The Center Tout Terrain of Montalieu Vercieu (F) hosted the second race of the Ultra4 Europe 2019 championship. The new French location, on the left bank of the Rhone, was enjoyed by all the drivers who found an ideal terrain for their rigs. The Englishman Rob Butler is the winner of the BF Goodrich King of France.
Photography and story by Paolo Baraldi
For me, coming from Italy through the Frejus tunnel, it is always a pleasure to drive in the direction of Montalieu Vercieu. It is a journey that relaxes me and recharges me with positive energy. Just outside the tunnel opens the awesome Maurienne valley that welcomes me to France. Another 170 km separate me from my destination ... I will taste them all in one go as far as Montalieu Vercieu!
Halfway between Bourg-En-Bresse and Grenoble, between Lyon and Chambéry, Montalieu Vercieu is located in the heart of the Rhône-Alpes region. Montalieu-Vercieu, on the left bank of the Rhone, is a French village of approximately 3,107 inhabitants located in the Isère department of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. This municipality enjoys a green and relaxing landscape consisting of the hills of the Crémieu plateau on one side and the Bugey cliffs overlooking the Rhone on the other side.
Montalieu-Vercieu is known throughout the world thanks to its stone. In fact, the city is located in the heart of a quarry basin where stone has been exploited since Roman times. Great monuments, such as the Empire State Building in New York, were built with Montalieu’s Villebois stone, as well as the traditional houses of the city and surrounding villages.
The other great natural wealth of Montalieu Vercieu is the Rhone. The river, still wild in this place, offers numerous recreational activities all included in the context of the Vallée Bleue.
The Center Tout Terrain Vallèe Bleue hosts an Ultra4 Europe race for the first time ... and it was immediately a success!
In the heart of the Vallèe Bleue is the area of about 30 hectares of the Center Tout Terrain; one of the most famous and largest in France that hosts an off-road driving school in addition to numerous national and international events.
The soil of the Center Tout Terrain is made up of a part of old abandoned stone quarries and where nature has returned to become mistress and of numerous paths in the undergrowth that create a real labyrinth.
In this context, ideal for all types of off-road vehicles, the BF Goodrich king of France Vallèe Bleue took place from 21 to 23 June. It was a very important debut! Once again Chris Bowler, with the support of Joel Marque (Center Tout Terrain), was able to fully enhance the characteristics of the terrain of Montalieu Vercieu to make a race worthy of the Ultra4 name.
The format of the race was very simple. On Friday afternoon the qualifying were held on a race course of 1.7 Km while between Saturday and Sunday there were 5 heats on a track of 8 km to repeat several times in a certain time. The driver with the most total laps in the shortest time was the winner.
Qualifying: first taste of Montalieu Vercieu’s ground
The 30 drivers (21 in the 4400, 4 in the 4500, 1 in the 4600 and 4 in the 4900) registered at the BF Goodrich King of France, on Friday 21 May in the late afternoon lined up on the starting grid for qualifying and to get acquainted with the new land of the Center Tout Terrain della Vallèe Bleue. The 1.7 km race course was an excellent summary of that of the following days of racing: fast tracks, undergrowth and technical areas including the famous “Montée infernale” traveled downhill almost like a springboard. In the Unlimited class (4400), the Englishman Jim Marsden, fresh from the Spanish success at the King of Spain Les Comes, set the fastest time 1: 12.246, winning the pole position for the second consecutive time. Second in qualifying was Rob Butler and third Axel Burmann.
The prize for the best show during qualifying goes to the Maltese Rudy Farrugia who rides many meters on two wheels and then regains control of his vehicle ... too bad for him because this performance caused the break of the rear suspensions.
Vincent Bigorne was the best in the Stock class (4600), Jeremie Bourgeois in the modified (4500) and Nicolas Truchi in the UTV (4900).
BF Goodrich King of France day 1: a movie already seen!
Saturday morning at 9 am, after the French national anthem, the first of the three heats scheduled for the day began. More precisely 3 runs for the Everyman Challenge (4500, 4600 and 4900) and 3 for the Ultra4. The race course, mixed terrain and very technical, immediately put to the test all the riders who, from the first meters of the race, gave the maximum of their possibilities and those of their vehicles to win first place in the standings. In the 4400 class, Jim Mardsen, with Helder da Rocha at his side, immediately started aggressively grinding laps on laps in record time. Behind him, trying to overcome him the best Ultra4 Europe drivers: Rob Butler, Cedric Porcher, Inaki Lanzagorte, Emanuel Costa, Pier Acerni and Bernard Schafer. Unfortunately the French Nicolas Montador suffered both for health problems and mechanical problems to the engine.
On this first day of competition, it seemed to me to be watching a film already seen and more specifically the Catalan one. Jim Marsden has literally dominated the day by winning all three manche and earning the first position in the overall ranking. Behind him Rob Butler, second, who with his single seater has conducted a very regular race and Pier Acerni that despite a puncture and engine temperature problems manages to get the third position.
