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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Bastard Relishing “Big Opportunity” of Audi GT3 Debut

GT4 champion Erwan Bastard aiming to learn during GT3 debut in factory-supported Audi…

Photo: Davy Delien/Sainteloc Racing

GT4 champion Erwan Bastard says he’s relishing the “big opportunity” of making his GT3 debut in a factory-supported Audi Sport Team Sainteloc entry at the Gulf 12 Hours.

The 24-year-old Frenchman is contesting this weekend’s Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli round alongside Audi factory drivers Patric Niederhauser and Christopher Haase.

Bastard and his American co-driver Roee Meyuhas were this year’s Silver Cup champions in both the GT4 European Series and FFSA French GT, becoming the first drivers to achieve that particular title double.

Bastard is now extending his season with Sainteloc by representing the French team at Yas Marina Circuit, which could potentially be a precursor to a Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS graduation next season.

“This is a big opportunity,” Bastard told Sportscar365.

“I will drive with Christopher Haase and Patric Niederhauser who are two really big drivers. There is a lot to learn from them.

“This is one of the biggest GT races of the season, with [nearly] 40 cars. I will learn lot, and it will be really helpful to prepare for next year, which is not signed yet but we are talking about it.”

Joining an Audi Sport Team entry in the Pro class is set to be a baptism of fire for Bastard, whose Sainteloc entry is going up against all-factory lineups from AF Corse, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing and Audi Sport Team Tresor among others.

“It’s an official car, so there is a bit of pressure,” he acknowledged.

“But Audi knows that I am here to learn. They don’t want to put too much pressure on me.

“Of course, there will be a bit of stress, but my pace is good so there should be no problem there. It’s an official car so we should fight at the front, but it’s also exciting.

“It’s my first endurance race. I don’t know how I will manage that, but we will see.”

Bastard tested the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II at Paul Ricard and felt that he was able to adapt to the car after some seat time, having raced the GT4 version extensively.

“The first test was right after the final of the French championship in GT4,” he explained.

“It was a big step and a big difference. It was a bit difficult to find the right pace at the beginning. The [next] two days of testing were better and the pace was good, compared to the Motorsport Games.

“I was really happy about that. It’s the same car, pretty much. Just more aero in the high-speed corners.

“In low-speed corners it feels like the same car, so it’s pretty easy to switch from one to the other. It’s about confidence and feeling that the car can do it. I feel it’s easier to drive than the GT4 because of the downforce. You don’t have to fight with the steering wheel.”

Alongside his 12-round GT4 program, Bastard undertook an engineering internship with Sainteloc’s Formula 4 team as part of a college course at the ESTACA school in Paris.

His extended time at the team’s Saint-Etienne facility means that he will be familiar with the crew members working on his Gulf 12 Hours car, even if they are different from the people he encountered during the GT4 campaign.

“I joined as a driver first,” Bastard explained. “And then, because I needed an internship for my school, I asked Sainteloc and they said, ‘sure’.

“Now I know the mechanics and engineers perfectly because I spent some weeks with them in the workshop.

“It is easier to work with them. I see how they work every day so it’s really helpful.

“Sainteloc has worked with Audi since so many years now. They know the car perfectly and they are really helpful for learning about setup and everything.”

Sainteloc Confirms Second Gulf 12H Crew

While the trio of Bastard, Niederhauser and Haase was confirmed two weeks ago, Sainteloc Junior Team still had a second crew to announce for its Gulf 12 Hours effort.

That has now been set in stone, with Audi Sport factory driver Gilles Magnus teaming up with Lucas Legeret and Simon Gachet in the No. 26 Audi.

Touring car specialist Magnus drove for Sainteloc in GTWC Europe Sprint Cup this year, while Legeret represented the same team in the Pro class of the Endurance Cup and won the 3 Hours of Hockenheim alongside Niederhauser and Christopher Mies.

Gachet, meanwhile, finished third in the Sprint Cup standings with his Tresor by Car Collection co-driver Haase.

Like the factory-supported Audis at the Gulf 12 Hours, the independent Sainteloc entry will race for outright honors in the Pro class, increasing the top category field to nine cars.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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