Despite this being their first attempt at the notoriously complex Rallye Monte-Carlo, both Peugeot Rally Academy crews came through their first outing of the season with flying colours and lived up every bit to their status as last year’s 208 Rally Cup winners. Ably assisted by their 208T16, Jose Antonio Suarez and Candido Carrera reached the Principality in sixth place in WRC2, while Jordan Berfa and Damien Augustin steered their 208R2 to a resounding victory in the RC4 class in addition to coming second in the WRC3 classification.
The first stages of Jose Antonio Suarez and Candido Carrera competing in the colours of the Peugeot Rally Academy were Thursday evening’s two night-time tests which proved particularly delicate. After picking up a puncture on SS1, they lost time when they caught another crew on SS2 and they were provisionally sixth in their class when they parked up their 208T16 that night in Gap. The following day (Friday), Jose Antonio and Candido put in an error-free run in spite of the constantly shifting grip to end the leg in seventh spot. Saturday’s action saw the Peugeot Rally Academy pair lose time with an ‘off’ on the awesome ‘Lardier et Valença-Faye’ stage (SS9, 51.55km) and then still more with another puncture on the repeat visit to the marathon test. However, they put their 208T16 at the top of the WRC2 timesheets on both attempts at ‘Saint Léger les Mélèzes - La Bâtie Neuve’ helped by smart tyre choices which earned them the sixth fastest time overall on both occasions. Jose Antonio and Candido rounded off the day with the second-best effort on the Rallye Monte-Carlo classic ‘Sisteron-Thoard’, despite reporting a spin.
To conclude their week in style, the Spaniards were fastest in WRC2 over the famous Col de Turini stage before reaching the finish in the Principality in sixth place. Meanwhile, Jordan Berfa and Damien Augustin celebrated their first event of the year in their 208R2 - the car to beat in its class - by easing into the RC4 lead and into second spot in WRC3 after SS3. They then defended those positions until the end! Despite making one or two errors which were to be expected of a crew competing on the legendary Rallye Monte-Carlo for the very first time, Jordan and Damien put in a perfectly-paced performance and even took one stage win ahead of competitors in more powerful R3 machinery. The final WRC3 standings featured three 208R2s in the top five thanks to Fabio Andolfi (3rd) and Damiano De Tommaso (4th).
Jose Antonio Suarez: I’m thrilled with this result for my first ever attempt at the Rallye Monte-Carlo. The conditions were extremely difficult all weekend, including stages where the grip kept changing from start to finish. Our aim was to reach the end and that’s what we did. I picked up lots of experience along the way over the four days, and that’s important for the rest of the season.
Jordan Berfa: I never imagined before the start that I would score such a good result. What’s even more pleasing is that we followed our instructions to the letter. All the good work with the Peugeot Rallye Academy paid off, notably with regard to tyre choices. It was a long, hard event and great experience. We managed to pull out a gap on Saturday and then control the situation on the final day.
Final standings (WRC2): 1, E. Evans (Ford Fiesta R5), 4h8m23.9s. 2, A. Kremer (Skoda Fabia R5), +2m13.1s. 3, Q. Gilbert (DS3 R5), +2m34.2s. 4, Q. Giordano (DS3 R5), +6m32.6s. 5. Y. Bonato (DS3 R5), +11m45.7s. 6, Jose Antonio Suarez/Candido Carrera (Peugeot 208T16), +18m18.3s. Etc.
Final standings (WRC3): 1, O-C. Veiby (DS3 R3 Max), 4h30m42.9s. 2, Jordan Berfa/Damien Augustin (Peugeot 208R2), +3m46.6s. 3, F. Andolfi(Peugeot 208R2), + 4m29.6s. 4, . D. De Tommaso (Peugeot 208R2), +6m11.6s. 5, V. Dubert (DS3 R3 Max), +15m58.7s. Etc.
Next outing for the Peugeot Rally Academy: Vodafone Rally de Portugal (May 19-22)
Jose Antonio Suarez / Candido Carrera: 208 T16