With his second consecutive win of the season on the Rallye Mont-Blanc Morzine, Benjamin Stirling has made the Clio Trophy France Asphalte title* a mathematical certainty. The 26-year-old driver showed great skill and composure in the face of stiff competition led by Romain Fostier to lead the field from start to finish to claim the title and the 2024 official programme offered to the top Junior. The team that will service his future car will be determined in the season-finale at the Rallye Cœur de France (29 September-1 October) between Sébastien Loeb Racing and Fun Meca Sport.
A nearly 40-strong Clio Rally5 field was in Morzine for the penultimate round of the 2023 Clio Trophy France Asphalte season. After scrutineering and the shakedown, Jean-Claude Pietri, Romain Fostier, Julien Deslauriers and Willy Mathey each won a tyre in addition to the two-tyre starter’s prize in the draw organised by Ceerta, the official Michelin Motorsport distributor of the French Rally Championship.
Clio Trophy France Asphalte leader Benjamin Stirling hit the ground running with the fastest time on the first two stages, but Romain Fostier stayed close, conceding just 3.4s before the first service. Although Romain Fostier interrupted his run on SS5, the Sébastien Loeb Racing driver kept his momentum going with three further stage wins in the afternoon to finish the second loop with an increased advantage of 7.1s. Behind the leaders, Julien Deslauriers inherited third place ahead of Benjamin Barnouin when Arthur Pelamourgues lost more than a minute with a loose bonnet between Bonnevaux and Le Biot.
The first leg concluded on one of the event’s key stages, the Col de la Joux Verte in Morzine - Montriond Le Lac. Dominated by Arthur Pelamourgues, this 22.08 km night timed sector undermined the ambitions of several competitors, including Nicolas Hebrard and Jérôme Janny, but the battle for victory intensified as Romain Fostier managed to pull back to within 5.5s of Benjamin Stirling.
On Saturday morning, the crews had another go on the same four stages as on Friday afternoon. With three new fastest times to his credit, the leader consolidated his lead and pushed Romain Fostier back to 14.0s. Meanwhile, punctures for Julien Deslauriers, Yoan Corberand and Jordan D’Agostino reignited the battle for third place ahead of the decisive loop, which included the Jean Ragnotti Power Stage on the legendary Praz de Lys roads (29.1 km) and the iconic Samoëns - Morzine stage (20.06 km).
Benjamin Stirling was in good spirits going into the final sprint after his main title rivals had to deal with problems. He conceded 3.8s on SS12 but then set the fastest time on SS13 to seal his victory with a 20.4s advantage over Romain Fostier. Benjamin Barnouin completed the podium ahead of Arthur Pelamourgues. Fifth despite a one-minute penalty for speeding during the recce, Samuel Lay lost out when he had a puncture on the final stage. Tom Vauclare took advantage to move up to fifth place, ahead of Arthur Roché and Kévin Duc in a trio covered by just 4.3s. Matteo Chatillon, Enzo Beschet and Julien Deslauriers completed the top ten.
The first driver to win twice this year, Benjamin Stirling is now mathematically assured of the title. All he has to do is start the Rallye Cœur de France (29 September-1 October) to seal his crown and position as the top Junior, to win an official programme in 2024 that will be overseen by the title-winning team, to be settled between Sébastien Loeb Racing and Fun Meca Sport in Vendome.
Mike Souvigné and Charlotte Olea won in the Gentlemen’s and Women’s categories and lead the way in their respective classes, as does Arthur Pelamourgues in the Jean Ragnotti Power Stage Trophy with his fastest time on SS12. Lastly, Groupe Bertrand sealed the deal in the Renault Network Challenge.
In parallel with the Clio Trophy France Asphalte, Clio Rally3 and Clio Rally4 scored a 1-2 in the Michelin Trophy, winning RC3 with Thomas Chauffray and RC4 with Styve Juif. Also in Morzine, Allison Viano and Charlotte Olea finished on the French Women’s Rally Championship podium, with Clio Rally4 and Clio Rally5.
