Duels at the top for the French Rally Championship
Only one being is missing… and not everything is depopulated! Admittedly, the reigning French champion, Quentin Giordano, was forced to put away wetsuit and helmet following the death of his uncle Joël Vigneron, in order to take over the reins of his transport company. But they will still be several to claim his succession from the Rallye du Touquet, Friday and Saturday, the traditional opening round of the season.
Starting with the quadruple (2017, 2018, 2020, 2021) champion Yoann Bonato who will aim for a fifth title, a sign of absolute record (he is joint record holder with Bernard Béguin). Winner of five rounds last year, he unfortunately paid a high price for his three retirements. He is nonetheless ultra-fast at the wheel of a very high-performance Citroën C3 Rally2 prepared by CHL-Sport Auto, which he masters to perfection.
His main rival for the title will be Eric Camilli, back full-time with a Team PH Sport Minerva Oil C3 Rally2. Third in the French Championship in 2021 (1 victory at Rouergue), his better knowledge of the roads should allow him this year to further tickle Bonato.
Eric Camilli, here in 2021 in Le Touquet. (F.Peisson/The Team)
Two young drivers will also be there, also at the wheel of C3: Hugo Margaillan, alongside Bonato at CHL Sport Auto, and Léo Rossel as Camilli’s teammate. Over the past season, the former has shown steady progress, while the little brother of Yohan (French champion 2019), winner of the Stellantis Cup, will make his debut in Rally2.
Finally, there is the exception Cédric Robert, fourth last year and winner of the two-wheel drive Championship. With his Alpine A110 Rally RGT, he will probably be able to play a few times with the Rally2 on dry and fast terrain. But from there to playing the national title…
Nicolas Ciamin part-time
For this Touquet 2023, other contenders for victory are present. Starting with Nicolas Ciamin. Third in the 2022 Championship, he swapped his Hyundai i20 for the Volkswagen Polo GTi R5 of the reigning French champion, within Sarrazin Motorsport. Unfortunately, he should only compete in four out of nine rallies (including one, Antibes, at the wheel of an Alpine) and will therefore normally not be competing for the title. Winner on the Côte d’Opale last year and in 2019, he will nevertheless be one of the favorites for this inaugural event.
William Wagner, increasingly swift at the wheel of Sarrazin Motorsport’s second Polo, could also be a serious outsider, in the same way as Thomas Chauffray (Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo), recent winner of the Coupe de France final at Béthune , Eric Brunson (C3 Rally2), six times winner at Le Touquet, or even Denis Millet (VW Polo R5).
We also note, among the 173 entries, the presence of Stéphane Lefebvre (Porsche 991 GT3 Cup), Quentin Gilbert, Raphaël Astier and Pierre Roché (all three on Alpine A110 Rally) as challengers to Cédric Robert in the RGT class. Without forgetting the drivers of the Stellantis Cup and the Renault Clio Trophy.
On a fast terrain that is traditionally made very dirty by the various passages in the muddy ropes, this opening of the 2023 season of the French Championship promises a nice show.