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FFSA GT French Championship - Final - Circuit Paul Ricard

11th - 13th October 2019

Event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello

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The Context

It was the weekend of October 12-13 that the 2019 season of the French FFSA GT4 Championship knew its outcome on the occasion of the final played on the Circuit Paul Ricard.

More than forty GT4s were present on the grid while all titles were still in play before the last two races

Like last year, everything was played in the Var where the titles of drivers and teams in the categories Pro-Am and Am were awarded this weekend.

FFSA GT French Championship - Final - Circuit Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 005FFSA GT French Championship - Final - Circuit Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 006

Pro-Am

Eighteen points, here is the advance available to Fabien Michal / Grégory Guilvert (Audi R8 LMS GT4 #42 / Saintéloc Racing) at the top of the Pro-Am ranking on Stéphane Lémeret / Pierre-Alexandre Jean (Alpine A110 GT4 #36 / CMR) before the sprint final.

Thanks to their regularity, Edouard Cauhaupé / Arthur Rougier (Mercedes-AMG GT4 #187 / Sport CD) and Rudy Servol / Stéphane Tribaudini (Alpine A110 GT4 #111 / CMR) could still claim the crown by coming to Castellet.

Particularly intense, the fight at the top could be decisive on the side of the teams too, where CMR had fifteen lengths ahead of Saintéloc Racing while AKKA-ASP Team and Speed Car could create the surprise.

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Am

Leaders from Pau, Julien Lambert / Nicolas Gomar (Porsche Cayman GT4 CS MR #10 / AGS Events) had the opportunity to seal the affair at Spa, then at Magny-Cours.

The duo, however, saw the threat embodied by Pascal Huteau / Valentin Simonet (Ginetta G55 GT4 #22 / K-Worx) to be clarified as their opponents returned to thirty-one points thanks to a series of four wins and a third place on last five races.

If their lead remains comfortable, the two men knew that they no longer had the right to make mistakes if they did not want to miss the title for the second year in a row as their pursuers would not miss any opportunity.

The challenge was also double for Nicolas Gomar, whose structure AGS Events needed to score only six more units than K-Worx Saturday to clinch his second consecutive crown in the teams.

FFSA GT French Championship - Final - Circuit Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 009FFSA GT French Championship - Final - Circuit Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 010

Free practice 1

The first minutes were disputed as Simon Gachet (Audi R8 LMS GT4 #14 / Saintéloc Racing) and Jim Pla (Mercedes-AMG GT4 #87 / AKKA-ASP Team)swapped the first place several times before the first city took the advantage.

A quarter of an hour from the end, Jim Pla replied by improving twice, but Steven Palette (Audi R8 LMS GT4 #27 / IMSA Performance) finally had the last word with his head just before the checkered flag ahead of Jim Pla and Simon Gachet.

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Among the contenders for the title, Édouard Cauhaupé / Arthur Rougier ranked fifth, Pierre-Alexandre Jean / Stéphane Lémeret sixth, Fabien Michal / Grégory Guilvert eighth and Rudy Servol / Stéphane Tribaudini twentieth.

In the Am category, leaders Nicolas Gomar / Julien Lambert immediately took the lead before being challenged by Valentin Simonet / Pascal Huteau and their teammates Didier Dumaine / Christophe Carrière (Porsche Cayman GT4 CS MR #161 / AGS Events).

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The two men took the orders each time before closing the debates in 2'14''886 ahead of Sylvain Caroff / Erwan Bastard (Ginetta G55 GT4 #72 / Schatz-Lestienne Racing) and Didier Dumaine / Christophe Carrière.

Their rivals for the title, Pascal Huteau / Valentin Simonet, finished the session in fourth place.

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Free practice 2

Competed in cooler nocturnal conditions, the second session was soon to be faster.

Pierre-Alexandre Jean and Arthur Rougier exchanged first with Steven Palette.

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A quarter of an hour from the checkered flag, Jim Pla stepped up again to definitely set the reference time in 2'12''799 ahead of Steven Palette, Arthur Rougier and Sébastien Loeb (Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CS MR #19 / Sébastien Loeb Racing), which was fourth in its ultimate effort.

Anthony Beltoise (Audi R8 LMS GT4 #21 / Saintéloc Racing) completed the top five.

In the Am category, Christophe Hamon / Gwenael Delomier (Audi R8 LMS GT4 #5 / Full Motorsport) took the lead after only ten minutes of night action.

The duo was not taken again and improved several times until signing a lap in 2'13''881 placing them in sixth rank scratch.

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Qualifying

After two Free practice sessions in soft and sunny conditions on Friday, the competitors discovered in the late morning a slightly wet track and a sky threatening to qualifying rounds.

