The first-ever round of the Clio Trophy France Terre delivered exciting battles from the first special stage to the last of the Rallye Castine Terre d’Occitanie. While Quentin Ribaud jumped straight into the lead before going on for the win, the competition led by Jean-Paul Monnin and John Laroche steadily improved, which bodes well for a highly competitive season.
While the technical and administrative checks for the Rallye Castine Terre d’Occitanie were done in fine weather on Friday, rain and threatening skies greeted the crews before they attacked the opening timed sectors around Bretenoux the very next day.
First to set off on the half-dust, half-mud surface, Quentin Ribaud made his intentions clear with the fastest time on Cazillac - the longest stage of the rally - with a more than a 19-second lead. On SS2, Jean-Paul Monnin took the top spot by 0.1s before the leader answered with the best time by 0.3s on SS3.
With a 33.2s lead at midday, Quentin Ribaud extended his advantage on a drying surface with another scratch time on Cazillac, where his rival limped the last four kilometres with a puncture. The former Twingo R2 Trophy standout managed to reduce the deficit to less than a minute by the end of the first leg while Richard Paget lost third place when he got caught out on SS4.
On Sunday, Jean-Paul Monnin closed the gap to Quentin Ribaud to 34.7s, who was slowed by his hand brake on SS7 but the leader was back on form in the next stage and headed to the service park with a 57.4s lead. He controlled his pace on the final loop and went on to take the win with a 59.1s margin of victory from Jean-Paul Monnin.
Gravel newcomer John Laroche made an impressive debut to get the nod in the battle for third place. He started the second leg with a 16.3s advantage over Simon Heinemann and won five of the six stages on Sunday while his rival got a puncture costing him six minutes on SS10.
Consistent throughout the rally, veteran Serge Chapus completed the top five ahead of the Swiss Sébastien Studer and Grégory Perrard. Spain’s Marcel Abad and Frenchman Richard Paget set encouraging times and rounded out the order after their misadventures on Saturday.
Winner both in the general classification and Junior category while finishing just outside the two-wheel-drive category top five against the more powerful Rally4s, Quentin Ribaud will defend his Clio Trophy France Terre lead on Rallye Terre de Langres (23-25 July).
Quentin Ribaud: "It was a very positive weekend. We aimed to score as many points as possible in the opening round and we did with the victory! We are extremely happy with this result as we had been chasing after this first win for a while, and we were finally able to achieve it this time thanks to the excellent work of the BHR team and my co-driver Mélissa. We can’t wait for Langres to confirm this result in the Clio Trophy France Terre with this terrific Clio Rally5! "
Clio Trophy France Terre – Rallye Castine Terre d’Occitanie
1. Quentin Ribaud – Melissa Ascensio (J) 1h46:31.7s
2. Jean-Paul Monnin – Sandra Chipaux +59.1s
3. John Laroche – Damien Augustin +1:52.9s
4. Simon Heinemann – Yves Heinemann +8:40.1s
5. Serge Chapus – Mathieu Favreau +9:23.6s
6. Sébastien Studer – Maude Studer +10:49.9s
7. Grégory Perrard – François Gilbert +22:42.6s
8. Marcel Abad – Carles Cortes (J) +3h06:24.9s
9. Richard Paget – Sébastien Poujol +3h32:57.3s