Laurent Pellier announced his world rally championship arrival in style as he won the Junior WRC category at the Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse on Sunday.
The FFSA-backed driver had never competed on Corsica’s asphalt roads before but that didn’t stop him avoiding trouble and coming out on top after a fierce battle with compatriot Yohan Rossel.
The duo traded times at the top of the leaderboard for the first two days of competition and it was Rossel that extended his narrow 4.4sec lead on Friday night to 14.9sec a day later.
But the complexion of the rally took a dramatic twist on Sunday morning’s penultimate stage when Rossel lost the brakes on his Citroën DS 3 R3T and also suffered at the hands of a lose turbo pipe. Both issues meant he dropped more than a minute.
A clean and composed drive on the final two stages allowed Pellier to retake the lead that he held for the first two stages on Saturday and victory by 33.5sec.
“I wanted to shine for my first WRC round, but I was not looking for something else than a podium,” Pellier said. “I didn’t think I could win, so this is beyond my hopes.”
Third place went to Slovakian ace Martin Koci at the Porto-Vecchio finish but he was more than a minute slower than the rally-winning pace, despite having shaved 25sec off his deficit to the leaders on the final day.
Championship leader Simone Tempestini battled with ever-worsening gearbox problems in Corsica but he did manage to reach the finish in fourth and duly scooped the 2016 Junior WRC title in the process.
"That's incredible for me. We've had a really hard weekend after struggling with the gearbox but we're very, very happy with the win. It's very important to win this championship,” he said.
Michael Burri completed the 390km stage distance in fifth place, almost four minutes clear of Rally 2 runner Terry Folb.