Stakes high in the shadow of Mont-Blanc

The Rallye Mt-Blanc Morzine marks the return to action for the participants in the 2015 Clio R3T Alps Trophy. Following a long summer break, this key event on the calendar, which begins in Morzine on Friday 4 September, takes place in the shadow of Europe’s highest peak.

The stakes are doubly high for the crews in the Clio R3T Alps Trophy, who will be coming up against participants from the Clio R3T France Trophy, all of which will add even more gloss to the event, with drivers from both series aiming to get the better of each other. Though points will be awarded separately for each event, that will not stop the victorious crew from savouring a special victory come the finish line.

There’s a tight and tactical battle in store in the Clio R3T Alps Trophy, with several factors coming into play. Points leaders Michaël Burri and Anderson Levratti have to decide whether to go flat out for victory or take a more calculated approach, as the driver explained : “In terms of our qualification for the final of the Clio R3T European Trophy, to be held on the roads of Monte Carlo in January 2016, we need to drive an intelligent race.”

Burri added : “The points won during the course of the Alps campaign count towards the final, where the winning driver will secure a six-event programme in next season’s WRC3 at the wheel of a Renault Sport Technologies’ Clio R3T. With that goal in mind, we need to get as many points as we can. We can’t afford to have a blank weekend.

“At the same time, I still want to win at Mont Blanc, though that’s going to be a pretty tough job,” he continued. “Olivier Courtois is driving really well and he knows the event well too. Jean-Pierre Gatti has picked up his pace a lot too and he’ll be driving at home in an event that holds no secrets for him.

“I’m also certain that the Clio R3T France Trophy crews are driving well, so I’ll be looking to make a fast start to the Rallye Mt-Blanc Morzine. I’ll see how intense the competition is before I decide whether to try my luck, though I’ll be keeping my end-of-season objective in mind the whole time. I don’t have any margin for error in that respect.”

As far as Olivier Courtois and Hubert Risser are concerned, the race in the Haute Savoie has a special flavour, as the driver explained : “We decided that we’d compete this season in the Clio R3T Alps Trophy, which has four of its five legs taking place in Switzerland.

“All the events have been new to us with the exception of the Mt-Blanc,” he added. “It’s a race that’s close to our hearts and we’re delighted to be driving in a superb and challenging rally. It’s going to be an intense battle with Michaël Burri and Jean-Pierre Gatti, but having retired once this season, I don’t have any margin for error.

“I’m a born competitor, though, and I’ll be setting off with the intention of doing well in the Alps Trophy. It’ll also be interesting to see how well our friends in the Clio R3T France Trophy perform. I can’t wait to be on the start line for this year’s Rallye Mt-Blanc Morzine.”

Driving at home in front of their own fans, Jean-Pierre Gatti and Bertrand Chagot will be well worth watching out for, as Michaël Burri and Olivier Courtois know better than anyone. Methodical and diligent, the Annecy duo are making steady progress and were in contention for a notable win at the Ronde del Ticino until a loose electrical wire ruined their hopes. Having put that setback behind them, Jean-Pierre Gatti and Bertrand Chagot are itching to get going in their home rally.

“It’s taken me a little while to settle in and harness the full potential of the Clio R3T,” explained Gatti. “I got a bit lost with the settings of the new shock absorbers I picked up before the Rallye du Chablais, but I managed to get into the swing of things at the Ronde del Ticino.

“It’s exciting to be driving at home, in the Haute-Savoie, on a course as beautiful as the Mont-Blanc, and I’m delighted it’s finally here. There’s some stiff competition in the Alps Trophy and having the Clio R3T France Trophy field taking part too will be really interesting and give us a chance to gauge our progress. It’s going to be a lot of fun, whatever happens, and I can’t wait to hit the start line.”

Three drivers hoping to thwart the ambitions of Michaël Burri, Olivier Courtois and Jean-Pierre Gatti are the Clio R3T France Trophy trio of Benoît Vaillant, William Pitot and Emmanuel Guinchard.

You can follow all the action at the official Clio R3T Alps Trophy Facebook page, which will be posting interviews, behind-the-scenes news, images and results throughout the event.

Competitors will set off from the Place de l’Office du Tourisme in Morzine at 7.25 am this coming Friday. The schedule and route are available at the official Rallye Mt-Blanc Morzine website, which will also have the results.

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