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Autocross - Etan Pepujol makes waves on FIA Cross Car Academy Trophy debut



  • Series newcomer Etan Pepujol claimed a rapturous home win at Saint Georges de Montaigu, but was demoted to third place by the FIA stewards
  • Emilien Allart retains points lead by rescuing second-place finish on the final lap, promoted to victory after the race
  • Pitched battles throughout the field brought drama and excitement throughout the weekend

French newcomer Etan Pepujol scored a rapturously-received home win when the 2023 FIA Cross Car Academy Trophy visited Saint Georges de Montaigu in the Pays de la Loire this weekend (July 22-23).

Right from the outset, Pepujol’s abilities were clear on the 930 metre-long hillside circuit; comfortably sitting among the pace-setters on the timesheets in this year’s series for 13-to-16-year-old drivers aiming for a career in rally, rallycross or autocross competition.

After two sessions of practice were complete, the top three times were points leader Emilien Allart and his Belgian countryman Jordan Genten with Pepujol lining up alongside them on the grid for the first heat race.

The second row of the grid was filled by Italian charger Matteo Bernini and Spain’s Diego Martinez Gonzalez. The third row saw Belgium’s Lucas Cartelle line up alongside Monegasque driver Tomas Pregliasco and Argentinean Juan Manuel Grigera. Another Belgian, Marius Debuisson, was joined by Italy’s Alexander Karim Mancusi on the final row.

At the start of the first heat, Allart got the worst start among the front three drivers, allowing Pepujol through into the lead with Genten second. Behind the leaders, there was disaster for Pregiasco and Grigera as they collided halfway round the first lap, their cars being too entangled to continue.

In his efforts to find a way around Genten, Allart suffered a puncture and dropped to the back of the field, putting him on the penultimate row of the grid for the second of three heats early on Sunday morning.

The brisk early start clearly did wonders for Allart’s concentration, who vaulted up towards the front of the field at the start of the second heat after the front three cars pinched into each other, allowing Cartelle to make a break as Pepujol and Genten became entangled. This caused damage to Pepujol’s rear wheel after vaulting over the Belgian’s car while Allart and Bernini profited from the melee that resulted.

Genten then became further entangled with Grigera while the rest of the field streamed downhill through the challenging opening turn. In an eventful race, Mancusi spun and rejoined on the first lap, then got into a territorial dispute with the slowing Pepujol on the second while both the Frenchman and Martinez Gonzalez retired with mechanical problems on the final lap.

After all of this excitement, the final heat brought Cartelle, Bernini and Allart together on the front row from Pregliasco and Grigera on the second, a fired-up Genten, Mancusi and Pepujol on the third and Martinez Gonzalez and Debuisson at the rear.

A clean start put Cartelle and Allart in front of Bernini while Pepujol muscled his way up to fifth. On the final lap, Bernini made a big lunge to try and wrest second from Allart, demoting himself and allowing Pepujol through into third to define the starting order for the final.

With Cartelle, Pepujol and Allart on the front row and Bernini alongside Genten behind, the form book suggested that the winner was to be found among this quintet. Neither Pregliasco or Debuisson made the starting grid following issues with their cars, but the reduced field still put on an enormous spectacle for the capacity French crowd.

Cartelle put the inside line to best use with Allart and Pepujol slotting in behind him, the three leaders pulling clear despite repeated thusts and parries for position. Cartelle ran himself into the wall, allowing Allart alongside, but closed the door firmly with the young Frenchman held at bay as he waited for a better opportunity to pounce.

A few corners later he shouldered Allart aside at the hairpin and began his pursuit of the now-distant Cartelle. It took until the final lap for Pepujol to get within range, who then launched another assault at the hairpin which bounced the leader wide and allowed the Frenchman through. Allart capitalised upon his countryman’s misfortune to steal second place, with Cartelle gathering himself sufficiently up to retain third.

A hugely emotional Pepujol celebrated with his family while the rest of the enormous crowd delightedly cheered his name. However, after the race a stewards’ enquiry found that Pepujol had gained an unfair advantage in breach of FIA ISC regulations Chapter V Appendix L point 2B. He was thereby demoted to third, handing the second successive victory of the season to Allart with Cartelle placed second.

“It was so, so close between us – an incredible battle, really,” Allart said after the race. “This weekend has been unbelievable, the fans are so many and so passionate at Saint Georges de Montaigu. It’s an amazing experience to race here.”

The result sees Allart extend his overall points lead but Pepujol has thrown down a gauntlet to the rest of the contenders that promises to bring plenty more excitement over the three remaining rounds of the series.

The 2023 FIA Cross Car Academy Trophy continues with its next round at the daunting rollercoaster ride of Prerov in Czechia on August 25-26.



FIA Cross Car Academy Trophy, Round 2

Saint Georges de Montaigu, France


1            Emilien Allart                              BEL                     LifeLive TN5                   5m 52.017s

2            Lusas Cartelle                             BEL                     LifeLive TN5                   +2.033s

3            Etan Pepujol                                FRA                     LifeLive TN5                  

4            Matteo Bernini                           ITA                      LifeLive TN5                   +2.282s

5            Jordan Genten                                          BEL                     LifeLive TN5                    +2.389s

6            Diego Martinez Gonzalez       ESP                     LifeLive TN5                   +2.783s

7            Juan Manuel Grigera                ARG                    LifeLive TN5                   +8.339s

8            Alexander Karim Mancusi      ITA                      LifeLive TN5                   +14.882s

DNF      Tomas Pregliasco                       MCO                  LifeLive TN5                   -7 laps

DNF      Marius Debuisson                     BEL                     LifeLive TN5                   -7 laps


Points after Round 2 of 5


1            Emilien Allart                              BEL                     67 points

2            Matteo Bernini                           ITA                      54

3            Lucas Cartelle                             BEL                     51

4            Jordan Genten                                          BEL                     45

5            Diego Martinez Gonzalez       ESP                     44

6            Marius Debuisson                     BEL                     37

7            Juan Manuel Grigera                ARG                    35

8            Tomas Pregliasco                       MCO                  32

9            Etan Pepujol                                FRA                     29

10         Alexander Karim Mancusi      ITA                      29

11         Bryan Neumeyer                        DEU                    19