Tour de Corse: A Historic Vehicle Rally In All Seriousness

Images: Will Broadhead

After winning for the first time in 2020, the Oreille duo of Alain and Sylvie, in their Porsche 911 Carrera RS, emerged victorious again at the 22nd edition of the Tour de Corse Historique, setting the fastest time in the last special stage to finish the rally on a high note!

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Alain Oreille (with Sylvie Oreille) was the winner of the 22nd edition of the Tour de Corse Historique

The competitors in the 22nd edition of the Tour de Corse Historique left Porto-Vecchio last Tuesday and they were back in the port city on Saturday after covering the 1028-kilometre route that was 60 percent revised and included 382 kilometres of timed events divided up into 19 special stages.

Like the previous editions, the 2022 event lived up to its reputation as a historic rally that’s among the longest and the most technical on the planet, which also makes enormous demands on men and machines.

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The class-winning BMW M3 of the Tomas Argenti/Mathieu Tyran pair

This formula has greatly contributed to its popularity with competitors and has led to ever-increasing success from year to year, setting new records for the number of participants. From 350 in 2021, the list of entries increased to 380 in 2022 with 12 nationalities, forcing the organisation to make a very difficult selection choice among the 530 entries received this year.

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The Talbot Sunbeam Lotus of Lou and Bernard Barrile passing by another historic building in Corsica

In line with their performance in 2020, Alain and Sylvie Oreille built their win day after day. Nursing the engine of their Porsche 911 Carrera RS prepared by the écurie Joffroy, they were always among the front-runners without taking any risks.

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Jerome and Jean-Francois Mancini in their BMW M3 negotiating the picturesque route of the Tour de Corse Historique rally

Then their rivals opened the door to victory for them as they dropped by the wayside either because of mechanical issues or accidents as the specials unfolded.

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Romano Belfiore and Maurizio Elia flashing by in their Ford Escort

“We were penalised at the start of the rally because we chose tyres that were too wide,” explained the victor. “After rectifying the situation, we climbed back up the order. We had a great battle with Florent Jean (Porsche 911) and Anthony Agostini (Ford Escort MK1), but they both crashed out. Then we just controlled our race. It’s called experience! The Tour de Corse Historique is fabulous. It’s a great rally that’s a mirror image of what happened in the era of the 30-kilometre-long special stages. I’ve only taken part in one rally this year—this one.”

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Christan Chambord and Patrick Fourestie in their Alpine A110

The runners-up in the event, Jean-Baptiste Botti/Yoann Raffaelli (Porsche 911) were also all smiles on the podium. Botti, a world Jet Ski champion on several occasions, showed that he is also a talented driver.

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Jean Florent and Maxime Wilmot storming by in their Porsche 911 SC

Last year he had already finished third in VHC and this year the youngster from Porto-Vecchio found himself on the second step of the podium on his third outing: “We ran into mechanical problems on the second and third days. Luckily, the écurie Caruso managed to carry out repairs and helped us to get up to speed in the second part of the event and clinch this great result!”

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Another Alpine A110...that of Denis Clerc and Laurent-Dominique Mary

In the J2 category open to newer models, the anticipated duel between locals Tomas Argenti/Mathieu Tyran and Christophe Casanova/Stéphane Delleaux, both at the wheel of BMW M3s, unfortunately fizzled out. The triple winner of the category in 2019, 2020 and 2021 set off to try and close the 1m 24s gap to Argenti/Tyran, but was the victim of a ruptured universal joint in the first special of the day.

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The Lancia Stratos of Philippe Vandromme and Frederic Vivier disappear down a mountainous road

All Argenti/Tyran had to do was to bring their car home to the finish without errors to clinch victory in the J2 category on their second outing in the Tour de Corse Historique. “Obviously, we’re delighted. At the start of the event, we were hit by a raft of mechanical problems with our M3 BMW (ex-Pascal Trojani) in its 1995 setup that hadn’t run since 2001. We managed the race as intelligently as possible to stay in contact and then push when it was necessary. We had a rally that’s unique of its kind and has left us with extraordinary memories!” summed up the young winner.

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The legendary Bruno Saby

Among the great stories of this edition, mention must be made of the Bernardini father/daughter crew who finished third in J2. Double French rally champion in 1994 and 1995 and winner of the Monte Carlo in 1996, Patrick Bernardini had not emerged from his retirement since 2010 when he made a fleeting appearance in the Tour de Corse Historique.

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Bruno Saby and Pascal Serre celebrating their class win in the VW Golf GTi

“For the last five years my daughter Carla has kept on badgering me for us to do this rally together,” explained Patrick. “For my 60th birthday we decided to enter. It was her first motor race! She adapted and made good progress in calling the notes through the specials. I too found my marks. Everything went off like a dream!”

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Didier Mourenon and Hubert Blanchard in their Ford Escort Mk 1 RS 2000

Another anecdote that reveals the spirit of mutual help and sharing that reigned in this event was the one about the André Giusti/Frank Pascalini team with their Alpine A110. They suffered a broken spacer in the gearbox and as they didn’t have a spare; they owed their rescue to the generosity of Jean-Pierre Manzagol, a leading light in Corsican motor sport.

Holder of the record number of starts (29) in the same rally in the WRC, he has raced in Renault R8 Gordinis, Alpine A110s and A310s, R5 GT Turbos, Clio Williams and Peugeot 306 Maxis.

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The trophies await the winners

Seeing that his fellow-countryman was going to have to retire, he said he would strip down his own personal berlinetta to replace the broken part to help him to make it to the finish in Ajaccio. André Giusti obviously acknowledged his gesture when he climbed up onto the podium!

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And the winner is...the Oreille pair

In VHRS (Historic Vehicles in Sporting Regularity—Véhicules Historiques de Régularité Sportive), Emmanuel Saussereau/Stéphane Poulard (Fiat 124 Abarth) emerged on top in the final overall classification as well as in the moderate average classification.

Etienne Baugnee/Vincent Duchesne (Ford Escort MK1 RS2000 won in the high average classification, Dominique Larroque/Patrick Monassier (Ford Escort RS2000) triumphed in the intermediate average and Alain Arnal/Denis Goudou (Morris Cooper S) in the low average classification.

And we mustn’t forget the victory in the VHRS by team classification of Team Espoir contre le cancer (Team Hope against cancer) by Bruno Saby/Pascal Serre in their VW Golf GTI.

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For that last evocative image: the Lancia Stratos of Michel Branca and Gerald Forns


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