Winners at Le Touquet and in Antibes, Cédric Robert and Matthieu Duval made it a hat-trick in the Clio R3T Trophy France thanks to their victory at the Rallye Aveyron Rouergue Occitanie. After taking the early lead, the pair pushed throughout to beat Florian Bernardi - Xavier Castex and Kevin van Deijne - Kris Botson. This third consecutive win takes them clear at the top of the overall standings at the halfway stage of the season.

Pre-event favourites due to their experience in the Aveyron region, Cédric Robert and Florian Bernardi did not disappoint on the opening stage, the longest test of the event. Cédric Robert grabbed the early lead, beating his rival by 5.9s, whilst Kevin van Deijne was already over a minute off the pace!

Although Cédric Robert extended his advantage on SS2, Florian Bernardi fought back after the mid-leg service before then hitting a hay bale on SS4. By Friday evening, Cédric Robert held a 12.9s lead over Florian Bernardi and was 2:21.7 ahead of Kevin van Deijne. Behind the top three, Damien Tozlanian took advantage of the second loop to move ahead of Michele Tassone.

On Saturday morning, Florian Bernardi was immediately into his stride on SS5 before losing ten seconds to Cédric Robert after overshooting a corner on SS6, and then half a minute due to a spin on SS7. Cédric Robert ended the morning with an increased lead of 52.8s.

In the afternoon, Florian Bernardi racked up another stage win on Tremouilles – Salmiech, as did Cédric Robert on Sainte Juliette – Calmont before the final word went to Florian Bernardi on Luc – Moyrazes.

After collecting six stage wins out of ten, Cédric Robert sealed his third win in as many starts this year in the Clio R3T Trophy France. Florian Bernardi finished as runner-up again, 38.3s adrift, and remains Robert’s closest rival in the title race. Somewhat isolated in third place, Kevin van Deijne took the final podium place, almost five minutes behind the winner.

The intense scrap for fourth position eventually went in Michele Tassone’s favour. The 2015 Italian Junior Rally Champion claimed three top-three stage times on Saturday to finish ahead of Damien Tozlanian. Philippe Rageau secured sixth place, ahead of Frédéric Perriat, Dominique Patenotte, Sara Williams and David Sauvaigo.

Riccardo Canzian was the only driver to retire at the event, following an off on SS2.

Cédric Robert: "I’m very pleased to win again and to win the trophy for the best performer at this rally, which I know very well. It was a great scrap with Florian. He really pushed me all the way to get even more out of the car. Despite the conditions – it was close to 60°C in the cockpit on Saturday – the team did an incredible job and my rear tyres lasted throughout the event. I’d like to emphasize the supreme reliability of this Clio R3T again, which meant we could drive with complete freedom. That’s exactly what you want from a promotional formula!"

Florian Bernardi: "Since we hadn’t raced since the Rallye Antibes Côte d’Azur, we were initially just trying to get back into the swing of things and find our bearings again. On Saturday, the first loop was difficult but we kept on pushing to try and win the best performer trophy. Of course, we were aiming for first place, but we have strengthened our hold on second position in the standings and extended our lead in the Junior category. We more or less matched the times of Manu Guigou last year, which shows that we have the pace. It’s now up to us to avoid making any mistakes in the next few rounds to try and make it onto the top step of the podium."

Rallye Aveyron Rouergue Occitanie - Clio R3T Trophy France results

1. Cédric Robert – Matthieu Duval 2:03:32.1
2. Florian Bernardi – Xavier Castex +38.3
3. Kevin van Deijne – Kris Botson +4:56.9
4. Michele Tassone – Fabio Grimaldi +6:29.6
5. Damien Tozlanian – Pierre Blot +6:54.6
6. Philippe Rageau – Alexandra Rageau +9:21.0
7. Frédéric Perriat – Julie Bessonet +9:54.0
8. Dominique Patenotte – Sabryna Sava-Lopez +10:46.7
9. Sara Williams – Mark Glennerster +15:57.6
10. David Sauvaigo – Stéphane Marquez +23:34.9

Clio R3T Trophy France overall standings (after the third round)

1. Cédric Robert, 90 points
2. Florian Bernardi, 63 points
3. Kevin Van Deijne, 40 points
4. Damien Tozlanian, 30 points
5. Pascal Bérard, 16 points
6. Jean-Paul Monnin, 15 points
7. Frédéric Perriat, 14 points
8. Michele Tassone, 12 points
9. Frédéric Flajolet, 10 points
10. Philippe Rageau, 8 points
11. Pascal Aimé, 8 points
12. Stéphane Gragnola, 6 points
13. Dominique Patenotte, 4 points
14. Sara Williams, 4 points
15. David Sauvaigo, 1 point