Cédric Robert, runner-up in the French Rally Championship in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2012, winner of several promotional formulas and former Renault driver in the ERC, will be one of the favourites to win on the Côte d’Opale. It will nonetheless be his first outing in a Clio R3T and he will be up against some experienced competitors.
This is especially true of William Pitot. Although he can’t match the experience of his elder rival, he has been driving a Clio R3T since 2014 and has contested two full seasons in the car. In 2016, he finished as runner-up in the Clio R3T Trophy France and looks likely to be one of the title contenders this season. Kevin van Deijne is also by no means a beginner. Third in last year’s Clio R3T Trophy France, he has two seasons under his belt in the Clio R3T. He will be a very serious contender for a place on the podium.
Like Robert, Florian Bernardi will also be making his competitive debut in a Clio R3T. However, he is familiar with Renault cars, having spent three years competing in the Twingo R1 Trophy, where he finished twice as overall runner-up. He enters the Clio R3T Trophy France aiming to finish among the leaders. Jean-Paul Monnin, a regular in promotional formulas, is back in a Renault again after having taken part in the Twingo R2 Trophy in 2011 and will also be hoping to be impress.
Meanwhile, Damien Tozlanian returns to the Clio R3T Trophy France after scoring several encouraging results in 2016. He is also another Renault stalwart, having only driven various rally versions of Clio since his competitive debut in 2009. Frédéric Perriat, after a successful start in Morzine last year, is also back in the trophy looking to move up a gear. A strong case might also be made for Frédéric Flajolet, now with a season’s experience in Clio R3T under his belt, especially as he has competed at this rally for the last two years.
For Sara Williams, the Côte d’Opale event will be a new experience on many levels, the Briton never having taken part in a rally on this (French) side of the Channel. She will be making her maiden appearance in a Clio R3T and will be the only woman competing in the event.
Julien Fébreau, journalist and Formula 1 Grand Prix commentator on French channel Canal+, will be making his debut in a Renault Clio R3T at Le Touquet. A regular competitor at rallycross circuits, he will only be contesting the second rally of his racing career. It promises to be a major challenge for the journalist, whose fans will be eager to see if he makes it through the first corner – and then the rest of the rally !(1)
Emmanuel Guigou, not competing in the Trophy, will be one of the favourites in the R3 category. Third in the 2016 French Rally Championship, he has a lot of experience in the Renault Clio R3T, in which he has competed in France since 2014. Winner of the R3 category at almost every one of his outings in 2016, he will be looking to start the 2017 season in similar fashion.
The Rallye Le Touquet – Pas-de-Calais gets underway on Friday, 17 March with three loops of three stages, followed by two runs on the Front de Mer stage after service. It will be the longest leg, with some 130 kilometres of timed sections. On Saturday, the crews will complete two runs on three stages before concluding with a final pass on the Front de Mer stage. The prize-giving ceremony will be held after this speed test, from around 5pm.
Jean-Pascal Dauce, Customer Racing Programme Director for Renault Sport Racing :
"We are very pleased to kick off the 2017 season of the Clio R3T Trophy France with such a high-quality and varied line-up. This blend of experience and youth augurs well for the rest of the year, during which we expect to see other crews join the line-up. We are delighted to return to Le Touquet, which launches a consistent 2017 calendar, with some first class rallies spread throughout the whole of France."
Clio R3T Trophy France – List of entries (provisional)
William Pitot – Romain Brun
Kevin van Deijne – Kris Botson
Cédric Robert – Matthieu Duval
Florian Bernardi – Xavier Castex
Jean-Paul Monnin – Mickaël Chatelain
Damien Tozlanian – Pierre Blot
Frédéric Perriat – Julie Bessonet
Frédéric Flajolet – Christophe Leroy
Sara Williams – Mark Glennester
Julien Fébreau – Aurélien Boué