First place in the Clio R3T Trophy France Gentlemen category was also contested from the start of the season to the finish. With a spectacular comeback late in the year, Philippe Rageau edged out Olivier Courtois for this honorary title!
Among the most experienced drivers in the field, Philippe Rageau has been competing in rallying for nearly three decades, all done with Renault. Following a year off, the winner of the 2008 French Rally Cup final in the F2/14 category returned to the Clio R3T Trophy France with just one watchword: pleasure.
"In my opinion, the idea of being a gentleman is to have fun on splendid events", he proclaims. “This was the case for the renter and competitor that I am by being well received and supported on the different rounds. All the rallies were fantastic. I wanted to do the Charbo for a very long time and I went with a big smile on my face. The Vosges and Rouergue were run in superb regions. The roads and scenery on the Mont-Blanc are just magical. The Var was a bit different maybe because of the conditions as we sometimes didn’t know where the road was, but we had a great time on Sunday.”
After gradually finding his bearings again on Rallye Lyon-Charbonnières and Rallye Vosges Grand-Est, he won in his category on Rallye Aveyron Rouergue Occitanie. Despite a slow start after the summer on Rallye Mont-Blanc Morzine, he bounced back with a fine fifth place on Rallye Cœur de France to cut his deficit from Olivier Courtois to 10 points.
“The Cœur de France was our best rally in terms of a result”, he explains. “We were nearly on our home soil and on roads I know contrary to the other rounds except the Rouergue where I wasn’t particularly comfortable. This was the round where we were closest to the leading drivers, but it was still a huge gap. Even though we are all competitors at our level, we do not all have the same ambitions. Some drive for the win without thinking about Monday morning whereas I keep a bit of a margin about that!"
Despite the apocalyptic conditions that caught out some of the frontrunners on Rallye du Var, Philippe Rageau avoided the tricky bits with a serious effort. His fantastic comeback through the field on the final leg saw him score ten points and finish first in his category after counting back the number of fifth places against his rival, winner of the Clio R3T Alps Trophy in 2018!
"The final in Var was a bit truncated", he relativizes. “Some drivers were caught out by the storms and I moved up three places in one special stage, literally without driving. It’s part of racing, but you have to be humble and I don’t think I had the speed to go for a top six on a regular basis this year."
“This first place among the Gentlemen is still a pleasure, but it was by no means the goal or an end in itself", continues this mechanic who lives in the Vienne department. “I would like to congratulate the Renault Sport Racing teams for offering this challenge among the older drivers, because we don’t have the same budget and ambitions as the young guys wanting to be noticed. It is an incentive with a far from uninteresting prize scheme!”
At the same time, this son of a former Renault agent did not hesitate to involve his family by alternating between three co-drivers: Alexandra, Amélyne and Romain Rageau!
"I’m lucky to share my passion for rallying with my wife Alexandra and my children Amélyne and Romain", he proclaims. “We have gotten used to racing together over the past few years in the French Rally Cup. My wife and I figured they’d each do one event if we made it through the whole season. It was the perfect opportunity for them to gain experience and for all of us to enjoy a pleasure that was truly magical to share with them.”
This year also brought an end to the Clio R3T Trophy France, which will be replaced next year by the Clio Trophy France dedicated to New Clio Rally. After having driven different models from the Clio Williams to the Clio R3T by way of the Méganes, Clio R.S. and Clio R3 since 1993, will Philippe Rageau give the new adventure a go?
"It is, more than ever, and I think I was one of the first to return the order form!”, he exclaims “The idea is to continue with Renault. I know the way they work and nothing ever happens by accident. For the past two or three years, there is a really healthy dynamic within the customer racing department and this is reflected in the great mindset of the trophy. With New Clio Rally, I am thinking more of renting it because the product is aimed at less experienced drivers than the Clio R3T. In any case, I will test drive it to make up my mind and offer feedback to the future customers. It is an entry level car, so it might not be liked by everyone, but it can allow young talents to go on to higher levels... And I understand that Renault is also working in this direction!’