Edged out by Romain Salinas in the previous round of the Twingo R2 France Trophy, Laurent Clutier hit back in style to win at the 64th Rallye Mont-Blanc Morzine, coming home ahead of Salinas and Yann Clairay for his third victory of the season.
The eagerly awaited duel between Laurent Clutier and Romain Salinas began in the very first stage, with Salinas coming out on top and outpacing his rival by 2.1 seconds. Mathieu Sentis finished more than 10 seconds back in third, followed by Yann Clairay, Georges Gonon, Thierry Monnet, Yohann Trivino and Laurent Wilkin, who conceded more than three minutes after suffering a puncture.
Laurent Clutier hit back on the road to Samoens, recording the best time in the class and the third-fastest in Group R to move 16 seconds clear of Romain Salinas. Mathieu Sentis and Yann Clairay were more than half a minute adrift of the leader, while Thierry Monnet’s rally ended when he went off.
As the kilometres went by, Laurent Clutier showed his mastery of the mountain roads, pulling out an even bigger lead over Romain Salinas, while Yann Clairay pushed past Mathieu Sentis in the battle for third.
The positions remained unchanged through to the end of leg one, with Laurent Clutier continuing to string together the fastest times and second-placed Romain Salinas keeping the gap down to 27.2 seconds. Yann Clairay held on to third, less than a minute behind the leader, ahead of Mathieu Sentis, Georges Gonon, Yohann Trivino and Laurent Wilkin.
Yann Clairay lost nearly a minute as day two began, allowing Mathieu Sentis to close right up on him. It was plain sailing for Laurent Clutier up front, however, the leader staying well clear of the field despite two fastest times for Romain Salinas in the final loop. Holding on to third place all the way from SS3, Yann Clairay claimed another podium finish ahead of Mathieu Sentis.
Belgium’s Laurent Wilkin recovered from his travails on the opening stage to move past Yohann Trivino and Georges Gonon on the final special and into fifth.
Laurent Clutier: “We set a really good pace right from the start. The Twingo R2 Evo was very efficient and we managed to put some good times together and open out a lead. We then drew on our experience at the last rally and stayed on the attack, keeping our pace up virtually all the way to the line. I sat on my lead a little bit in the last special stage but that was only because I started hearing all these noises. The championship’s not over. I need to see it through at Cevennes.”
Meanwhile, reigning French junior rally champion Nicolas Romiguiere continued to make progress in the Twingo R2 Evo entered by Renault Sport Technologies. After adapting the car’s set-up to the unique challenge posed by the roads of the Rallye Mont-Blanc Morzine, he took third in the R2 class. Romiguiere will next be in action at the Rallye de France – Alsace, a World Rally Championship event.
64th Rallye Mont-Blanc Morzine - 2012 Twingo R2 France Trophy
Fastest times: Laurent Clutier 8, Romain Salinas 3
Race leaders: Romain Salinas (SS1), Laurent Clutier (SS2 to 11 - finish)
1. Laurent CLUTIER/Brice BRUN, 2:18.49.4
2. Romain SALINAS/Benjamin MICHELI, +0:49.6
3. Yann CLAIRAY/Isabelle SICARD, +2:07.1
4. Mathieu SENTIS/Gil VALETTE, +3:31.4
5. Laurent WILKIN/Eric DE BOLLE, +7:38.4
6. Yohann TRIVINO/Christophe FOURNIER, +7:38.9
7. Georges GONON/Valerie GONON, +9:07.1
Twingo R2 France Trophy: Overall standings (after four rounds of six)
1. Laurent Clutier, 93 points
2. Romain Salinas, 73
3. Yann Clairay, 45