After a first season spent learning about the WRC, Renault Sport Racing returns to the World Rally Championship with Renault Clio R3T. Rally de Portugal marks the start of the 2016 season and the beginning of a new relationship with Michaël Burri and Anderson Levratti, winners of the Clio R3T European Trophy in January of this year. For this first outing together, the Renault Sport Rally Team will be looking to make use of the experience acquired in 2015 in order to make a sound start to its campaign.
After an intense and hard-fought season, Michaël Burri and Anderson Levratti won the right to drive the Renault Sport Rally Team Clio R3T competing in the 2016 WRC 3. They secured their place in this year’s WRC 3 after winning in style at the grand finale contested by the best crews from last season’s Clio R3T European Trophy, held at the 2016 Rallye Monte-Carlo.
For Clio R3T, this is the second season at this level, after 2015 saw Renault Sport remain in contention for the teams and drivers’ titles throughout the season with Andrea Crugnola, who claimed three podium-finishes in six races. Michaël Burri takes up the baton at Rally de Portugal, determined to purse the same targets.
"We have worked hard since winning at Monte-Carlo," commented Michaël Burri. "We have prepared physically for the long season ahead and we have started working with the staff at Renault Sport. We completed two development sessions, as well as a test session, in order to get off to the best possible start in Portugal. It’s been a while since I last took part in a gravel rally, so it was very good to rack up the miles before this event."
After a season in the Clio R3T European Trophy, Michaël Burri will be looking to put his experience in the leading two-wheel drive car to good use, while benefiting from the experience of the Renault Sport teams. "It will be all new for me, and obviously a very good thing. Being able to work with experienced people like those in the Renault Sport team is a great opportunity. I was a little daunted before we started working together but I was quickly reassured, and initial testing went very well. I now can’t wait to get started in the WRC 3."
Ahead of this 2016 campaign, Michaël Burri can also count on strong support from Switzerland. "This WRC 3 programme is a great source of pride for those close to me and everyone involved in Swiss motorsport, because I am the first Swiss driver to compete for a works team in rallying. We had a lot of media coverage after our win in Monte-Carlo. I know that expectations are high for us, but there is a lot of goodwill too."
The opening round of the Junior WRC, Rally de Portugal has a lot of WRC 3 entries, and the competition therefore promises to be stiff. "We know that we’ll have strong opposition," reckoned Michaël Burri. "For a first outing, we’ll adopt the pace that feels right and assess things at the end of the first day. We’re ready!"
Sylvain Alanore, Renault Sport Rally Team manager: "We’re pleased to start this WRC3 programme with Michaël and Anderson. We’ll use the experience acquired in 2015 in terms of preparing the car and race management by keeping the same operations team and the same technical team. The new crew have so far proved to be very open and professional. Michaël had a very good season in 2015, right up to the finale at Monte-Carlo, and fully deserves this programme. He’ll have lots of new things to get to grips with, but he is already very familiar with Clio R3T and we’re confident he’ll be able to showcase its performance and reliability qualities. The aim of this Rally de Portugal is to build confidence based on solid results and improve throughout the year."
Following the Lousada super special stage held on Thursday evening, the rally proper will get underway on Friday in the north of Portugal. The crews will complete two loops of three stages, before finishing the day with two runs on the Porto street stage. Saturday’s leg will be the longest of the event, with 165 kilometres of timed sections, including Amarante (37.67km), the rally’s longest stage. The weekend concludes on Sunday with two loops of two stages, including the very popular Fafe test.