GPX Racing’s No. 12 Porsche 911 GT3 R led the Paul Ricard 1000km at the three-hour halfway mark after a charging set of stints from Patrick Pilet and Matt Campbell.
The Porsche factory pair, who are teamed with Mathieu Jaminet, made a string of overtakes in the opening half of the six-hour race to elevate their vehicle from eighth on the 40-car grid to the head of the field.
Pilet started from the fourth row but was up to third place by the end of the first hourlong stint, after which Campbell took over for a double stint behind the wheel.
The Australian overtook Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini man Giacomo Altoe and benefited from a penalty for the leading Attempto Racing Audi to set GPX’s Porsche in front.
The GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup season finale got underway at 11:45 a.m. local time with SMP Racing’s Toni Vilander starting from pole alongside fellow Ferrari driver Tom Blomqvist of AF Corse.
Blomqvist snatched the lead into the first corner by sweeping around Vilander, but both Ferrari drivers appeared to struggle over the duration of the opening stint and were quickly overwhelmed by the chasing pack.
Altoe split the Ferraris with a dive underneath Vilander at the final corner before dispatching Blomqvist for the lead a handful of laps later.
Kim Luis Schramm was also on a charge in the first stint and the Attempto Racing driver took both Ferraris in quick succession on the Mistral Straight and at Signes corner.
Schramm then planted his Audi ahead of Altoe’s Lamborghini into Turn 11 just before the first round of stops, during which the Emil Frey crew got their man back out ahead.
The battle between the two V10-powered cars continued into the second hour as Schramm’s co-driver Mattia Drudi made a move into Signes to return to the front.
At the same time, Campbell drafted behind the Audi which gave the GPX driver enough momentum to dispatch Altoe when the Emil Frey driver got caught up behind a Pro-Am backmarker a couple of turns later.
Attempto was then handed a drive-through penalty for Schramm jumping the start, which promoted Campbell to the lead.
Christopher Mies moved up to second in the No. 32 Team WRT Audi after recovering from a wild spin following contact during the initial squeeze into Turn 1.
A fantastic recovery drive saw Mies get back into overall contention and past Altoe who also ceded a place to Orange 1 FFF Racing Team’s Dennis Lind.
The top three held station during the second round of stops which came under safety car conditions, after Team Parker Racing’s Bentley Continental GT3 stopped with a mechanical problem on the Mistral.
After the restart, Mies’ teammate Charles Weerts lost second to Lind’s driving partner Andrea Caldarelli in the FFF Lamborghini.
However, the jostling for positions enabled Campbell to speed away to a 13-second lead heading into the fourth pit cycle which coincided with halfway.
There was drama for championship leaders Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy approaching halfway when their teammate Maximilian Buhk lost ground with his Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo’s front splitter dragging down on the left side.
Their closest title rivals at Dinamic Motorsport also hit trouble with a drive-through for exceeding track limits.
Both of these episodes worked in the favor of the leading GPX Porsche trio and fellow title contender Alessandro Pier Guidi whose No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari remains in the hunt.
The Haupt Racing Team Mercedes-AMG of Luca Stolz, Vincent Abril and Maro Engel has also had a strong run so far, and is one of the entries vying for the Endurance Cup crown.
Barwell Motorsport’s Silver Cup points-leading No. 78 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo led the opening half, while its title rival Garage 59 was forced to retire its Aston Maritn Vantage GT3 with a radiator issue caused by picking up a piece of debris.
Barwell has also been in control in Pro-Am, while CMR’s No. 108 Bentley has led throughout in Am Cup.