The Zephyr by PH Sport is aimed at adventurers in search of new challenges. It has met with ever-increasing convincing success among numerous drivers during its test and development programme for the 2020 Dakar.
The Zephyr, the fruit of a design brought to maturity after PH Sport’s podium in the last Dakar, has been created with a single objective: reuse all the knowhow of the leader in France in rally vehicle preparation to build the most complete SSV T3P ever put on sale.
The Langres-based team boosted by 30-years experience at the topmost level used the Can-Am Maverick X3 as its base for its latest creation. The Zephyr represents a new breed of SSVs with its light carbon fibre bodywork that covers a tubular chassis housing its original engine that complies with FIA regulations.
The Zephyr has a formidable power-to-weight ratio and stability that push the boundaries of the benchmarks in the category and its development programme has accelerated since its unveiling in mid-July. Several drivers from different backgrounds ranging from world champions like Antoine Méo to simple amateurs who are looking for new horizons relayed one another at the wheel to fine-tune the setups and validate the solutions chosen by PH Sport.
“Since we made the project official the Zephyr has moved into another dimension,” explains Bernard Piallat, the PH Sport manager. “In recent weeks the test and development programme has unfolded at a rate that’s exceeded all our performance and reliability targets. We’re also delighted by the enthusiasm of drivers who’ve unanimously praised the Zephyr’s handling, stability and its stiff precise chassis in all kinds of conditions on all types of surfaces.
“The fact that it’s both a light and powerful vehicle gives all its drivers a great deal of pleasure on all types of terrain,” he adds. “Now we’re going to take advantage the coming weeks to fine-tune the ultimate details before the Zephyr makes its competition debut. We can’t wait to see it tackle the emblematic events in the world of rally raids and maybe take the fight to vehicles in the upper-level categories and classes.”
Zephyr’s test programme will continue in France then in Abu Dhabi before it makes its first start in the 2020 Dakar in Saudi Arabia. After this, Zephyrs will be available for rent and sale to contest all the competitions accepting the SSV T3Ps. In keeping with its tradition PH Sport will offer turnkey solutions to support their clients in their programmes.
Technical specification – Zephyr by PH Base: Canam Maverick X3 Chassis: tubular T3P homologated by the FIA Bodywork: full carbon Engine: CANAM 2020 with 25mm FIA air restrictor Dimensions: 3,55m x 2,10m x 1,75m Dampers: bespoke latest generation three way BOS with hydraulic compression and rebound stops, CAS and FCS systems and ultra-light springs Brakes: AP Racing ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers, brake force distribution included Wheels: 14” or 15’’ rims (depending on the regulations), BF Goodrich tyres Weight: 900 kilos (spare wheel included) Electronics: ECU, dashboard 12’’, data acquisition system, speed limiter and Power Box MoTeC Fuel tank: 130 litres with carbon kevlar housing Others: lithium battery, personalised carbon seats, reversing camera, removable windscreen…
PH Sport has been present in off-road rallying since 2016 and it has deepened its links with the sport with the most advanced SSV TP3 ever put on sale: the Zéphyr. This model will go on sale and will also be available for rent with the 2020 Dakar in Saudi Arabia in sight.
PH Sport is the leader in France in the preparation, operation and rental of rally cars from the regional level to the WRC. It first became involved in off-road rallying by renting out ex-works Peugeots from 2016 onwards. The team improved year after year and helped Khalid Al Qassimi to sixth place in the 2018 Dakar and Sébastien Loeb to a podium finish in the last one.
A new chapter is about to begin in this activity with the Zéphyr, an SSV T3P produced by the team based in Langres (Haute-Marne).
Based on the Can-Am Maverick X3 the Zéphyr stands out from traditional SSVs thanks to light carbon bodywork designed around a tubular chassis homologated by the FIA creating a credible, economical and suitable alternative to the vehicles in the T1 category.
While the engine with its air restrictor is the original one to respect the FIA regulations, the other elements of the vehicle have been the target of specific attention. Among these are the latest 3-way BOS dampers with hydraulic compression and rebound stops, ultra-light springs, an electric harness that enables the latest ECU to be installed as well as an electronic central dashboard and data acquisition system.
