Just a few days after Clio Rally5’s maiden title in France, big brother Clio Rally4 wins the FIA ERC3 and FIA ERC3 Junior crowns in the FIA European Rally Championship. Entrusted to Jean-Baptiste Franceschi and Toksport WRT, Clio Rally4 confirms its status as the new reference in the two-wheel-drive category right from its first year of competition.
Presented at the Monte Carlo Rally, Clio Rally4 caused a stir, winning in France and abroad shortly after its official launch. Designed by the Viry-Châtillon and Dieppe teams, the car debuted on the European scene in June and soon enjoyed similar success with Jean-Baptiste Franceschi and Toksport WRT.
In his second start behind the wheel of Clio Rally4, the 2020 French Gravel Rally Champion completed a hat-trick of wins in the FIA ERC3, FIA ERC3 Junior and two-wheel-drive categories on the gravel stages of Rally Liepāja.
Together with co-driver Anthony Gorguilo, the Frenchman went on to win in the FIA ERC3 Junior on the tarmac of Rally di Roma Capitale and Barum Czech Rally Zlín to cement his status as a title contender. He did the same in FIA ERC3 with another win on the Azores Rally, followed by further podium finishes on Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras and Rally Hungary.
To seal the deal at the season-finale, Jean-Baptiste Franceschi had to strike the right balance between car management and attack mode to keep the lead in FIA ERC3 against Josep Bassas while also taking the lead in FIA ERC3 Junior from Sami Pajari, who recently captured the Junior WRC title.
Jean-Baptiste Franceschi achieved his double objective with panache. Initially in contention for victory on Rally Islas Canarias against Anthony Fotia’s Clio Rally4, he put in a masterful Friday to score more intermediate points than his rivals. The Toksport WRT driver was favourably positioned and managed his pace to seal the two titles at stake.
With this result, Jean-Baptiste Franceschi is the first driver to be crowned in the European Championship with Renault since Italian Renato Travaglia and his Clio S1600 in 2005. Meanwhile, Anthony Fotia completed a perfect weekend for the Clio Rally4s by winning both categories in his second appearance on the European scene.
Renault will have the opportunity to extend this already historic month of November in the upcoming days. After the two titles of Jean-Baptiste Franceschi with Clio Rally4, Romain Di-Fante will enter the Rallye du Var in a position to become the French two-wheel-drive Asphalt Rally Champion with Clio Rally5, just two weeks after Quentin Ribaud’s did the same on gravel.
Jean-Baptiste Franceschi: "It’s difficult to put into words, but it’s a dream come true. We have had an incredible season with Toksport WRT and Renault. We learned together, made constant progress and never gave up. All the hard work has paid off, and I can’t thank the team and Renault enough for believing in me. The car was just fantastic and, once again, I enjoyed it immensely. It’s been the case all year and on all surfaces. The impressive work to bring Clio Rally4 to life is to be commended. Now let’s see what the future holds after our two titles!"
Benoît Nogier, Alpine Racing Commercial Racing Director: "We are extremely proud to see Clio Rally4 claim its first titles in the prestigious European Rally Championship. The FIA ERC3 and FIA ERC3 Junior are recognised as the most competitive two-wheel-drive championships in the world today. Jean-Baptiste’s two titles are a fantastic accomplishment, especially as this is only Clio Rally4’s first year in operation. This result is due to everyone’s hard work, from the crew to our partners Toksport WRT and our staff in Viry-Châtillon and Dieppe. We are also delighted to have three Clio Rally4s in the top five of the FIA ERC3 and FIA ERC3 Junior at such a high-stakes finale. It shows the potential of our latest creation, but also that the competitors from our Clio Rally5 dedicated trophies are immediately on the pace in the higher class!"
Pictures: FIA ERC / DPPI