The forecasted battle took place in the Clio Trophy France Terre. Quentin Ribaud jumped to the top of the order on the first special stage of the Rallye Langres Haute-Marne, but Jean Paul Monnin took the lead with two timed sectors to go. John Laroche and Marcel Abad joined the winner on the podium after Quentin Ribaud was penalised after the event.
The Rallye Langres Haute-Marne promised to be a tough event and the Clio Trophy France Terre competitors soon confirmed it. Sébastien Studer was caught out during the reconnaissance and had to drop out of Saturday’s leg because of penalties due to his late check-in!
Winner of the inaugural round of the trophy, Quentin Ribaud set the tone with the fastest time in the first two stages, but Jean Paul Monnin answered to reduce his deficit to eight-tenths of a second. Third place Simon Heinemann returned to the service park 24.1s behind, but only 2.6s ahead of Richard Paget and 15.3s ahead of John Laroche.
Quentin Ribaud then went into maximum attack mode, setting the fastest time of the repeat run of the three stages in the afternoon to relegate Jean Paul Monnin to 25.1 seconds. Meanwhile, the battle for third place claimed its first victims: Richard Paget lost a lot of ground when he made two costly mistakes on SS4 and SS5, as did Simon Heinemann and Serge Chapus in the final timed sector of the day. John Laroche drove consistently to slot into the position with a more than two-minute margin from Marcel Abad.
The situation changed completely on Sunday morning. Just when he thought the hardest challenge was behind him, the Chatenay - Vaudin - Bannes run, the longest stage of the weekend, where he stretched his lead to 45.5 seconds, Quentin Ribaud lost nearly a minute when he stalled on SS8. Jean Paul Monnin took the lead with an advantage of 12.9 seconds at the beginning of the decisive loop.
Quentin Ribaud went on the attack again and narrowed the lead to 6.7 seconds but Jean Paul Monnin used his vast experience to seal his first Clio Trophy France Terre win. Initially second, 11.6s adrift of the winner, Quentin Ribaud lost this position and his victory in the Junior category when he was penalised 18 minutes for unauthorised assistance. John Laroche inherited second place while Marcel Abad was promoted to the podium and first in the Junior category. Eric Royere progressively picked up his pace to finish fourth ahead of Grégory Perrard, who won his duel with Yves Blanc.
With his performance, Jean Paul Monnin takes the lead of the Clio Trophy France Terre, eight points ahead of John Laroche and 11 ahead of Quentin Ribaud. Thanks to its one-two finish, Fun Meca Sport consolidates its lead in the teams’ classification while Bandelier Automobiles now leads the Challenge Réseau Renault.
The next meeting of the Clio Trophy France Terre will take the competitors to the Rallye Terre de Lozère - Sud de France (27-29 August) for the penultimate round on the calendar.
Jean Paul Monnin: "It was a really intense battle with Quentin throughout the rally. We were a little bit behind this morning and I was too careful on the opening stage. I wasn’t sure how the car would react in these tricky, muddy conditions and Quentin did a great job to push us 20 seconds further back in as many kilometres. I didn’t give up though and he had an issue on the following stage. Neither of us wanted to give up in the last loop and it was great to fight without any second thoughts. The intensity of the duel even allowed us to place our Clio Rally5s among the best Rally4 and two-wheel-drive cars, which once again shows the potential of the car. I’m very happy with this win, which I believe is my first in a single-make cup since 2010. We are now looking ahead to Lozere. We didn’t know a few weeks ago if we would even be here, but I’m very happy to have entered the trophy and I’m really enjoying it!"
Clio Trophy France Terre – Rallye Langres Haute-Marne
1. Jean Paul Monnin – Franck Gillot 1h27:40.9s
2. John Laroche – Damien Augustin +1:51.1s
3. Marcel Abad – Carles Cortes (J) +4:56.1s
4. Éric Royere- Gilbert Dini +7:33.8s
5. Grégory Perrard – François Gilbert +16:32.8s
6. Yves Blanc – Nicolas Blanc +16:54.4s
7. Quentin Ribaud – Melissa Ascensio (J) +18:11.6s
8. Sébastien Studer – Maude Studer +4h09:06.3s
Ret. Richard Paget – Sébastien Poujol
Ret. Simon Heinemann – Yves Heinemann
Ret. Serge Chapus – Mathieu Favreau
(J) : Juniors