And yet the best start was made by Benoît Vaillant. Winner of the opening round of the season at Rallye Lyon-Charbonnières, the Picardie driver racked up three stage wins in the first loop. Runner-up in Lyon, Rémi Jouines wasn’t able to reproduce the same good form here, crashing out of the rally on the Col de Bleine test. Fortunately, Rémi Jouines and his co-driver Adrien Bonicel emerged unscathed from their spectacular accident.
In the afternoon, Benoit Vaillant picked up where he had left off, recording another three stage wins, ending the day with a lead of more than a minute over Charles Martin and Pascal Bérard. However, on Sunday’s second stage (SS8), the leader was caught out by the conditions and went off. Having grabbed the lead with a stage win, Pascal Bérard then held off Charles Martin, whose attacks were somewhat curbed by recurrent mechanical issues.
The final outcome would go down to the wire, with Pascal Bérard leading the top two by just 5.2s ahead of the last stage. But his Clio R3T picked up a puncture, ending his hopes of victory. Charles Martin took advantage to take the win, ahead of Philippe Corneau. Corneau held off the fast-finishing Kevin van Deijne, who ended up third after overtaking William Pitot on the final stage. Pascal Bérard was fifth, having held onto a small lead over Damien Tozlanian. Stéphane Boissy, Guillaume Bergeon, Patrice Poinapin and Kevin Narassamy rounded off the final standings.
"We’re relieved and very happy with this win because it wasn’t an easy race," commented Charles Martin. "We had a few mechanical issues throughout the first day. I would like to thank the Automeca team, which managed to resolve them and provide us with an easy car to drive. On Sunday morning, when we saw Benoît on the roof, we eased off a little bit too much. We had to really push then in order to close on Pascal. We had a really good scrap during the final loop and it’s a shame that he picked up a puncture on the last stage. This win is a good result and the prize money will help us with the budget needed to compete at Rallye du Limousin."
Despite going off the road, Benoît Vaillant recorded the most stage wins and therefore topped the "Jean Ragnotti" best performer standings at this round with five points. Second best performer, Charles Martin scored three points, in addition to the 25 collected for his overall win. With 40 points under his belt, the driver from the Ile-de-France region now dominates the overall standings, with a five-point lead over Benoît Vaillant.
Rallye Antibes Côte d’Azur – Clio R3T France Trophy
1. Charles Martin – Matthieu Duval 2:27:38.0
2. Philippe Corneau – Grégoire Samuel +3:27.8
3. Kevin van Deijne – Hein Verschuuren +3:41.4
4. William Pitot – Romain Brun +3:43.7
5. Pascal Bérard – Caroline Bérard +4:06.8
6. Damien Tozlanian – Pierre Blot +4:30.9
7. Stéphane Boissy – Jérôme Bard +5:30.0
8. Guillaume Bergeon – Vincent Merlet +9:40.6
9. Patrice Poinapin – Kevin de Berge +12:03.6
10. Kevin Narassamy – Mathieu Gombert +14:06.6
Jean Ragnotti best performer standings
1. Vaillant 5 points – 2. Martin 3 points – 3. Bérard 1 point
1. Charles Martin 40 points
2. Benoît Vaillant 35
3. Philippe Corneau 28
4. Rémi Jouines 21
5. Pascal Bérard 19