François-Xavier Blanc and Pepe Lopez both had good reason to celebrate after round six of the 2016 208 Rally Cup! In the case of the Frenchman, it was his second consecutive win in his own back garden, while the Spaniard succeeded in wrapping up the year’s 208 Rally Cup title with one round remaining, namely late-November’s Rallye du Var.
François-Xavier Blanc, invincible on home turf!
The twenty 208R2s which lined up for the start of the 2016 208 Rally Cup’s penultimate clash kicked off the weekend with their first attempt at ‘Le Camp’, one of the event’s classic stages and one of the French rallying’s most notorious gravel tests.
It is reputed for being hard on tyres and the championship’s younger generation of drivers found out why to their cost. The fastest time was posted by Jérémie Toedtli (CHL Sport Auto), but William Wagner (PH Sport), Jean-Baptiste Franceschi, Olivier Ramiandrisoa (Sainteloc Racing) and Yann Clairay (PH Sport) all lost ground straight away as a result of punctures.
After a cautious start, François-Xavier Blanc (AFC Racing) pushed home his local knowledge to win SS2, while SS3 was claimed by Efren Llarena (Raceseven).
The first loop of stages concluded with Toedtli in front thanks to a strong run which put him clear of Pepe Lopez (Sainteloc Racing) whose thoughts were probably more on the title at this point following Wagner’s early misfortune. Blanc was third after the first three stages.
The turning point of the day came on the second visit to ‘Le Camp’ which, after causing problems for Wagner and Franceschi earlier in the day, saw Lario (CHL Sport Auto), Lopez, Llarena, Carella (Power Car Team), Sahila (CHL Sport Auto), Clairay and Magnou (Pit Stop) all lose time due to punctures. The test was won by Blanc who closed the gap to Toedtli to just 1.9s.
The Frenchman continued his successful run by winning SS5 to take the lead. He then defended his position on SS6 which was won by Andrea Carella.
Despite his good day, Blanc remained under the pressure of CHL Sport Auto’s Toedtli and Ribaud and the overnight top three was covered by less than half-a-minute.
A dramatic second leg…
Day 2 was based in the Séverac le Château region where the stages were narrower and technically more challenging. The day’s opener (SS7) saw Blanc extend his safety margin, while William Wagner claimed the fastest time. Determined to continue his bid for the 2016 title until the bitter end, the latter was hoping to take advantage of his theoretically favourable start order when he was slowed by a car running ahead of him on SS8. The test was won by rival Lopez.
Blanc dropped valuable seconds with a gearbox issue and, with two stages to go, Toedtli had closed the gap to just 3.9s!
…but Blanc and Lopez stay completely focused
Thanks to the efficiency of the work of AFC Racing’s mechanics, Blanc was able to tackle the last two tests with a new gearbox which helped him to top the ‘Cup’ standings on the Rallye des Cardabelles for the second year running. He was joined on the podium by Jérémie Toedtli and Quentin Ribaud.
Just shy of the top three was Andrea Carella who notched up two fastest times, while William Wagner had to settle for fifth place which was insufficient to prevent Pepe Lopez from wrapping up the series ahead of the Rallye du Var.
Despite losing valuable seconds on ‘Le Camp 2’, the Spaniard effectively managed to harvest enough points to win the 2016 208 Rally Cup.
Helped by their two wins so far this season (Causses, Vosgien), Pepe Lopez and Borja Rozada follow in the footsteps of compatriots Jose Antonio Suarez/Candido Carrera and the prize for their speed and reliability on all the types of terrain visited by the competition is a programme in the Peugeot Rally Academy’s Peugeot 208T16 in 2017.
Jean-Baptiste Franceschi, Patrick Magnou, Pepe Lopez, Anthony Fotia (Pit Stop) and Aki Sahila (CHL Sport Auto) rounded out the weekend’s top 10 to share the other points that were up for grabs.
2016 RALLYE TERRE DES CARDABELLES – FINAL POSITIONS (ROUND 6 OF 7) *
1, François-Xavier Blanc/Gilles De Turckheim, 1h45m7.8s (highest number of fastest stage times)
2, Jérémie Toedtli/Julie Faure, +2.7s (Junior)
3, Quentin Ribaud/Benoît Balme, +18.2s (Junior)
4, Andrea Carella/Enrico Bracchi, +54.4s
5, William Wagner/Antoine Paque, +2m44.1s (Junior)
6, Jean-Baptiste Franceschi/Romain Courbon, +2m57.1s (Junior)
7, Patrick Magnou/Benoît Manzo, +3m19.4s
8, Pepe Lopez/ Borja Rozada, +3m56.2s (Junior)
9, Anthony Fotia/Morgan Leduby, +4m51.6s (Junior)
10, Aki Sahila/Rami Suorsa, +4m53.1s (Junior)
11, Benoît Schulz/Pierre Schulz; +4m54.4s
12, Thomas Baudoin/Arnaud Cubizolles, +5m59.2s (Junior)
13, Taisko Lario/Sami Ryynänen, +6m24.9s (Junior)
14, Antoine Rocard/Romain Garel, +7m30.0s (Junior)
15, Brandon Maïsano/Pierre Pebeyre, +6m24.9s (Junior)
16, Yann Clairay/Frédéric Goupil, +13m24.5s
2016 208 RALLY CUP – PROVISIONAL POSITIONS AFTER THE RALLYE TERRE DES CARDABELLES (ROUND 6 OF 7) *
1, Pepe Lopez, 85 points (Junior)
2, William Wagner, 70 points (Junior)
3, Jérémie Toedtli, 49 points (Junior)
4, Andrea Carella, 47 points
5, Patrick Magnou, 44 points
6, Quentin Ribaud, 40 points (Junior)
* Subject to post-event scrutineering and to the publication of the official results by Peugeot Sport