4400 class day 1 overall ranking
1° Jim Marsden / Helda Da Rocha (GBR) - 15 laps in 35:30,7
2° Rob Butler (GBR) - 15 laps in 47:48,1
3° Pier Acerni / Nicola Bondi (ITA) - 14 laps in 39:20,2
4° Cedric Porcher / Noel Herve (FRA) - 14 laps in 46:59,1
5° Iñaki Eguia / Javier Otaegi (ESP) - 14 laps in 52:07,7
6° Emanuel Costa / Gerardo Sampaio (POR) - 13 laps in 40:17,9
7° Christian Fraisse / Roman Porchere (FRA) - 13 laps in 52:13,4
8° Bernd Schäfer / Alexander Schonbrunn (GER) - 13 laps in 53:12,5
9° Hendrik De Nijs / Sven Gogea (NED) - 12 laps in 36:30,8
10° Rudy Farrugia / Malcolm Pal Garcia (MAL) - 11 laps in 22:58,1
11° Peter Jackson / Giles Hurst (GBR) - 11 laps in 44:19,0
12° James Ayre Michael Brown (GBR) - 11 laps in 46:24,5
13° Mark Dean / Ryan Dunn (GBR) - 11 laps in 47:34,6
14° Aymeric Syre / J. Charles Syre (FRA) - 10 laps in 22:27,1
15° Damien Mendiondou / Remy Allors (FRA) - 9 laps in 07:39,4
16° Marco Ameiser / Michael Ameiser (ESP) - 9 laps in 07:40,2
17° Axel Bürmann / Tom Olieslager (BEL) - 6 laps in 16:25,1
18° Nicolas Montador / Kerry Hufton (FRA) - 4 laps in 55:41,8
19° Shabs Piercy / Si Sagar (GBR) - 4 laps in 19:58,1
20° Rainer Lohr / Tinus Broeker (GER) - 2 laps in 39:04,7
21° Julien Guerton / Julien Thievenaz (FRA) - 0 laps in 0:00.0
In the Everyman Challenge, Jan Petrak (POL) is first in the 4500 class with 7 laps in 34: 14.4, Vincent Bigorne (FRA) class 4600 covers only one lap in 22: 48.1 and Nicolas Truchi (FRA) is first among UTVs with 12 laps in 45: 55.3.
BF Goodrich King of France day 2: unexpected turn of events
And here we are on Sunday, the last day of the competition. All the pilots drove for two heats on the same 8 km race course on Saturday. In the 4400 class, the first round of Sunday was won by the Portuguese Emanuel Costa with only 15 seconds ahead of Jim Marsden who is second. Finally, having solved all the problems of Saturday, we see the French Nicolas Montador able to express all his qualities as a pilot. Montador is third!
In the last manche, the revived Montador, with Kerry Hufton at his side, continues to demonstrate his skill and he won the last round of the King of France. Emanuel Costa is second and Peter Jackson third.
The real twist of this race finale was played by Jim Marsden. After the second place in the morning race that interrupted his positive trend, Jim start for the last run more determined than ever to maintain the leadership of the race. Unfortunately his "Little Lady" betrayed him! The rear axle broke with the loss of the left wheel and consequent withdrawal from the race. Marsden concludes the KOF in fourth position. Also for Pier Acerni good luck was not on his side ... two punctures delayed him and he must therefore be satisfied with the fifth position.
Rob Butler is the KING of France
These twists change the overall standings. The Englishman Rob Butler is the winner of the BF Goodrich King of France. Butler fully deserves this result because he was very good at managing both his rig and the whole race. Emanuel Costa is second while German Bernd Schafer takes third place.
BF Goodrich King of France 4400 class overall ranking
1° Rob Butler (GBR) – 25 laps in 04:40:40
2° Emanuel Costa / Gerardo Sampaio (POR) – 23 laps in 04:26:30
3° Bernd Schäfer / Alexander Schonbrunn (GER) - 23 laps in 04:49:45
4° Jim Marsden / Helda Da Rocha (GBR) - 22 laps in 03:47:37
5° Pier Acerni / Nicola Bondi (ITA) – 22 laps in 04:27:50
6° Iñaki Lanzagorte / Javier Otaegi (ESP) – 21 laps in 04:11:33
7° Peter Jackson / Giles Hurst (GBR) – 21 laps in 04:38:46
8° Cedric Porcher / Noel Herve (FRA) – 20 laps in 04:05:45
9° Rudy Farrugia / Malcolm Pal Garcia (MAL) – 19 laps in 04:03:44
10° Hendrik De Nijs / Sven Gogea (NED) – 19 laps in 04:07:44
11° James Ayre / Michael Brown (GBR) – 19 laps in 04:34:21
12° Christian Fraisse / Roman Porchere (FRA) – 16 laps in 03:47:43
13° Axel Bürmann / Tom Olieslager (BEL) – 15 laps in 03:14:09
14° Nicolas Montador / Kerry Hufton (FRA) – 14 laps in 02:42:07
15° Aymeric Syre / J. Charles Syre (FRA) – 14 laps in 03:10:53
16° Mark Dean / Ryan Dunn (GBR) – 14 laps in 03:32:29
17° Damien Mendiondou / Remy Allors (FRA) – 10 laps in 02:20:46
18° Marco Ameiser / Michael Ameiser (ESP) – 9 laps in 02:07:40
19° Shabs Piercy / Si Sagar (GBR) – 9 laps in 02:44:18
20° Rainer Lohr / Tinus Broeker (GER) – 4 laps in 01:11:05
21° Julien Guerton / Julien Thievenaz (FRA) – 0 lap in 00:00:00
In the Everyman Challenge, in the 4500 class; with 12 laps in 03:19:00 the English Joe Seymore Smith wins the KOF 2019. Vincent Bigorne (FRA) is first in the 4600 class. Nicolas Truchi and Pascal Vichard (FRA) have in all senses dominated and won the King of France in the UTV class covering 20 laps in 04:42:27.