Bernardi notches maiden win

Five times on the podium in last year’s French Junior Rally Championship, Florian Bernardi scored his first Twingo R1 France Trophy win at Morzine last weekend, capitalising on a series of misfortunes for his main title rivals to move second behind Charles Martin in the overall standings. Taking second behind Bernardi was Jérémie Serieys, with Johan Notargiacomo third.

There was a shock in store for Twingo R1 France Trophy leader Charles Martin at the start of the event, as he was forced to retire in the very first special stage, ending his hopes of a third win this season. It was Damien Defert who led the way at the end of stage one, with Florian Bernardi, Jérémie Serieys, Jean-Rene Perry and Dimitri Audet rounding off the top five.

Martin was not the only favourite to fall by the wayside early on. Romain Fostier had to call it a day in SS2, while Damien Defert went off and out of the race in the timed stage that followed.

With the three championship frontrunners out of the running, the event was wide open for Florian Bernardi. By the time he reached the third transfer stage at Morzine he was a whole 46 seconds ahead of the pack, which was led by Antoine Masse and Jérémie Serieys. Less than a minute behind them in fourth was Frederic Hauswald, followed by Johan Notargiacomo, Gabriel Lieffroy, Mathias Wouters, Jean-Charles Mougin, Simon Lebiez and Jean Jouines.

As Florian Bernardi sat on his advantage, Jérémie Serieys and Frederic Hauswald posted respective fastest times in SS4 and SS5, with the race leader standing nearly a minute clear of the two by the time the field returned to the parc fermé in Morzine. Antoine Masse and Johan Notargiacomo completed the top five at the end of leg one, with Mathias Wouters, Jean-Charles Mougin, Gabriel Lieffroy, Simon Lebiez and Jean Jouines behind them.

Leg two began with Florian Bernardi relinquishing a sizeable chunk of his lead. Forced to handle his brakes with care, he lost 45 seconds in a single special stage to allow Jérémie Serieys to pull to within a mere five seconds and Frederic Hauswald to within 18. Hauswald then went fastest in SS7 to move joint second, just two and a half seconds adrift of Florian Bernardi, only for his challenge to end in the very next timed stage when he went off.

That left Florian Bernardi and Jérémie Serieys to fight it out for race victory, the two trading fastest times with each other, though Serieys was unable to close the gap as Bernardi squeezed home by five seconds. Finishing more than two minutes further back, Johan Notargiacomo took third ahead of Simon Lebiez, Jean Jouines, Dimitri Audet, Gabriel Lieffroy, Jean-Charles Mougin, Yohan Saillat and Mathias Wouters. Meanwhile, Joffrey Margiotta and Segolene Couturier finished outside the points.

Florian Bernardi: “We’ve been chasing this maiden win for more than a year, and after five podium finishes it’s a step-up for my whole team. This win puts us back in the hunt for the French championship. Everyone has put in a great amount of work to help us achieve these results, which we now need to follow up in the next two events.”

Jérémie Serieys: “This second place is my best result since the start of the season. We’re continuing to make progress with each kilometre and we’ve improved our top speed here. It’s set us up well in the championship ahead of the Criterium des Cevennes, which is my home rally.”

Johan Notargiacomo: “Finishing on the podium is a big confidence boost. We were in the leading group and I think we managed the race pretty well. Our consistency paid off. I’m already thinking about next year, when we’ll carry on in the Twingo Renaultsport R1 and with new goals in mind. I’m still not sure if we’ll be on the start line at the Criterium des Cevennes but I hope this top-three finish will open the door.”

64th Rallye Mont-Blanc Morzine - 2012 Twingo R1 France Trophy
Fastest times: Florian Bernardi and Jérémie Serieys 4, Frederic Hauswald 2, Damien Defert 1.
Race leaders: Damien Defert (SS1), Florian Bernardi (SS2 to 11 - finish)

Final standings
1. Florian BERNARDI/Victor BELLOTTO, 2:33.06.5
2. Jérémie SERIEYS/Justine QUILLET, +0:05.1
3. Johan NOTARGIACOMO/Marine DELON, +2:29.4
4. Simon LEBIEZ/Julie LEBIEZ, +3:13.7
5. Jean JOUINES/Jean-Rene VILLANI, +3:15.1
6. Dimitri AUDET/Melodie ARTZNER, +3:32.3
7. Gabriel LIEFFROY/Laurine EHRHARDT, +3:43.0
8. Jean-Charles MOUGIN/Kevin BRONNER, +4:10.7
9. Yohan SAILLAT/Julien MARTY, +6:52.6
10. Mathias WOUTERS/Aline GAINET, +7:51.5
11. Joffrey MARGIOTTA/Brice MARGIOTTA, +9:11.7
12. Segolene COUTURIER/Charlene DEVILLE, +9:53.5

Twingo R1 France Trophy: Overall standings (after four rounds of six)
1. Charles Martin, 65 points
2. Florian Bernardi, 61
3. Jérémie Serieys, 44
4. Romain Fostier, 40
5. Damien Defert, 39

French Junior Rally Championship: Overall standings (after four rounds of six)
1. Charles Martin, 65 points
2. Florian Bernardi, 61
3. Jérémie Serieys, 48
4. Damien Defert, 44
5. Antoine Masse, 28