Renault Sport Racing Team has four Renault Clio R3Ts taking part in the 2017 Rallye Monte-Carlo, the opening event of the World Rally Championship (19-22 January). Winners of the Clio R3T Trophy in 2016, Charles Martin (France), Cédric Althaus (Alps), Luca Panzani (Italy) and Surhayen Pernia (Iberia) all have the chance to shine at one of the world’s most famous and iconic rallies. Despite their differing experiences, they are all determined to produce their best in the WRC, whilst showcasing the qualities of Clio R3T on a demanding event.
Four drivers line up at the start of the Rallye Monte-Carlo to compete on behalf of the Renault Sport Racing Team: Cédric Althaus, Charles Martin, Luca Panzani and Surhayen Pernia. Winners of the Clio R3T Trophy in their respective areas in 2016, they have all been rewarded for their performances last year with a drive in the opening round of the World Rally Championship, in a Renault Sport-backed Clio R3T.
"We are delighted to compete in the Rallye Monte-Carlo with a line-up of four Renault Clio R3Ts, driven by the 2016 winners of the Clio R3T Trophy", commented Sylvain Alanore, Team Manager, Renault Sport Racing Team. "These four drivers all produced fine performances throughout the 2016 season and this rally provides them with the perfect opportunity to show what they can do. We selected four teams to prepare the cars but Renault Sport Racing will be lending both its sporting and technical management expertise. The competitors will all be driving a Clio R3T with the same technical specifications, with the upgrades delivered at the end of last season, following on from our involvement in WRC 3."
As all four were winners – in their area – of the Clio R3T Trophy last year, they will doubtless be keen to prevail here, whilst also looking to work as a team. "We’re here to provide as much support as possible, and help them to set fast times. None of the drivers has an advantage; they all have the same chance to shine," confirmed Sylvain Alanore. "The target is that the Clio R3T is as competitive as possible, so ideally we will be trying to share as much information as we can. Everyone feels proud to be here: Renault Sport Racing, presenting the winners of its brand cup at such an event, the teams, preparing their cars and the crews, who will be competing officially on behalf of Renault Sport Racing."
Of the four drivers, Cédric Althaus is the man with the most experience at the Rallye Monte-Carlo. Alongside co-driver Jessica Bayard, he will be competing here for the third time, his best result to date being a runner-up spot in the R2 category. "I’m absolutely over the moon to be able to experience this event with a major manufacturer!", commented a delighted Althaus, winner of four out of five rounds in the 2016 Clio R3T Alps Trophy. "I can’t wait to work with the other crews and the Renault Sport team managers. I know that this event is about driving talent, but you also have to use your head. I really like the Clio R3T. Things just clicked with it about halfway through last season and I love competing in difficult conditions. I’m really looking forward to it."
Charles Martin – who will compete alongside co-driver Matthieu Duval – also enjoyed an impressive 2016 season, winning five out of six rounds in the Clio R3T France Trophy. Although he has a wealth of experience in the two-wheel drive category, this will be his first outing at the Rallye Monte-Carlo. "I have to say it’s a little bit nerve-racking, as I’ve never driven in wintry conditions. But I have been watching a lot of videos from previous editions. I’m also counting on the shakedown to help me get used to the handling of the tyres. The length of the rally doesn’t worry me – quite the opposite, in fact, as that will help me to get my bearings. In ideal circumstances, I’d love to finish first among the Clio R3Ts."
Surhayen Pernia, alongside co-driver Rogelio Penate, will also be one to watch. Winner of the Clio R3T Iberia Trophy with three victories, the 27 year-old has been competing in rallying for ten years. This, however, will be the Spaniard’s debut appearance at Monte-Carlo, having never competed outside of the Iberian Peninsula. "Making it to the end would feel like a victory for me, because it’s a very demanding rally," he noted. "It’s a dream-come-true for me to be competing in a works Renault, it’s the first time that this has happened to me. But I will feel very much at home because I will be with the same team during service. Lastly, we’ll need to find the right balance between speed and caution. We don’t know the conditions but we’ll try to learn as quickly as possible. Winning the battle of the Clio R3Ts would be a big plus!"
26 year-old Luca Panzani is the youngest of the four competitors competing on behalf of the Renault Sport Racing Team. Winner of four rounds in the Clio R3T Italy Trophy, he is very eager to set off on the roads of the south of France leading to the Principality of Monaco, alongside co-driver Federico Grilli. "It’s a dream for every rally driver! Monte-Carlo, the WRC, and with a works drive, this kind of opportunity doesn’t come along every day," reiterated the enthusiastic Italian. "I am determined to do well, even if everything will be new to us. We’ll do our very best alongside these more experienced crews, in order to thank Renault for the opportunity they have given us."
After the shakedown held in Gap on Wednesday, 18 January, the drivers will kick off the rally proper with two long stages on Thursday evening. The next day, the competitors will cover more than 160 kilometres against the clock, with two loops of three stages. On Saturday, drivers will continue to make their way to Monaco with five stages covering more than 121 kilometres. Sunday will see the conclusion of the event with two loops of two legendary stages, Lucéram and La Bollène Vésubie.