The GT Tour meeting at Le Mans’ Circuit Bugatti provided the setting for the second round of the 2015 Coupe de France Renault Clio Cup season. In Friday’s free practice, Milan Compétition served notice of the strength of their challenge by having their drivers occupy the top four places in both the morning and afternoon sessions, in which Nicolas Milan and Marc Guillot respectively went fastest.
The track was damp for what turned out to be a very lively qualifying session on Saturday morning, with the Clairet brothers, Jimmy and Teddy, (Clairet Sport) occupying the top two positions before Marc Guillot snatched pole on his very last lap.
Conditions were treacherous at the start of the first race of the weekend, with the safety car leading the field round the track for the first two laps, after which Marc Guillot pulled away from the Clairet brothers, who had Nicolas Milan for company.
The reigning champion found a way past Jimmy Clairet on lap four before catching Teddy Clairet off guard at the Chemin aux Bœufs. Jimmy Clairet than passed his brother, as did Xavier Fouineau, who was fast making amends for his disappointing showing in qualifying.
The safety car was back out following off-track excursions for Jean-Philippe Ligier (Vic Team) and Denis Gibaud (Milan Compétition), and led the drivers round before exiting with two laps remaining. Marc Guillot stayed out front in the final sprint for the line, with Nicolas Milan taking second place and Jimmy Clairet holding off Xavier Fouineau for third. Teddy Clairet rounded off the top five, followed by Mickaël Carrée (T2CM) and Benoit Castagné (Raiwot Mondolo Racing). Emmanuel Raffin (Autosport GP) backed up his solid qualifying performance with victory in the gentlemen drivers’ category.
The track had yet to dry out when Nicolas Milan secured the race-two pole in a session that saw a lengthy delay when Veenesh Shunker (CVS Auto) went off. The 2014 Coupe de France Renault Clio Cup champion took the honours on his final lap, heading the field from Jimmy Clairet and Xavier Fouineau.
The sun was out and the slicks were back on by the time the second race of the weekend got under way, with Xavier Fouineau making a flying start from row two of the grid, shooting into the lead past Jimmy Clairet and the polesitting Nicolas Milan. Behind them Benoit Castagné ducked past Teddy Clairet, while there was no shortage of jousting in a compact group formed by Olivier Jouffret (Vic Team), Jérémy Curty (Milan Compétition), Jean-Philippe Ligier and Mickael Carrée.
After starting at the back of the field following a poor qualifying session, Marc Guillot charged up through the field before having a first shunt with Pascal Arellano (Milan Compétition) and Mickael Carré and then having a second with Guy Frey (T2CM), who lost his place in the gentlemen drivers’ top three as a result.
Meanwhile, Nicolas Milan edged past Jimmy Clairet at the Dunlop chicane on lap two, though neither of them could do anything to stop Xavier Fouineau from surging away to take the chequered flag on lap 14. Nicolas Milan and Jimmy Clairet took the other two places on the podium and were followed home by Benoit Castagné, Olivier Jouffret, Teddy Clairet, Jérémy Curty and Antoine Boulay (Autosport GP), who was rewarded for his attacking tactics. Among the gentlemen drivers’ Emmanuel Raffin scored his second victory of the weekend.
Xavier Fouineau’s win took him to the top of the overall standings on 156 points, while Nicolas Milan’s brace of top-three finishes moved him into second just six points behind, with Marc Guillot a little further back on 129. The Milan Compétition trio lie well clear of their nearest challengers, who are Jimmy Clairet on 92 points and Teddy Clairet on 86.
Thanks to his gentlemen drivers’ double, Emmanuel Raffin moved into second place in those particular standings behind Paul Paranthoen (LMV Sport), with Guy Frey completing the top three.
The next round of the Coupe de France Renault Clio Cup takes place at the World Series by Renault meeting at Spa-Francorchamps on 29-31 May.