Benjamin Stirling : "I’m really pleased to win the title, even though I still find it hard to believe. We’ve worked incredibly well throughout the season, and we’ve balanced rallying with our new family life. Becoming parents actually made us quicker on the stages ! It’s simply incredible to become an official crew. I think it’s every driver’s dream, and it’s been our goal since we started in Clio Trophy France. The initial plan wasn’t to line up the stage wins this weekend. We were somewhat surprised at the start, but we did a good job preparing well for the rally. We felt good, we didn’t take risks, and everything went according to plan without a single mistake. We suspected that Romain would be strong here, and he proved it. Even though he wasn’t a direct competitor in the Junior category, we’re pleased to keep him behind us. The aim is to finish on a high note at the Rallye Cœur de France and clinch the title for Sébastien Loeb Racing. After two seasons with them, that would be a great reward for them, as would running the official programme next year."
Clio Trophy France Asphalte - Rallye Mont-Blanc Morzine*
1. Benjamin Stirling – Florence Stirling (J) 1h58:05.9s
2. Romain Fostier – Ophélie Abchiche +20.4s
3. Benjamin Barnouin – Enzo Mahinc (J) +1:17.2s
4. Arthur Pelamourgues – Bastien Pouget (J) +1:51.4s
5. Tom Vauclare – Frédéric Vauclare (J) +314.5s
6. Arthur Roché – Quentin Proust (J) +3:17.0s
7. Kévin Duc -Séverine Chamiot-Maitral (J) +3:18.8s
8. Matteo Chatillon – Maxence Cornuau (J) +3:28.3s
9. Enzo Beschet – Emmanuel Guinchard (J) +3:42.6s
10. Julien Deslauriers – Amandine Brunel +4:01.5s
11. Amaury Facchinetti – Léo Lhomme (J) +4:24.0s
12. Yoan Corberand – Jessika Leprêtre +4:57.8s
13. Samuel Lay – Geoffrey Brion (J) +5:17.7s
14. Nicolas Paviet-Roche – Mélodie Bellavarde +5:17.9s
15. Jordan D’Agostino – Manon Deliot (J) +5:35.7s
16. Mike Souvigné – Brice Ricou (G) +6:12.9s
17. Romain Perrin – Albin Goutry-André (J) +7:063s
18. Tristan Pieri – Leo Cantallops (J)+7:10.7s
19. Julien Charnay – Maxime Gomez +7:28.4s
20. Pascal Bérard – Caroline Berard (G) +7:31.5s
21. Florian Picchioni – François Gilbert +8:38.3s
22. Franck Giraud – Sylvain Guillaume (G) +9:26.4s
23. Dominique Patenotte – Aline Boury (G) +9:31.2s
24. Charlotte Olea – Cécile Pages (J,F) +10:00.5s
25. Ugo Girardeau – Julien Bichon +10:12.6s
26. Rémy Narbon – Emeline Vo Dinh (J) +10:17.6s
27. Tom Pellerey – Hervé Faucher (J) +10:21.2s
28. Elodie Rey Gines – Lisa Tornior (F) +12:05.2s
29. Philippe Janvier – Benjamin Mondiere (G) +12:51.3s
30. Willy Mathey – Mathieu Favreau (G) +13:32.9s
31. Adrien Chinappi – Thomas Bort (J) +13:44.7s
32. José Da Cunha – Tiphanie Maudit (G) +13:52.9s
33. Patrick Favre – Clément Certano (G) +18:58.7s
34. Romuald Lézeau – Valentin Marechal +23:24.4s
35. Jean-Pierre Lejeune – Geneviève Arnavielhe (G) +28:27.4s
Ret. Jean-Claude Pietri – Kylian Sarmezan (J)
Ret.Nicolas Hebrard – Amandine Houry
Ret.Jérôme Janny – Aurélien Beaudouin
Ret. Steve D’Angelo – Sébastien Garnier
DNS. Tobias Laurence – Florian Duthu (J)
DNS.Sylvain Janny – Mireille Guy
DNS.Margot Dupuy – « Clochette » (F)
DNS. Julien Anthérieu – Eddy Jabeneau (J)
*results pending final technical scrutineering after the rally