This weekend’s thrilling action in France’s Vosges Mountains saw Pepe Lopez come out on top to claim his second 208 Rally Cup victory of the season and recover the lead in the competition’s provisional standings. Another solid drive was that of local star Eric Mauffrey who pocketed another outright victory for the 208T16. Six 208R2 drivers featured inside the top 10 overall!
A bold tyre choice (soft compound) for the start of the rally by Jérémie Toedtli, who has made good progress since the start of the season, enabled the CHL Sport Auto driver to hit the ground running with the best time on the opening stage (22km). Only Efren Llarena (Raceseven) managed to match Swiss youngster’s early pace, while the other 208 R2 runners found themselves with a deficit of more than 17 seconds to make up. The 208 Rally Cup’s provisional top two, namely William Wagner (PH Sport) and Pepe Lopez (Sainteloc Racing), preferred to take things more cautiously in the slippery conditions. Wagner and Lopez were fastest and second-fastest on SS2, however, although their speed was insufficient to dislodge Jérémie Toedtli who was quickest again on SS3, a repeat of SS1 but this time in darkness.
Day 1 concluded with Toedtli in front, chased by Efren Llarena, Patrick Magnou (Pit Stop) and Andrea Carella who claimed SS4. Further back at this point were Quentin Ribaud (CHL Sport Auto), Pepe Lopez, Yann Clairay (PH Sport), Joachim Wagemans (Triman) and William Wagner who saw his chances of a top finish fade seriously when he picked up a puncture on SS3. The provisional top 10 was rounded out by Jean-Paul Monnin (JPM Sport Auto) who was delayed by a set-up issue on the first loop, then by a puncture.
While Toedtli sought to manage his overnight lead, his chasers upped their pace for the start of the second day’s action. Magnou was even fastest overall on SS5, while Llarena recovered from a oneminute penalty handed out the previous evening for non-conformity to claim SS6. Lopez then topped the order on SS7 and Wagner – who had picked up another puncture on SS5 – was the quickest Rally 208 Cup contender on SS8, the classic ‘Corcieux’ test. With just four stages remaining, Toedtli still led, followed by Lopez, Carella and Magnou. The top four were covered by less than 16 seconds!
Lopez revealed his determination with the best effort on SS9, with Carella responding to top the timesheet on SS10 as Toedtli saw his lead melt dramatically. He was eventually passed when Lopez won SS11 on which the Swiss driver reported a spin. Carella and Lopez were on unbeatable form on the last loop and were split by just half-a-second going into the final stage (Corcieux 2). Torrential rain started to fall as Lopez left the line but the Spaniard put in a surefooted performance to post the fastest time and pass Carella to win by 0.5s. It was his second victory of the year following his success on the Terre des Causses. The result puts him back into the provisional championship lead with two rounds remaining, although the drivers’ two least good results will be discounted at the end of the year.
Andrea Carella had the satisfaction of thwarting Patrick Magnou who put on a late charge to clinch third. The rally’s long-time leader Jérémie Toedtli finished just shy of the podium after a tough Sunday and, in contrast to the previous day, some perfectible tyre choices. The run of Quentin Ribaud (CHL Sport Auto) was rewarded with fifth place which means he came away with points for the fifth time this season. Yann Clairay rounded out the top six, ahead of Efren Llarena, William Wagner and Jean-Paul Monnin who were the weekend’s other points scorers.
Pepe Lopez: This rally was completely new to us and it turned out to be pretty tough. The conditions were very dirty and the rain didn’t make it any easier. We decided not to push too hard on the opening day but we started today intent on winning. We pushed hard, especially on the last stages. I am very pleased with this result!
Andrea Carella: Saturday’s conditions were very hard but I am pleased with the way everything went because we didn’t do any testing before the start and we managed to improve as the weekend progressed. We had never done this rally before and we really didn’t know what to face. My set-up wasn’t very good to begin with but it got better, so I am very pleased about that.
Patrick Magnou: It was a good weekend for us. The conditions were complex but we made the right tyre calls on Saturday. I thought it was going to rain again this morning, so I based my tyre choice on that. In the end, it stayed dry. Even so, we managed to finish on the podium, which wasn’t bad!
1, Pepe Lopez/Borja Rozada, 1h47m48.3s (Junior) (highest number of stage victories)
2, Andrea Carella/Enrico Bracchi, +0.5s
3, Patrick Magnou/Benoît Manzo, +7.3s
4, Jérémie Toedtli/Alexandre Chioso, +14.9s (Junior)
5, Quentin Ribaud/Benoît Balme, +40.5s (Junior)
6, Yann Clairay/Frédéric Goupil, +2m0.8s
7, Efren Llarena/Sara Fernandez, +2m36.3s (Junior)
8, Joachim Wagemans/Andy De Baeremaeker, +2m42.6s (Junior)
9, William Wagner/Antoine Paque, +3m41.0s (Junior)
10, Jean-Paul Monnin/Franck Gilliot, +7m29.6s
11, Taisko Lario/Sami Ryynänen, +10m17.2s
12.Inaki Narbaiza - Unai Etxeberria + 14m00s8
1, Pepe Lopez, 82 points (Junior)
2, William Wagner, 62 points (Junior)
3, Patrick Magnou, 40 points
4, Andrea Carella, 37 points
5, Jérémie Toedtli, 34 points (Junior)
6, Quentin Ribaud, 28 points (Junior)
7, Nil Solans, 22 points
8, Jean-Baptiste Franceschi, 15 points (Junior)
9, Emmanuel Gascou, 14 points
10, Guillaume de Mevius, 13 points (Junior)
*subject to post-event scrutineering and approval of the results by Peugeot Sport