These modifications combined with carbon seats keep the weight down to 900 kilograms (with an on-board spare wheel). Two classic rims shod with BF Goodrich tyres will be available: 14 and 15 inches according to each event’s regulations.
After an intensive test programme in France and in Abu Dhabi carried out by several drivers from various representative domains and world champions in their respective fields, the first Zéphyr will go on sale and for rent for the 2020 Dakar. As is the case in all its activities, PH Sport offers a top-quality turn-key service integrating all the technical, sporting and logistical aspects of off-road rallying.
The SSVs have been accepted in the SxS category since 2017 and comply with regulations that allow the transformation of light vehicles within capped costs to give amateurs an accessible, enjoyable vehicle and at the same time allowing manufacturers to spot future talents.
“We’re very excited about this challenge and interest is already running very high as most of the twenty vehicles in the first run have been bought or rented. Our discovery of off-road rallying continues through new adventures and the timing seemed perfect to us to launch ourselves into the construction of Zéphyr, the most-advanced SSV available today. We’ve invested all our knowhow in this credible economical product, which is a great alternative to the T1. We’re tackling this new chapter in our activities with humility as we still have a great deal to learn. We would like to thank the many competitors who have already chosen to join us and put their trust in us so early in this project.”
Bernard Piallat, PH Sport manager
PH Zéphyr – Technical specifications Base: Can-Am Maverick X3 Chassis: tubular, homologated by the FIA Bodywork: full carbon Dimensions: width increased to 2.1 metres Dampers: latest three-way BOS with hydraulic compression and rebound stops, CAS and FCS system and ultra-light springs Wheels: 14 and 15-inch rims (according to each event’s regulations), BF Goodrich tyres Weight: 900 kilograms (with one spare wheel). Electronics: ECU, dashboard, data acquisition and MoTec Power Box Fuel tank: 130 litres with carbon/kevlar housing Plus: lithium battery, carbon seats
PH SPORT CONTACT Tel.: +33 325 87 27 92 Email: email@example.com Web: www.ph-sport.com Facebook: PH Sport Twitter: @ph_sport Instagram: @ph_sport
Five starts, five wins: that’s how Benoît Vaillant and Antoine Brulé kicked off their 2018 campaign. After driving the DS 3 R5 to success, the PH Sport crew climbed onto the highest step of the podium right from his first outing with the Citroën C3 R5 at the Rallye National du Ternois!
Since his first rallies as soon as he got his driving license in 2010, Benoît Vaillant has become over the years a well-known figure.
“My father was a co-driver, then driver,” he recalls. “For my part, I quickly hooked on this passion. So I started as a spectator before karting, a bit of race tracks, and finally rallying with a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V when I was 18! Initially, I knew little about the promotional formulas and preparers, but I discovered the 206. As it was going pretty well, I tried my luck in the Citroën Racing Trophy and I met PH Sport for the first time at the Rallye Terre de Langres in 2010. I eventually opted for a C2 R2-MAX near to my place, but we spent a lot of time at the same rallies before I left for other brands.”
Second in the Citroën Racing Trophy, third in the Clio R3 Trophy and fourth in the Opel Adam Cup, Benoît then made a season in the French Cup before winning the Clio R3T European Trophy in 2015. 2016 was a low-profile season, but it didn’t take him long to bounce back…
“Last year, I had a small program in R5 with Igol, my main partner,” he says. “Halfway through the season, I joined PH Sport to try the DS3 R5 at the Cœur de France. I knew the qualities of the car and I knew I would not be disappointed… Since then, I stayed with PH Sport, Bernard and Jerome!”
Now entered in the second division of the French Championship, Benoît Vaillant is unbeaten so far this year. For his debut with the C3 R5, he even stormed – once again – on top!
“I quickly adapted to the DS 3 R5, so I wanted to put together a complete season for 2018,” he says. “I knew I would have the opportunity to drive the Citroën C3 R5. It was a great surprise to have it in Ternois, an event close to my faithful local partners. Very few drivers drove with it, let alone raced with it, so I see that as a huge mark of confidence from Bernard and the whole team. As an amateur and passionate, I’m aware this is an amazing opportunity to drive one of the latest R5 cars!”
