Yoann Bonato: “I want a team that functions like a family”

CHL having signed an agreement with Hyundai to run i20s in France and in WRC2, Yoann Bonato had no other choice but to look for a solution to continue to evolve with a Citroën. His presence in France and in the ERC will be with Benoit Tréluyer's Trajectus Motorsport team.

Published on 07/02/2024 à 11:09

Loïc ROCCI

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Yoann Bonato: “I want a team that functions like a family”

We'll have to get used to it, Bonato and Boulloud will be racing under the Trajectus Motorsport colors in 2024 (Photo: Pierre Simenel)

At the end of the season, you seemed confident about the continuation of your program... and yet?

Everything was actually planned for 2024. It was agreed with Citroën and our partners. We had to compete in the French championship plus the Canaries, Rome and Poland in ERC. There was also the desire to do land in France, but we had not yet decided how.

Was everything finally called into question?

Upon learning that CHL had signed something with Hyundai, we suspected that this would have repercussions with Citroën. Their response was quite clear. For them, it was unimaginable that two different brands would coexist in the same preparer. The Rally2 market being very competitive, this decision is quite coherent.

Didn't anyone warn you what was happening?

I was not kept informed and, at first, I did not believe it. I told myself that it wasn't possible that I didn't know about something this big. They did this in their corner to make it work and mid-January I realized it was true.

How did you take the news?

I was a little taken aback. We offered them something interesting on a sporting and financial level which would allow them to develop the business. I understand that Christophe Lecureux and CHL accepted. Initially, they thought they could keep both programs. They didn't want us to leave and we didn't want to stop working with them. I found myself a bit stuck. Either I left CHL, or I stopped with Citroën… which I absolutely did not want. Having known my links with the manufacturer for years, Christophe clearly understood that, when Citroën decided to interrupt its support, I had to ask myself what I wanted to do. While there is no denying that they should have told me about it, I can't blame them after everything they have done for us over the last few years. CHL has always been there, in good times and bad. I'm glad we found a solution that allows us to stay on good terms with everyone.

How did you know how to bounce back?

Already, I was informed early enough to have time to turn around. At the start, I told myself that I didn't want to be in competition with CHL compared to everything we had done. Should something else have been done? Go only to the ERC? I had a program, a budget, but no team. I knew what I didn't want. I did not want to be integrated into a structure where everything is already decided. For several years, we have had our own system for travel, communication, preparatory tests, recce... and we wanted to keep it. I'm not looking for it to function like a factory, but rather like a family. Being on the market, I have never received so many happy new year wishes! From France, but also from foreign teams.

Did you ultimately choose to do this on your own?

I contacted someone I've known for a long time. Benoit Tréluyer set up a classic car guarding company and developed a team to race on circuits. I told him about my project and asked him if he would agree to take on my program in rally. He told me that he liked it, that he was a man of challenges and he agreed that we try this adventure together. The people from Citroën met Benoit and they “ Yes ". The problem is we didn't have anything...

How are you going to organize yourself?

We will keep the same mechanics, the same engineers. They are all rehired by Benoît. Everything will be centralized in Coustellet near Avignon. Embarking on this challenge with Trajectus Motorsport gave me a boost and motivation. It's a cool story for which we received a lot of support from our partners. There was a big mobilization. We are going to compete in the French championship and the three ERC races, but we have put gravel aside. The human team looks great and the challenge is very interesting, but we are feeling our way, with the desire to do well.

And to think that you were criticized for having a plan-plan career….

(laughing) It’s clear that this plunges us into a 2e youth. Feeling all this support was also motivating and rewarding. I never would have imagined Ben and I working together, but the story is cool.

Loïc ROCCI

Journalist specializing in rallying past, present and future... and with a southern accent

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