Nicolas Ciamin took an Alpine A110 Rally RGT to victory on Antibes Rally on Saturday, marking the brand’s first major rallying win since 1978 when Jean-Pierre Manzagol took an A110 1800 to victory on Corsican rally Round of the Giraglia.
That was the opening round of that year’s French Rally Championship, and would be the last of Alpine’s 77 wins in the series until Ciamin made it 78 over the weekend. Nine of those past wins were also European Rally Championship-scoring victories.
WRC3 regular Ciamin didn’t just win Antibes, he dominated the asphalt event on the French Riviera and against an opposition of Rally2 cars including his usual ride, the Citroën C3 Rally2.
On the first day he won six of the eight stages and pulled out an astonishing 28.6-second lead over Citroën driver Eric Camilli. That extended by a further 9.6s on the second day, when he won two of the seven stages. For reference of where R-GT class cars like Ciamin’s would normally finish, the best Alpine was that of Cédric Robert in fifth place, and he finished 2m18.5s behind.
Did Ciamin expect his second French Tarmac Championship win to come in such a fashion, if at all?
“No, not at all,” he told DirtFish. “At the beginning I was expecting maybe a top five, or top four, but not any better. I was expecting to be maybe the fastest crew on some stages, particularly two stages, because the track was quite fast, uphill, very wide. But otherwise, no. There were too [many] stages that were very, very twisty, so I wasn’t expecting to win at all.”
The victory only gets more remarkable when you factor in Ciamin’s previous mileage in the A110, a made-for-asphalt sportscar quite unlike a Rally2 machine, was “one test day in the development of the car in late 2019, so it was two years ago” and that wasn’t even in the finished version of the vehicle.
“This rally I’d done three times already, but never been successful,” Ciamin continued. “I retired one time on a mechanical issue, one time I crashed, and the third time was OK. And this year was the fourth entry.”
Of course I’m young, but Alpine is a mythical brandNicolas Ciamin
Ciamin went on to reveal why he actually turned up in the Alpine. “Because my [WRC3] program with Citroën has stopped. I was free to do whatever I want, and as it is my kind of home rally we had some local sponsorship. It was more easy to find on the rally at home, and the Alpine [was the car chosen] because we had the support from the Alpine center in Nice.
“I like this kind of car. I’ve driven the Abarth 124 two years ago, so I like these kind of cars. And when I drove the car two years ago in the development day, it was really enjoyable. So I always wanted to a rally with this car, so I had the opportunity and I took it.”
Would he take up the opportunity again?
“Why not? At the moment I don’t know what I will do tomorrow. I’d like to do Rally du Var, so the final of the French championship. But my target is an R5 car, not an Alpine. But if I have an opportunity to do once again a rally with the Alpine, I will do it, because I enjoy [it] a lot at the wheel and we have seen it can be very fast this weekend.”
Yoann Bonato, who finished third in a Citroën C3 Rally2, said he was dropping time because he was managing his newly held championship lead rather than going for victory, yet Ciamin pointed to Bonato and Camilli’s title battle as proof of the high pedigree of the French championship and therefore the win.
“For the title the fight is really close already between Camilli, Bonato and [Quentin] Giordano,” he said. “I think the French championship is a championship that is looked at by a lot of people because it’s one of the highest levels in the national championships. You will not find Alpine cars winning rallies all the time, but I don’t know. Of course I’m young, but Alpine is a mythical brand.”
Alpine was a six-time winner in the first ever World Rally Championship season in 1973, and this was at a time where it was particularly successful on the continent. Its cars picked up 27 ERC wins from 1970 to ‘77, and its winning spree on home soil ran from 1968 to ’78.
The parent Renault group wants rival brands to sign up to the FIA’s R-GT regulations to provide more opposition to the A110, but Ciamin’s overall rally win may feed sales of its own car instead for 2022.
Alpine’s major rally wins
WRC (all 1973)
Monte-Carlo Rally, Rally Portugal, Acropolis Rally, Sanremo Rally, Rallye du Maroc, Tour de Corse
Rally Lyon-Charbonnières (1970, ‘71, ‘72)
Geneva Rally (1970, ‘71), Tour de Corse (1970, ‘72), RACE Costa Blanca (1970, ‘71), Antibes Rally (1974, ‘75)
1970: Lorraine Rally, Rally Poland, 3-City Rally
1971: Rally Portugal, Tour of Belgium
1972: Firestone Rally, Olympia Rally, Snow & Ice Criterium, Rallye Vltava
1973: Women’s Rally Paris – Saint-Raphaël
1974: Criterium of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux
1975: Round of the Giraglia, Criterium Alpin, Criterium of Touraine, Rally Hessen
1977: Rally of the Chestnut
French championship – 9 wins that were also ERC
Critérium des Cévennes (1966, ‘67, ‘68, ‘69, ‘71, ‘72, ‘75 ‘77)
Mont-Blanc Rally (1967 ‘68, ‘69, ‘72, ‘74, ‘76, ‘77), Ronde Cévenole (1967, ‘68, ‘70, ‘72, ‘73, ‘74, ‘75)
Rally du Var (1967, ‘71, ‘72, ‘74, ‘76, ‘77)
Snow & Ice Criterium (1968, ‘70, ‘72, ‘75, ‘77), Round of the Giraglia (1972, ‘73, ‘75, ‘77, ‘78)
Picardy Rally (1967, ‘71, ‘72, ‘73), Rally Lyon-Charbonnières (1968, ‘69, ‘70, ‘71)
Lorraine Rally (1968, ‘69, ‘70), Tour de Corse (1968, ‘70, ‘72)
Ronde Vercors-Vivarais (1968, ‘75), Criterium of Touraine (1968, ‘77), Northern Routes Rally (1969, ‘70), Criterium of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux (1970, ‘74), Rally Bayonne – Cote Basque (1971, ‘74), Round Limousine (1976, ‘77), Rally of the Chestnut (1976, ‘77)
1967: La Baule Rally
1969: Mistral Rally, Alps Cup
1971: Touquet Rally, Joan of Arc Rally
1972: Criterium Alpin
1974: Criterium of the Côte d’Azur
1975: Reunion Auto Tour
1977: Rallye d’Armor, Rally Jean Behra
2021: Antibes Rally