The 2016 Rally de Portugal provided the Peugeot Rally Academy’s Jose Antonio Suarez with his first competitive drive in the Evo version of the 208T16, but it was an emotional rollercoaster of a weekend for the Spaniard! In France, Pepe Lopez collected further 208 Rally Cup points, although Andrea Carella was the man to beat in Antibes. The Italian confirmed the potential he showed last season to earn a deserved victory.
♦ A competitive display from Jose Antonio Suarez first time out in the Evo version of the 208T16.
♦ The debut of the Evo version of 208T16 marks a step forward in terms of performance and reliability.
♦ In the 2016 208 Rally Cup, Italy’s Andrea Carella scored his maiden win in the series after beating Spaniard Pepe Lopez and Nil Solans.
♦ Second place saw Pepe Lopez strengthen his lead in the provisional 208 Rally Cup standings.
♦ The 2016 208 Rally Cup juniors continued to impress as Jérémie Toedtli, William Wagner and Quentin Ribaud all finished inside the top 10.
PEUGEOT RALLY ACADEMY: CONTRASTING FORTUNES FOR JOSE ANTONIO SUAREZ
Jose Antonio Suarez and Candido Carrera started the 2016 Rally de Portugal intent on making progress in the brand new Evo version of the 208T16. However, the early part of the rally turned out to be more challenging than expected. The Peugeot Rally Academy pair began well by posting an encouraging eighth-fastest time on the opening stage, but their chances of a top result were dashed by a roll on the following test. Slick work by the Peugeot Rally Academy’s mechanics soon restored their 208T16 back to perfect shape and the 2015 208 Rally Cup winners were able to focus on fighting their way back up the order. They effectively gained 10 places in the overall standings before a double puncture at the end of the third day cost them more valuable time.
They used the final leg to show their speed and that of their 208T16 by posting three more top-six stage times. The Spaniard concluded his first gravel outing in a four-wheel drive car in 12th position and in a positive frame of mind ahead of the his next WRC programme sortie in Sardinia, Italy:
“It was a useful weekend for the whole team. We showed that the 208T16 Evo is both reliable and competitive and that it marks a definite step forward compared with the former version. Unfortunately, my early mistake cost us a big chunk of time. I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to the Peugeot Rally Academy’s mechanics who repaired my car perfectly to get me back running again, enabling us to continue our apprenticeship of the WRC. I will continue to work hard and I can’t wait for our next rally in Italy.”
208 RALLY CUP: ITALY VS SPAIN!
Pepe Lopez (Sainteloc Racing) followed up his recent Rallye Terre des Causses success by claiming the first two stages of the Rallye Antibes Côte d’Azur, but Stéphane Consani (Automeca) crashed out of contention on SS2. Andrea Carella (Power Car Team) took a cautious approach to the Gréolières stage before upping his pace on the following test (Saint- Antonin) to appear in front as Pepe Lopez admitted he was having difficulty. Jean-Baptiste Franceschi, Jérémy Fournier (H2L) and Anthony Fotia (Pit Stop) were all side-lined by offs, meanwhile. The afternoon saw Pepe Lopez and Nil Solans (Mavisa Sport) push hard to win SS4 and SS5, but Andrea Carella topped the timesheet on the second visit to Saint-Antonin, the stage that saw him take control the same morning. At the end of Day 1, Carella, Solans and Lopez were covered by less than 30 seconds.
Delighted to be back on asphalt and competing in the mountains that tower over the French Riviera again, Emmanuel Gascou (AFC Racing) was fourth, pursued by a pack of juniors who had every intention of continuing their strong runs on the second leg! The provisional top eight was rounded out by the confident Jérémie Toedtli (CHL Sport Auto), William Wagner (PH Sport), Guillaume de Mevius (PH Sport) and the surprising Quentin Ribaud (CHL Sport Auto) who was pleased to be getting close to the times of the 2016 208 Rally Cup’s front-runners.
ANDREA CARELLA UNFAZED!
The next day saw Carella drop a little time during the opening competitive loop due to a poor tyre choice and Nil Solans and Pepe Lopez duly maintained their pressure on the Italian. The afternoon’s weather was much hotter, causing the asphalt to become very slippery in places. It was consequently difficult for the chasers to make any real inroads on Carella’s lead and the latter was able to cruise home to his first victory on French soil. Lopez successfully defended second place from compatriot Nil Solans to ensure an appreciable points haul which was further swelled by the three bonus points for the driver who posted the highest number of stage victories wins. As a result, the Spaniard has extended his lead in the provisional 208 Rally Cup standings.
Jérémie Toedtli recovered from a poor tyre choice in the morning to collect fourth, ahead of William Wagner. Both drivers finished in the points for the second time in a row, as did Emmanuel Gascou who felt less comfortable on the second day’s stages after completing Leg 1 just shy of the podium. The hardened campaigner was nevertheless satisfied with sixth place at the final whistle.
Quentin Ribaud overcame weekend-long brake problems to continue his excellent start to the season by finishing seventh. Bruno Riberi (CHL Sport Auto) was slowed by a puncture on the opening day but subsequently recovered six places to round out the top eight, ahead of Efren Llarena (Raceseven) and Patrick Magnou (Pit Stop).
The next round of the 208 Rally Cup will take participants to eastern France for the all-gravel Rallye Terre de Langres on June 24-26.
RALLYE ANTIBES CÔTE D’AZUR (Round 2 of 7) – final positions*:
1, Andrea Carella/Henrico Bracchi, 2h25m8.9s
2, Pepe Lopez/Borja Rozada, +21.7s (junior) (highest number of stage wins) 3, Nil Solans/Miquel Ibanez, +26.2
4, Jérémie Toedtli/Alexandre Chioso, +53.7 (junior)
5, William Wagner/Antoine Paque, +1m0.1s (junior)
6, Emmanuel Gascou/Céline Chapus, +2m20.9s
7, Quentin Ribaud/Benoît Balme, +2m23.4s (junior)
8, Bruno Riberi/Anthony Toppi, +3m59.9s
9, Efren Llarena/Sara Fernandez, +4m23.9s (junior)
10, Patrick Magnou/Benoît Manzo, +5m9.4s
11, Jonathan Boueri/Grégory Bolgari, +5m20.3s
12, Jose Luis Pelaez/Enrique Velasco, +6m25.9s
13, Kim Daldini/Daniele Rocca, +9m45.0 (junior)
14, Yoann Salvadero/Xavier Castex, +14m05.8s (junior)
15, Aki Sahila/Rami Suorsa, +17m50.2s (junior)
16, Olivier Ramiandrisoa/Thomas Santiago, +25m39.3s
PROVISIONAL 208 RALLY CUP STANDINGS AFTER RALLYE ANTIBES CÔTE D’AZUR (Round 2 of 7)*:
1, Pepe Lopez, 41 points
2, Nil Solans, 22 points
3, William Wagner and Andrea Carella, 20 points
5, Jean-Baptiste Franceschi, 15 points
6, Emmanuel Gascou, 14 points
7, Jérémie Toedtli, 12 points
8, Bruno Riberi and Quentin Ribaud, 7 points
10, Stéphane Consani, 6 points
11, Efren Llarena, 2 points
12, Patrick Magnou and Jean-Paul Monnin, 1 point
* subject to post-event scrutineering