On its fourth appearance at the "zero emissions" rally organised by the Automobile Club de Monaco, Renault entered five ZOEs on the course from Fontainebleau to Monaco.
At the end of three incident-packed legs, ‘Greg’ the photographer and his co-driver Yves Munier finished fifth overall in the eRally.
Driven by a strong sense of team spirit, the five fiercely competitive Z.E. ZOE Team crews illustrated just how effective all-electric and zero emissions mobility can be.
With twelve ZOEs and two Kangoos on the entry list, Renault was the most-represented manufacturer at this year's Monte-Carlo eRally, underlining its position as the top-selling brand in Europe of electric vehicles. For the start on Wednesday 25 October, all the competitors met up in the grounds of the Château de Fontainebleau for pre-event technical scrutineering.
Focussed and yet relaxed, the Z.E. ZOE Team crews checked over the route and looked at how the timing system used during the Regulatory Test Sections (RTS) worked.
To get from Fontainebleau to Monaco, the route headed first of all for Aveyron! Following a first recharge of the ZOEs at the Magny-Cours racetrack, then an overnight stop in Vichy, the Renault crews made it to Onet-le-Château without incident.
On Friday, things became a bit more complicated with the first Regulatory Test Sections (RTS). The idea was to stick to an average speed defined by the organisation as closely as possible, with the help of an electronic timing system. This can be a tricky exercise, in which you have to not go too quickly, nor too slowly, and adopt an eco-driving approach that preserves the range of the vehicle.
‘Greg’ the photographer – a two-time winner of the event in a ZOE in 2015 and 2016 – and his co-driver Yves Munier proved to be fairly adept at this exercise, producing a fine performance in the opening RTS to complete a lap of the Alès track within a second of the expected time. A little later, the all-female crew of the Z.E. ZOE Team caused a stir between Anduze and Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort. More used to driving 24 Hours of Le Mans prototypes, Inès Taittinger demonstrated her ability to adapt to a different category in claiming second position on RTS2. She was assisted in her efforts by the race craft of ‘Biche’, the famous co-driver and winner of the 1973 Rallye Monte-Carlo in an Alpine A110 driven by Jean-Claude Andruet. The rest of the rally did not go so well for the two women, who dropped out of contention for the win after suffering a handling issue with the timing system on RTS3 (Maussane-les-Alpilles – Eyguières).
After these highs and lows, the Renault ZOEs and the crews recharged their batteries at Salon-de-Provence's famous 701 air base, next to the Alpha Jets of the French Air Force. Before making it to the Principality, there were still two RTSs to contest: Trets/Peyrolle-en-Provence and Aups/Draguignan. This part of the course proved terminal for the hopes of Guillaume Nedelec and Serge Lombard, who dropped out of the top ten overall after getting stuck behind a vehicle driving slowly on the countryside roads!
The event was set to finish in style, with two RTSs contested after dark on the legendary Col de Turini! ‘Greg’ and Yves Munier remained in contention for the overall win from their fifth position, as did Pascal Ferry and ‘Gilliocq’, who were ninth at that point.
Between Sospel and Peïra-Cava, the ZOEs produced a fine group result, with Gilles Gard/Cyril More (Team Gard – Un Dakar pour la vie) winning the test, whilst Ferry/‘Gilliocq’ and ‘Greg’/Munier closed on their rivals in taking third and fourth places respectively.
Unfortunately, RTS7 was cancelled due an accident that blocked the traffic and so the standings finished unchanged. The Z.E. ZOE Team therefore finished with two crews in the top 10, but ultimately, the result wasn't the most important thing. In racing on some of the finest roads in France over the last four days, the crews were able to enjoy the driving pleasure, comfortable range and peace of mind offered by Renault ZOE.
Bernard Dumondel, Z.E. ZOE Team manager: "We are delighted to have taken part in this event for the fourth time. Obviously, we would have loved for one of our Renault ZOEs to finish on the podium; we came close, because it is extremely tight in the final top 10 standings. Well done to ‘Greg’ and Pascal Ferry, who stayed in contention right to the end! And a special mention must go to Stéphane Lahausse, our driver from La Garde Républicaine, who finished as the best ‘rookie’ at this year's rally. The five crews competing on behalf of the Z.E. ZOE Team demonstrated exceptional unity and team spirit. Those who were driving the car for the first time, like the journalist Guillaume Nedelec or the racing driver Inès Taittinger, were blown away by just how enjoyable and easy ZOE is to drive, regardless of the road conditions. The event is now well established and we all feel that it is time to develop a more selective format for the rally, with higher average speeds to showcase the capabilities of the cars. "
‘Greg’ – Renault ZOE no.16 driver: "We're pleased with fifth place, because it was due to an approach we defined at the start of the rally. By the time we have fine-tuned this method, we had lost a few points that we had little chance of making up, unless one of our rivals slipped up. We were nonetheless racing against some very strong crews, who are experienced in this type of event in the FIA Championship. We are a bit disappointed that the Turini night was cut short: we thought we could make up some places on the final RTS, which was especially long and difficult, with a twisty road very well suited to the roadholding qualities of Renault ZOE. I also think that this event should give greater importance to the car's dynamic qualities, to promote the capabilities of these cars and not just the ones that are experts in regularity tests. "
Inès Taittinger – Renault ZOE no.36 driver: "This was the first time I've taken part in this type of event, but I benefited from all of the experience of ‘Biche’ and that helped me a lot. I love trying out new experiences and I was pleasantly surprised by Renault ZOE. It's a very clean a fun car to drive, a bit like a kart! The team was very united and there was a good friendly atmosphere throughout the week. I really got into it and I hope that I have the opportunity to do better in the future. Thank you to everyone from Renault in the Z.E ZOE Team for this superb adventure. "
‘Biche’ – Renault ZOE no.36 co-driver: "I was lucky to share this Monte-Carlo eRally with a lovely driver, who quickly learned how the regularity test worked. We would have finished higher up the standings had it not been for the 1,000 point penalty, which was due to a minor mistake I made in operating the timing system at the start of one of the RTSs. The experience was still a very positive one; the Renault ZOE is a fantastic car, just like the team that supported us. "
Guillaume Nedelec – Renault ZOE no.31 driver: "I'm a bit frustrated at the end of this event, because we had all the tools to finish in the top 10. Thanks to Serge Lombard, my co-driver, who has more than thirty years' experience in regularity tests. He managed to react in all of the unexpected situations that came up! We were a bit unlucky, but this eRally swept away some of the preconceptions that I had about electric cars. The Renault ZOE is more than capable of taking on long journeys, since we were able to complete more than 300km without recharging. I loved the agility and the qualities of the chassis, almost sports car like, especially on the way up the Col de Turini. "
Monte-Carlo eRally standings
… 14. Stéphane Lahausse / Lionel Billard (Renault ZOE) 192 points
… 20. Guillaume Nedelec / Serge Lombard (Renault ZOE) 361 points
… 23. Inès Taittinger / ‘Biche’ (Renault ZOE) 1036 points
Subject to confirmation of the results by the FIA