Laurent Clutier wins opening round

After finishing third in the 2011 Twingo R2 Trophy France, Laurent Clutier made the perfect start to the new season by winning the opening round, held as part of the Rallye du Limousin. Clutier emerged victorious after an exciting duel with Romain Salinas, with Thierry Monnet completing the podium line-up in third.

It was Romain Salinas who got away to the best start, leading Laurent Clutier by 3 seconds and Georges Gonon by 10.8 at the end of the first special stage. Thierry Monnet, Yann Clairay, Mathieu Sentis, Anthony Balester, Jonathan Fra and Lloyd Seminara completed the leaderboard at the end of the first stage.

Clutier responded by going on the attack, and duly recorded two fastest times. This allowed him to take the lead in the provisional overall standings ahead of Salinas, Clairay, Gonon and Monnet, who were separated by less than six seconds after the first run of three special stages.

In the afternoon, with rain showers making life difficult for the drivers, Salinas set about trying to challenge Clutier’s lead. The pair then exchanged fastest times, with two for Salinas and one for Clutier. Salinas used this momentum to reduce the gap further, while Sentis and Clairay both went off the road in SS6.

The final special of the day, in Limoges, did little to change the order of things. Clutier returned to the parc fermé with a lead of 10 seconds over Salinas. Third-placed Gonon was already trailing by more than two minutes by this point, following a bad tyre selection on the second run. The 2010 champion had Monnet hot on his heels at this stage, with Fra, Balester and Semirana completing the leaderboard.

The second leg began with a long, 30-kilometre special stage. Clutier exploited the lengthy stage to double his lead over Salinas, while Gonon relinquished third place to Monnet after suffering a collision.

From there it was relatively plain sailing for Clutier, who went on to record fastest times all the way through to the start of the final section. With a 33.9-second advantage over Salinas, Clutier was able to manage his lead and could afford to let his closest rival drive the fastest until the finish.

Clutier celebrated his first victory of the season in Limoges, after finishing 28.2 seconds ahead of Salinas and more than five minutes in front of Monnet. Fra, Seminara, Balester and Gonon also scored their first points of the season.

“We couldn’t have hoped for a better start to the season,” said Clutier. “We set off at a measured pace in the first special stage, before taking the lead in the following stage. We were able to manage our lead until the end thanks to our good tyre selection. It’s a positive thing to win points and bonuses in the first round. We’ll be able to go into the rest of the season with confidence.”

Nicholas Romiguière, the reigning French Rally Junior champion, continued his season with Renault Sport in Limousin. Just a matter of days after securing a category victory at the Tour de Corse, Romiguière took fourth place in the R2 division in the Twingo Renaultsport R2 Evo, alongside co-driver Alexis Nègre. “We made a careful start,” said Romiguière. “The main objective was to get the car to the finish, in order to accumulate kilometres. I felt very good in the dry conditions and probably held back a bit too much when the roads were damp and dirty. I can’t wait to build on the experience I’ve gained here.”

The next event takes place on 15 and 16 June at the Rallye des Vins Mâcon.

Fastest times: Laurent Clutier 9, Romain Salinas 4
Leaders: SS1 - Romain Salinas, SS2-13 (finish) - Laurent Clutier

1 Laurent Clutier – Brice Brun 2:28:38.3
2 Romain Salinas – Benjamin Micheli +28.2
3 Thierry Monnet – Cédric Hugonnot +5:23.0
4 Jonathan Fra – Thierry Salva +7:00.9
5 Lloyd Seminara – Jean-Louis Hottelet +8:28.6
6 Anthony Balester – Thomas Boschetto +8:32.3
7 Georges Gonon – Valérie Gonon +9:24.2

Twingo R2 Trophy France (1/6)
1 Laurent Clutier 25 points
2 Romain Salinas 18 points
3 Thierry Monnet 15 points
4 Jonathan Fra 12 points
5 Lloyd Seminara 10 points
6 Anthony Balester 8 points
7 Georges Gonon 6 points