It was a weekend of ups and downs for Team Dacia at Lans-en-Vercors. After a troubled Friday, however, the Dacia Lodgy Glace runners went on to dominate Race 2, with Evens Stievenart claiming his first win of the year. Alain Prost made sure of Dacia’s first one-two success in the Trophée Andros, while Nicolas Prost was a close fourth. The fight for the title is as close as ever, but Alain Prost knows he will be able to count on the support of his two competitive team-mates, Evens and Nicolas.
After visits to the Alps and Pyrenees, the Trophée Andros was in the Vercors Mountains last weekend for the fifth round of this year’s thrilling contest. Perfect icy conditions on the Friday enabled the drivers to enjoy this interesting circuit to the full during free practice. “It’s a unique track,” noted Evens Stievenart. “When the ice is good, it’s a challenging run, especially the downhill portion. It’s fast and narrow, so you need precise handling to keep up your speed while going as close as you dare to the walls.”
Alain Prost started the weekend in first place, equal on points with Jean-Philippe Dayraut. He used free practice to bed in his tyres and work with his team-mates Nicolas Prost and Evens Stievenart to establish a competitive set-up. After his strong run at Isola 2000, Nicolas was carrying ballast for the first time and had to accustom himself to the handling of his car with this added weight. Meanwhile, Evens posted the session’s fastest lap. “Being fastest in free practice doesn’t earn you anything, but it’s a good morale booster,” he smiled.
The ensuing qualifying session didn’t go well for Dacia, however. Nicolas Prost had trouble getting used to the ballast, while Evens Stievenart lost out when he stalled in the first session and Alain Prost complained that his tyres went off very quickly. He still managed to post the third-best time in Q1, but the team soon realised that victory in Race 1 would be tough to obtain. “Jean-Philippe Dayraut was very fast,” observed Alain Prost. “We were less competitive and we failed to adapt to the changing track conditions. This year, with an allocation of just six tyres, and with big differences from one tyre to another, you really need to wait until the second race to find out whether it’s going to be a successful weekend for you or not…”
The second qualifying session and the finales confirmed Alain Prost’s initial impression, and the ex-F1 champ ended Race 1 in fourth place, with Evens Stievenart and Nicolas Prost following in eight and 11th spots respectively. “We tend to go better on the second day, especially Nicolas who is still on a learning curve,” commented Alain Prost. “Jean-Philippe Dayraut’s victory today puts him back in the lead of the championship, so we will need to reverse that situation tomorrow.”
The mood in the Dacia camp was optimistic ahead of Race 2. Evens Stievenart dominated the first qualifying session, while Alain Prost was fifth and Nicolas Prost ninth. “It’s a huge relief,” said Evens. “I really needed a result like that!”
It was just the beginning of a superb run for Dacia Lodgy Glace, however! Nicolas Prost was the first of the team’s three drivers to tackle Q2 and he immediately went to the top of the order, before Evens, with the pressure off his shoulders thanks to his result in the previous session, lapped even faster this time. Four perfect laps sent him to first place with a time of 3m3.890s. It was eventually Alain Prost’s turn to go out, and the two-time Trophée Andros champion had kept his best tyres for this run which was spoiled by a small steering issue: “On my first lap, I felt the steering go loose over a bump. I nearly parked up, but the situation in the fight for the title spurred me on and I decided to continue, taking as many risks and pushing as hard as I dared.” That turned out to be a wise decision, since Alain Prost emerged between team-mates Evens Stievenart, first, and Nicolas Prost, third, on the leaderboard. It was a masterstroke from the Dacia trio…
The finales saw the three drivers consolidate the team’s result. Evens Stievenart went on to collect his first win of the year, while Alain Prost brought Dacia its first ever one-two finish in the Trophée Andros. Nicolas Prost eventually finished fourth in the overall standings. The result takes Alain Prost back into the provisional championship lead, equal on points with Jean-Philippe Dayraut. The contest will continue next weekend at Saint-Dié des Vosges, in eastern France.
Alain Prost: “The tyres I had for Race 1 weren’t good, but Richard Tur and the rest of the team did a great job and we managed to improve the car’s handling for Saturday, notably over the bumps. There was healthy competition between the Dacia drivers because we felt that everything had come together. We leave Lans-en-Vercors with a one-two finish which was very nearly a one-two-three finish. We will need to be just as competitive at Saint-Dié des Vosges and it looks like the title will be decided at the last round at Super Besse...”
Evens Stievenart: “The Trophée Andros is a series where you need to be strong in your mind, so winning the first qualifying session of Race 2 took the pressure off my shoulders for the rest of the competition! It was the first time I have ever won Q1, Q2 and my finale. I feel very proud of that. I was beginning to have doubts about my ability, but today’s win has reassured me and boosted my confidence for the remainder of the series. Our car is very competitive and the team did a perfect job this weekend.”
Nicolas Prost: “It wasn’t the easiest of tracks to learn. On Friday, I had to carry 40kg of ballast and I finished just shy of the top 10, which was my objective. I still find I need time to get into the rhythm before picking up speed over the weekend. As a result, I tend to be at my fastest in the last qualifying session. Along with my father, Evens and the rest of the squad, we all get along very well and it’s nice to compete when you feel at home in a team. The fight for the title is extremely close, but we will do all we can to take points away from my father’s opponents…”
Lans en Vercors (Race 1) – final positions: 1, Jean-Philippe Dayraut (Mini Countryman). 2, Olivier Panis (Skoda Fabia). 3, Jacques Villeneuve (Skoda Fabia). 4, Alain Prost (Dacia Lodgy Glace). 5, Benjamin Rivière (Skoda Fabia). 6, Franck Lagorce (Skoda Fabia). 7, Pierre Llorach (Renault Clio). 8, Evens Stievenart (Dacia Lodgy Glace). 9, Jean-Baptiste Dubourg (Renault Clio). 10, Olivier Pernaut (Ford Fiesta). 11, Nicolas Prost (Dacia Lodgy Glace). Etc.
Lans en Vercors (Race 2) – final positions:1, Evens Stievenart (Dacia Lodgy Glace). 2, Alain Prost (Dacia Lodgy Glace). 3, Jean-Baptiste Dubourg (Renault Clio). 4, Nicolas Prost (Dacia Lodgy Glace). 5, Pierre Llorach (Renault Clio). 6, Jean-Philippe Dayraut (Mini Countryman). 7, Olivier Panis (Skoda Fabia). 8, Jacques Villeneuve (Skoda Fabia). 9, Benjamin Rivière (Skoda Fabia). 10, Nicolas Bernardi (Ford Fiesta). Etc.
2011/2012 Trophée Andros – provisional standings:1, Alain Prost (Dacia Lodgy Glace) and Jean-Philippe Dayraut (Mini Countryman), 738 points. 3, Benjamin Rivière (Skoda Fabia), 720. 4, Olivier Panis (Skoda Fabia), 710. 5, Evens Stievenart (Dacia Lodgy Glace), 680. 6, Pierre Llorach (Renault Clio III), 666. 7, Jean-Baptiste Dubourg (Renault Clio), 659. 8, Franck Lagorce (Skoda Fabia), 651. 9, Olivier Pernaut (Ford Fiesta RS), 640. 10, Nicolas Prost (Dacia Lodgy Glace), 614. Etc.