Just as they did in the first round on the roads of Pas-de-Calais, Kris Princen and Bram Eelbode drove to victory in the latest Renault Sport Challenge event at the Rallye Région Limousin. And, once again, it was Eric Mauffrey and Gaëtan Houssin who came in second.
The second round of the Renault Sport Challenge season was fought out by three driver/co-driver teams, each competing in Clio RS R3s. Kris Princen, winner of the 2009 Clio R3 European Trophy and the 2011 Clio R3 Trophy France, found himself under pressure right from the off, with Eric Mauffrey pushing hard in the early stages.
Mauffrey, from the Lorraine region of France, led his Belgian rival at the end of the first special stage in La Creuse, with Benoit Vaillant trailing 35 seconds behind in third place.
Princen bounced back quickly, however, moving into first place in SS2 with a lead of less than a second over Mauffrey. The Belgian then finished the first section, played out on dry roads, with another fastest time, opening up a 5.5-second lead over Mauffrey in the provisional overall standings. Vaillant’s hopes of victory, however, were all but extinguished after he suffered electrical problems which set him back 26 minutes.
Showers came and changed the road conditions on the second run, but that did not stop Princen from stretching his lead. Mauffrey, meanwhile, took a gamble by switching to cut slicks, but the rain intensified in SS4 and the Lorraine native lost 45 seconds, with a spin not helping his cause.
At the end of the first stage, and despite recording a fastest time in SS7, Mauffrey found himself 51.3 seconds behind leader Princen. Vaillant, meanwhile, remained in the race despite falling 28 minutes behind the pace.
The following day, Mauffrey finally got his tyre selection right and hauled himself back into contention, halving his deficit on the long first special stage of the day. And after gaining another five seconds in SS9, Mauffrey was back to within 20.7 seconds of Princen, and had the Belgian under pressure as the time came to select tyres for the next section.
Princen, however, was not about to make the same mistake twice, stringing together three consecutive fastest times to put an end to Mauffrey’s hopes of success. He held on to take his second straight win, coming home 41.5 seconds ahead of second-placed Mauffrey. Vaillant completed the podium, finishing 32 minutes behind the winning time.
The next event takes place on 15 and 16 June at the Rallye des Vins Mâcon.
Fastest times: Kris Princen 8, Eric Mauffrey 5
Leaders: SS1 Eric Mauffrey, SS2-13 (finish) Kris Princen
1 Kris Princen – Bram Eelbode 2:15:59.5
2 Eric Mauffrey – Gaëtan Houssin +41.5
3 Benoit Vaillant – Henri-Pierre Morin +32:28.6
Renault Sport Challenge (2/6)
1 Kris Princen 50 points
2 Eric Mauffrey 36 points
3 Benoit Vaillant 27 points
4 Hervé Paternot 15 points