Sidelined since November, Charlotte Berton made her return courtesy of a specific programme for the Rallye Aveyron Rouergue.
The programme was put together in just two weeks, with Charlotte’s sole objective to have fun at the wheel in her home region, though she did more than that, holding third place in the R3 class as the end of the rally neared.
“That was so exciting,” said Charlotte. “All I was looking to do at the start was pick up my pace through the stages. With the help of Manu Guigou and everyone at Team Automeca – Florajet, we did some good work during testing and I felt good in the Clio R3T right from the start. The pace was really good and it felt pretty natural.”
At the end of leg one Charlotte lay third in the R3 class and 13th overall. “The Clio R3T goes really, really fast. I like speed, though, and I settled in quickly. That was really the only new thing that I had to adapt to with the turbo engine. My co-driver [Sabrina de Castelli] told me that she believed in me and that all I needed to do was be confident and drive. That helped me stay calm and drive a competitive race and I posted some good times.”
As Charlotte explained, she received a warm welcome back to the French championship from the fans and her fellow competitors : “It was a truly amazing weekend, with a lot of mutual respect between the drivers and a lot of passion too. I was touched by the comments of the other drivers who came to tell me that they’d been doing all they could to beat me. I like that competitive spirit. Even the race director Cyril Lignac, who got the event under way, came to say hello to me and talk about my times.”
Charlotte was closing in on second place behind her team-mate Manu Guigou when she hit some loose gravel on SS9 and slid off, bringing her race to a premature end : “I obviously would have loved to have been on the podium, but that wasn’t the important thing. We were right up there all weekend and that didn’t go unnoticed. It was a one-off event. A couple of weeks ago I’d never have imagined driving in Le Rouergue, and there we were, in the thick of it right from the off. I’m determined to keep on going because I’m the first woman in a position to compete at this level for years, though I’m going to need fresh backing more than anything else in order to carry on.”
Victorious in the 2WD class with the Clio R3T, Manu Guigou finished seventh overall, behind the WRC and R5 cars, and now lies second in the French Rally Championship.