France : Terre de l'Auxerrois - Preview
The entry list shows 160 drivers, including four from the WRC, with Cédric Robert and Brian Bouffier also on the sheet. The 2007 Rally Championship of France begins this week-end with the Rallye Terre de l'Auxerrois and drivers are
lining up behind Jean-Marie Cuoq's Peugeot 307 WRC, the new Renault Clio R3s, Peugeot 207 Super 2000s, and a string of WRCs (Toyota Corolla and Seat Cordoba).
Serge Fréville, the organizer of the event, appears quite serene as he prepares to welcome the best ground specialists along with a few big names. "With a total of 185 entry requests, we had to ask for an exemption in order to accept 160, so this means that this championship is starting off strong," enthused Fréville.
"As is the case every year, the outlay is 60% renewed with two new special stages and a more spacious service park. The itinerary will go over sectors that were used during the first editions, situated south of Auxerre," he added.
In this slightly valleyed decor, the debut of Arnaud Mordacq is awaited at the wheel of a Seat Cordoba WRC, as are those of Dominique Bruyneel, Frédéric Sauvan and Laurent Carbonaro with their Toyota Corolla WRCs, and Julien Pressac with the Peugeot 207 Super 2000.
On the two-wheel drive side, we find Guillaume Canivenq, Pierre Beurier, Emmanuel Gascou (Peuget 206 RC), Cédric Robert, Arnaud Augoyard, Emmanuel Guigou and Jean-Marc Falco (Renault Clio R3).
Depending on the weather conditions, we should not find these drivers too far from the podium, maybe even in the first third of the pack if the roads remain dry.
The great unknown resides in the strategy that double-Champion Jean-Marie Cuoq will adopt. Either he attacks from the start to sap the competition's morale, either he waits to see the results of the first two or three stages before moving up the pace, which is a tactic that had served him perfectly well last year.
Behind the 307 WRC driver, taken as favorite in regards of his experience and the performances of his car, the outsider's chances are less certain. Arnaud Mordacq (Cordoba WRC), Dominique Bruyneel, Frédéric Sauvan (Corolla WRC) and Julien Pressac (207 Super 2000) could be overwhelmed by Jean-Jacques Lebrun (Toyota GT4), Jean-Claude Lavigne (Mitsubishi Gr. A) or Stéphane Chambon, back at the wheel of a Group A Subaru.
The richness of WRC-issued contenders in Group A should not take attention away from the great battle looming between the Group N drivers. Brian Bouffier and Richard Frau, on Mitsubishi, will be going head-to-head against the more numerous Subarus which include Arnaud Morel, Franck Amaudru, Bernard Munster and Patrick Dejean.
Also, the 48 participants of the Peugeot 206 XS Cup will meet in Auxerre to contest the first of eight rallies this season. Amongst them, favorites Denis Millet, Jérémy Ancian, Michel Mouret, and Sébastien Ogier will have to consider the presence of those representing different nationalities. A veteran of the place, German Karl Beck, will be there, flanked by Laurent Reuche of Switzerland, David Nafria of Spain, Alessandro Schiavo of Italy and Antero Saari of Finland.
On this occasion Julien Bregeon and Stéphane Pellerey, winners of the 2006 Rally Juniors competition, will begin their first rally runs.
The excitement is therefore guaranteed at the start of the first of twelve special stages!
An invitation to all is given to meet in the Noue parking area in Auxerre, Friday 13 April at 5:00 PM for the technical inspections, and on Saturday 14 April at 10:15 AM for the launch of the first car