – 3. Chavanne 1 point

Overall standings
1. Benoît Vaillant 30 points
2. Rémi Jouines 21
3. Jérôme Chavanne 16
4. Charles Martin 12
5. Philippe Corneau 10
6. Pascal Bérard 8
7. Charlotte Dalmasso 6
8. Damien Tozlanian 4
9. Stéphane Boissy 2
10. Guillaume Bergeon 1

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