Jean Baptiste Franceschi and co-driver Jules Escartefigue have claimed a top five finish in the opening round of the French Rally Championship, the Rallye Le Touquet Pas-de-Calais.

Competing against a field of 23 other Rally2 entries, the pair were locked in a battle throughout the event over the position, eventually securing it at the end of the final stage.

Réhane Gany and Franck Le Floch in the second Iron Lynx Ford Fiesta Rally2 also challenged for top five stage times during the event, but a mechanical issue on the afternoon of the first day and subsequent penalty for changing a part meant their pace wasn’t reflected in their overall final position of 15th.

Heavy rain on the opening morning made for incredibly tricky conditions, with mud being pulled onto the road reducing grip further and making conditions worse with each passing car.

Réhane was one of many drivers on the event to be caught out in the mud of the morning loop, suffering a spin and subsequent engine stall on SS2, but was able to carry on with only a small time loss.

The afternoon was a repeat of the opening four stages and, although the heavy rain of the morning had passed, mud and dampness remained, leading to inconsistent grip levels across the stages.

Jean Baptiste and Jules’ push for faster times began after the midday service, with the pair claiming the fourth-fastest time on SS4, and fifth on SS7 to climb five places in the overall standings to sixth. Another fourth-fastest time on the final stage of the day, run in complete darkness, meant the pair were in the top five as they returned to service at the end of the day.

Réhane and Franck started the afternoon strong, navigating tougher conditions caused by running further down the order. However a mechanical issue from SS7 led the crew to back off and focus on bringing the car back to service.

The pair made it back to service where the team was able to change the part, although the 1m20s penalty for the change meant the #14 Fiesta would also start further down the running order for the second day and again be disadvantaged by deteriorating road conditions.

More overnight rain meant the first loop of Saturday’s six stages were again a wet and muddy challenge. Starting the day in fifth, Jean Baptiste had traded times with his rival Hugo Margaillan in sixth but extended his advantage to over 10 seconds by the midday service.

Réhane and Franck in the sister Iron Lynx Fiesta spent the morning pushing to make up time after the overnight penalty and climbed to 12th in class and 15th overall. The pair maintained that position until the end.

The final afternoon loop was similarly uneventful for Jean Baptiste and Jules, who drove a measured and risk-free last three stages to secure fifth overall. Sarah Rumeau and Julie Amblard in the Iron Dames Ford Fiesta Rally2 safely finished the event 19th overall and 16th in class after running a measured approach to the event.