And confidence works in both directions.
“Since I’m not a professional driver, I’m not necessarily the best at finding the right settings. On the other hand, the engineers are experienced, they know us and they know how to adapt the car to our needs. It is a crucial asset and a real added value as the gaps can quickly widen in R5. This also explains why PH Sport is the reference in France in terms of preparation, advice and structure. The team and management provide us a great framework supporting and driving us to improve all the time.”
Despite a brilliant start, Benoît Vaillant keeps a cool head for the next rallies upcoming: “We’re just taking the rallies one after the other,” he says. “The most important thing is to take points everywhere while avoiding mistakes. Nevertheless, if we have a chance, we will take it as it comes! The title would also be ideal to thank my parents, Igol and my other partners for all they have brought me for several years! ”
Photos: Denis L. & Théo V. from SLP – Studio Lecroart Photographie
Triumphant in the opening round of the French Asphalt Rally Championship with Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau, PH Sport repeats in the Gravel Championship with the victory for the DS3 WRC of Thibault Durbec and Jacques-Julien Renucci on the Terre de Causses Rally, rewarding years of loyalty and shared work.
Having been around rally since he was a child, Thibault Durbec has steadily moved his way up the racing ladder between his debut in the French Championship in 2013 and his maiden win on the national scene.
“I am as passionate as ever, but I wanted to establish a stable professional situation before getting involved’’, said the 24-year old during his first start. “This has allowed me to get the right people around me and build my programme with Éric Fabre, who has been by my side since the beginning.“
“The Touquet Rally reserved a cold greeting for his debut. “France was hit by a snow storm”, he recalls. “My plane was cancelled, so I drove across country only to be welcomed by snowdrifts. Up until then, I thought that all rallies were like the ones I had been to. Antibes, Sainte-Baume and the Durance…So it was quite epic to come across black ice on the asphalt and intersections.”
Following his learning year on asphalt, Thibault Durbec moved to gravel and had a decisive meeting. “PH Sport was set up next to us on the rally. Éric Fabre drove for them and he introduced me to Bernard Piallat to talk about the Citroën Racing Trophy. Bernard perfectly embodies his company. He told us that there were not many spots, but he wanted to work with us. At the end of the year, we got a R3 DS3 for the Vaucluse Rally and we won the two-wheel drive category, which was the perfect result to celebrate the debut of this alliance!”
In 2018, the collaboration begins its fourth campaign and both parties are still on the same page. “I run car dealerships, which is a rather straightforward industry”, explains Thibault Durbec. “I like the discipline and employees who know what they are doing. And this is how they do things at PH Sport.”
Everything is done on time, no detail is overlooked and the personnel are highly-competent. There is the team leader, Bernard, but everyone has their role: Kevin, Corentin, and so many others! In all respects, that’s the best thing. My co-driver, Jacques-Julien is a stabilizing factor. This is a great environment for improving, to become more consistent, and make few errors. While I am not the most talented driver, I have gradually improved to the point of this win in my third Terre de Causses Rally.”
“We were very well prepared with a warm-up rally and a good test session with Christophe, our engineer”, continues Thibault. “I felt good behind the wheel and just had to apply myself. We were first car in the stages from the start to the finish against some serious competitors who attacked hard. Just until the final special stage, we hadn’t thought about the win, but this victory was not by accident. It was built entirely between PH Sport, Jacques-Julien, Eric and I. It was also the perfect occasion to join the list of drivers that have won with Yacco –my title sponsor- on board and a lot of exposure for my new Roure Compétition livery, which is the racing parts store that I will open in September!”
Now that Thibault Durbec is a winner in the French Gravel Rally Championship, will he be raising his objectives? “The season is very long”, cautions the Frenchman. “This win is gratifying after all the work that has already been done, but it is always harder to back it up. We will continue to work so that or future success will be even greater…If there will be others, because nothing is ever guaranteed in this sport!”