Winner for the third time this season at the end of a Rallye Coeur de France on which several title contenders suffered, Romain Di Fante secures the Clio Trophy France Asphalte crown. He has also won the Junior category and has won a factory programme with Clio Rally4 in the French Rally Championship in 2022!
The penultimate round of the season on the roads of the Loir-et-Cher was tipped to be crucial in the title race and the daunting special stages around Vendôme quickly lived up to the expectations.
Thomas Chauffray, who had lost the victory at the end of last year’s event, set his pace early on by dominating the first three timed sectors to take a 7.4s lead over Romain Di Fante. Guillaume Canivenq, Jérémy Sarhy and Patrick Magnou successively joined the leading duo, but the battle for the third place went first to Benjamin Stirling, followed by five drivers covered by 5.6s.
Thomas Chauffray kept his momentum going with the best time on the first three afternoon stages ahead of Romain Di Fante. After the short Super Vendôme stage won by Julien Brégeon, the gap between the two leaders was 15.2s. Meanwhile, Guillaume Canivenq and Styve Juif retired on SS4, and Romain Fostier emerged in third place while François Fraymouth, Karl Pinheiro and Benjamin Stirling were still in the hunt.
The elimination of the title contenders continued on Saturday as Thomas Chauffray and François Fraymouth, respectively first and fourth, got caught early on day two. Romain Di Fante inherited a 19.1s lead over Romain Fostier, who posted the fastest time before dropping out on the Jean Ragnotti Power Stage. Karl Pinheiro led the way on SS9, which gave him the maximum ten bonus points, and he did it again on SS10 to strengthen his second position.
Despite the pace of his new rival, Romain Di Fante controlled the proceedings on a decisive loop marked by the arrival of the rain to seal his third victory of the season with a 38.2s margin of victory over Karl Pinheiro. Benjamin Stirling won his duel with Belgian driver Tom Rensonnet for third place.
Julien Bregeon completed the top five ahead of newcomer Tom Vanson. Seventh, Bertrand Blondel la Rougery scored his best result of the season ahead of two other first-timers, Patrick Magnou and Anthony Hamard, and Female category winner Margot Dupuy. Behind Franck Barat, Jérémy Sarhy finished in style with two scratch times to finish ahead of the last classified driver Styve Juif.
Winner at Mont Blanc-Morzine, Romain Di Fante capitalised on this second consecutive victory and the failings of his rivals to secure the title in both the Clio Trophy France Asphalte and Junior category. The Nice native, now leader of the French two-wheel-drive Rally Championship, wins a factory programme with Clio Rally4 in the 2022 FFSA French Rally Championship season. The title-winning team, either Naudon Rallye Services or Europe Location Rallye, will run his car.
Meanwhile, Anthony Fotia continued his programme on the national scene behind the wheel of Clio Rally4. Leader of his category from the opening stages of the rally, the winner of the 2020 Clio Trophy France posted four fastest times before retiring due to an engine alarm at the start of the final loop.
While the Clio Trophy France Asphalte now has a new champion, there is still plenty to race for in the Teams, Jean Ragnotti Power Stage, Gentlemen, Women’s classifications as well as the Renault Network Challenge before the 2021 season comes to an end on the Critérium des Cévennes (29-31 October).
Alpine Racing would also like to wish a speedy recovery to Thomas Chauffray, who injured his back when he went off, and thank all the volunteers and medical staff involved in his transfer and operation at the Angers hospital.
Romain Di Fante: "There was a lot of damage on this rally, like at Le Touquet and the Vosges. We had to avoid mistakes, stay focused, be consistent and keep the car on the road. We managed to do this by finding our limits, and when necessary, slow down to secure this result with Patrick and the team. We succeeded even though it was not easy on Saturday afternoon with dry tyres in the rain. Like the whole Clio Trophy France Asphalte family, I wish Thomas all the best in the world so that he comes back as soon and as fit as possible. I have been through this and this brilliant and formidable opponent who deserved much better than this has all my support. To be honest, I have never seen such a high level of competition in a feeder series with so many contenders for the win and very close gaps pushing us into uncharted territory. We are on cloud nine after the win and the title, which allows us to compete in the Renault colours with Clio Rally4 next year. It is the reward for years of hard work and self-doubt after coming close to the title so many times. I think I am now on the right track to make further progress with Patrick, with whom we form an extraordinary duo with a magnificent bond in the car. We now have to finish the year in style in the Cévennes by going for the team crown with Naudon Rallye Services to make this season even more perfect!"
Rallye Cœur de France
Clio Trophy France Asphalte 2021
1. Romain Di Fante - Patrick Chiappe (J) 1h59:32.7s
2. Karl Pinheiro - Sarah Filipe (J) +38.2s
3. Benjamin Stirling - Florence Wehrey (J) +57.9s
4. Tom Rensonnet - Renaud Herman (J) +2:20.7s
5. Julien Bregeon - Amélie Arrivé +2:53.6s
6. Tom Vanson - Gaëtan Houssin (J) +4:08s
7. Bertrand Blondel La Rougery – Aurélien Gozet (J) +4:23.2s
8. Patrick Magnou - Anthony Vilanova +6:02.4s
9. Anthony Hamard - Ludovic Coupé +7:16.7s
10. Margot Dupuy - Clio Chambelland (F) +11:37.8s
11. Franck Barat - Romain Sornais (G) +27:54.7s
12. Jeremy Sarhy – Christopher Guieu (J) +3h30:00.5s
13. Styve Juif - Maxime Biegalke (J) +3h31:24.0s
Ab. Charley Trevilly - Corentin Dodard
Ab. Julien Baziret – Delphine Laval
Ab. Romain Fostier - Ophelie Abchiche
Ab. Thomas Chauffray - Pauline Chauffray
Ab. François Fraymouth - Romain Felicelli
Ab. Sébastien Rambaud - Nicolas Febvre (J)
Ab. Guillaume Canivenq - Bastien Dumas
NP. Thomas Gaume – Armand Gaudard