After several months of testing, the ORECA Group validated – and concluded – the development phase of its R4 kit this past weekend in the south of France. On the program, the shakedown kicked off Thursday with the entry of car 0 in the Rallye du Var, the finale of the French Rally Championship, with at the wheel Stéphane Sarrazin and Jacques-Julien Renucci. On Monday, a last session was conducted on asphalt, allowing drivers from various backgrounds to discover for themselves the R4 kit. Here’s a look back at quite a busy week…
Rallye du Var, first outing in real conditions
Since the beginning of the R4 kit’s development, the technical team responsible for the project established a program designed to test and validate the kit on all surfaces and in all conditions. This was carried out first on a dirt track at Riboux with Stéphane Sarrazin, at Fontjoncouse with Julien Maurin, on a muddier track in the Vosges mountains with Teemu Suninen, then on asphalt at altitude on a Monte-Carlo configuration with, once again, Stéphane Sarrazin, and then with Raphaël Astier. As a direct result of this extensive program, R4 project manager Matthieu Bassou and his teams have been able to fine-tune the kit and its settings. To complete the whole, nothing compares to an outing in real conditions, so the Rallye du Var was a no-brainer. The Var is a “must” rally for all drivers in the discipline! With this entry, the goal was clear: validate the kit in racing conditions, tweak the final details and demonstrate the potential of the new R4 class. Mission accomplished: from the shakedown on Thursday afternoon to the podium ceremony Sunday at noon, the R4 kit did not experience any reliability problems, steadily covering stages and kilometers thanks to Stéphane Sarrazin.
Matthieu Bassou, engineer and technical project manager, is satisfied with this first excursion: “With this entry at the Var, our objective was obviously to validate the kit in real conditions and to give it exposure. At the finish, I was quite satisfied. As throughout the entire testing phase, we encountered zero reliability concerns. Like every year at the Rallye du Var, the weather was unpredictable, so we had to make the right calls on the tires, which allowed us to validate certain set-ups. As for performance level, we are within the range we had set ourselves. The R4 kit generated genuine interest at the service park, Stéphane and Jacques-Julien got out of the car with smiles on their faces, mission accomplished!”
“We really enjoyed the whole rally,” admits Stéphane Sarrazin. “It was a positive experience after all the development work we’ve done. Validating the tests in real conditions was essential. We had zero problems, the car was reliable from start to finish. That proved to me it truly is a very good compromise between R3 and R5, and will allow young drivers to learn four-wheel drive. Lastly, I love the Var, it’s one of the greatest rally races in the championship, a lot of people showed up for the stages, so Jacques-Julien and I had a wonderful time!”
The R4 kit to conquer new audiences
The day after the Rallye du Var, the teams returned to testing in order to present the project to potential clients.
Nineteen-year-old Frenchman Nicolas Ciamin, a driver supported by ORECA Store since his debut, made the trek to check out the kit, as did young driver Quentin Ribaud, who in that testing session tried out four-wheel drive for the first time.
“It’s a really great discovery,” explains Nicolas Ciamin, Junior World Champion runner-up. “The chassis is impressive, very efficient. The car is easy to handle. In terms of power, the engine runs very easily while working very well. It’s a good opportunity to open the door to four-wheel drive, I look forward to using the kit on a dirt track.”
Another young driver, from Portugal with the ARC Sport team, was able to test out the R4 kit. At the age of 19, Pedro Almeida is also the perfect target for the R4 class. Having cut his teeth in two-wheel drive, he is looking to move into four-wheel drive. To prepare himself as best as possible, for now he has opted for a car in the Super 2000 class, so the R4 has emerged as THE solution: “The car forgives mistakes easily because the fine tuning of the chassis corrects them,” explains Pedro Almeida. “The engine has enough power to have fun, the box is very well set up, adaptation time is very short, so for a young driver like I am, it’s very reassuring.”
In the wake of that last testing day, the R4 kit has now closed the door on its development phase. In a few days, the kit will go into the FIA approval stage and can then be sent for assembly to the first teams to have confirmed their involvement in the class, and that on several continents! To be continued…