Starting from pole position with the No. 99 Las Moras Racing Team-entered McLaren 570S GT4, Max Braams and Duncan Huisman have won the first race held at Circuit Paul Ricard as part of the 2017 GT4 European Series Southern Cup season finale.
In the AM class, Stephane Tribaudini and Michael Petit bounced back from a challenging outing in Barcelona to secure another class victory for the No. 111 Classic & Modern Racing Ginetta G55 GT4.
Having entered the sixth and final round of the season as the Pro-Am points leaders, Robert Consani-Benjamin Lariche (No. 8 Speed Car Ginetta) have seen title rivals Mike Parisy-Gilles Vannelet (No. 30 CD Sport Porsche Cayman Clubsport MR GT4) draw level on points.
Consani-Lariche still hold a slight edge on countback.
The very first twist in Saturday’s Race 1 happened even before the start when a miscommunication left Vic’Team’s No. 64 Porsche and No. 54 Ginetta stranded at the red light on pit exit.
The mishap meant that Olivier Jouffret, who had qualified a strong second, and AM title contender Paul Lamic had to start from the back of the field.
When the lights turned green, pole sitter Max Braams held his ground in the No. 99 Las Moras McLaren, staving off the fast-starting No. 9 BMW Ekris M4 GT4 of Fred Johais, who had lined up sixth on the grid.
Still, the BMW Team France ace soon had to yield against a charging Max Koebolt in the No. 888 Ekris Motorsport-entered BMW Ekris. The Dutch outfit saw its hopes dashed early though, as Koebolt had to retire with a mechanical issue.
Having launched his Saturday efforts from fourth, Consani drove a solid stint to climb up to second by the time the mandatory pit window opened.
At that time, Speed Car’s Ginetta enjoyed a healthy lead over CD Sport’s No. 30 Porsche, which was embattled in the bottom half of the points-paying positions.
A looming technical issue on the No. 8 G55 would come and change everything over the second part of the 60-minute race.
Consani’s crew-mate Lariche held on for dear life but he could see himself fall into the clutches of Parisy, who had taken over from Vannelet on the CD Sport machine.
The two rivals were running nose-to-tail as they started the final lap of the race. The excitement stepped up a notch on the iconic Mistral Straight when an under-pressure Lariche could not avoid cutting the chicane.
While this might have given the No. 8 Ginetta some breathing space and the opportunity to cross the finish line ahead of the No. 30 Porsche, the Speed Car challenger was soon handed a two-second time penalty for gaining an advantage off track.
This ended up elevating Parisy-Vannelet to fourth, just ahead of Lariche-Consani, with the CD Sport duo erasing their two-point deficit as a result.
Out in front, the No. 99 McLaren had a trouble-free run to the checkered flag, as Duncan Huisman finished in fine style what his crew-mate Braams had started.
The Las Moras Racing Team pairing headed Julien Piguet-Fred Johais, who were back on the podium after their perfect two-win weekend at Nevers Magny-Cours.
Kudos should also be given to third-place finishers Eric Tremoulet and Olivier Jouffret, who recovered from their early misfortune with a storming drive through the field.
Stephane Tribaudini has moved very close to wrapping up the AM French FFSA GT championship with another class win for the No. 111 CMR Ginetta he shares with Michael Petit.
Having arrived at the French Grand Prix venue with a seven-point lead over team-mates Fabien Michal and Georges Cabanne, Tribaudini now enjoys a 24-point cushion with only 25 points up for grabs in Sunday’s Race 2.
Michal-Cabanne were unfortunate to see their No. 666 Ginetta hit trouble early in Saturday’s contest. They still managed to nurse the car home in sixth to salvage a slim chance of winning the title on Sunday.
Second in the AM class were Jean-Claude Lagniez and Gregoire Depauw, who have become regular podium visitors with the No. 6 BMW Team France-entered BMW Ekris.
Imsa Performance’s Michael and Jean-Luc Blanchemain completed the category’s top three aboard the No. 27 Porsche.
Also worth noting is the Ford Mustang GT4’s strong European racing debut.
Ford Performance’s Scott Maxwell grabbed an early lead in the AM category and even hoisted the No. 46 charger well within the Top 10 overall only to hit a snag with a mechanical issue.
RESULTS: Race 1