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Q1

The lap times were rapidly reduced by Stéphane Lémeret, Laurent Hurgon and Benoit Lison (Alpine A110 GT4 #919 / Mirage Racing).

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At mid-session, Édouard Cauhaupé took the lead before the attack of Christopher Campbell (BMW M4 GT4 #17 / L'Espace Bienvenue).

Poleman in Magny-Cours, the latter seemed out of reach, but Laurent Hurgon (BMW M4 GT4 #3 / BMW Team France) was waiting for his last effort to grab the pole position in 2'27''322.

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The ranking of the Am category was also played in the last minutes, to the advantage of Sylvain Caroff for thirty-five thousandths of a lead over Pascal Gibon (Mercedes-AMG GT4 #53 / AKKA-ASP Team).

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Q2

The track improved for the second session as Vincent Beltoise (Alpine A110 GT4 #919 / Mirage Racing) and Gaël Castelli (Alpine A110 GT4 #2 / Speed Car) were faster than Laurent Hurgon in their first lap.

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In the wake, Jim Pla hit hard in 2'20''838, a time relegating all his opponents to more than four seconds.

Julien Piguet (BMW M4 GT4 #3 / BMW Team France) was then inserted in second place, while remaining at 3''974 of the reference time.

The ranking did not evolve thereafter, especially since the session was prematurely interrupted by the crash of Erwan Bastard.

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If Gaël Castelli, Vincent Beltoise and Pierre Courroye (Alpine A110 GT4 #7 / Speed Car) completed the top five, the title contenders were trapped by the red flag.

Arthur Rougier was 12th, four places ahead of Grégory Guilvert while CMR drivers Stéphane Tribaudini and Pierre-Alexandre Jean made the wrong operation by being respectively twenty- eighth and thirty-second averall.

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In the Am category, Gilles Vannelet (BMW M4 GT4 #37 / 3Y Technology) took the lead in 2'26''409.

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Race 1

After dominating Q1, Laurent Hurgon started from pole ahead of Christopher Campbell, Benoit Lison, Édouard Cauhaupé and Alain Ferté (Alpine A110 GT4 #35 / Bodemer Auto).

Main contenders for the title, Fabien Michal and Stéphane Lémeret shared the fourth line after the penalty imposed on the Belgian for a collision at Magny-Cours.

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Given in the darkness, the departure saw Laurent Hurgon retain control over Christopher Campbell.

Behind, Édouard Cauhaupé was third in front of Benoit Lison and Stéphane Lémeret before the race was neutralized after the incident that eliminated Marc Sourd (Ginetta G55 GT4 #84 / CMR) in the first lap.

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Laurent Hurgon widened the gap thanks to a good recovery, but a first rebound in the title fight occured with the accident between Fabien Michal and Fabien Barthez (Mercedes-AMG GT4 #16 / AKKA-ASP Team).

Olivier Pernaut (Audi R8 LMS GT4 #48 / Orhès Racing) tried to pass between the two, but the contact between the Audi R8 LMS GT4 was inevitable and causes their withdrawal.

At the same time, Christopher Campbell gave in to the attacks of his pursuers and Benoit Lison pulls out of the game to take second place ahead of Stéphane Lémeret and Édouard Cauhaupé before the driver changes.

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Among the last to stop to pass the witness, Laurent Hurgon saw his partner Julien Piguet out of the pit lane in the second row behind Vincent Beltoise, who relayed Benoit Lison as soon as the window was opened.

The lead group remained nevertheless grouped since Arthur Rougier, Pierre-Alexandre Jean followed closely and overflowed Julien Piguet before exchanging their positions at twenty minutes of the arrival.

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Managing his lead, Vincent Beltoise maintained Pierre-Alexandre Jean by widening the gap while Ricardo van der Ende (BMW M4 GT4 #17 / L'Espace Bienvenue) made his way to the podium by eclipsing Julien Piguet, then Arthur Rougier.

Behind, Éric Trémoulet continued the excellent relay of his teammate Olivier Jouffret (Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CS MR #64 / Team Jouffruit by Vic'Team), back from the twentieth to the sixth place, exceeding in turn Julien Piguet.

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The last lap however offers a final rebound since Pierre-Alexandre Jean was victim of a technical problem relegating him to ninth place.

Vincent Beltoise then won against Ricardo van der Ende and Arthur Rougier.

Eric Trémoulet (Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CS MR #64 / Team Jouffruit by Vic'Team) and Thomas Drouet (Mercedes-AMG GT4 #88 / AKKA-ASP Team) completed the top five ahead of Aurélien Panis (Mercedes-AMG GT4 #16 / AKKA-ASP Team), Julien Piguet, Benjamin Lariche (Alpine A110 GT4 #8 / Speed Car) and Pierre-Alexandre Jean.

Steven Palette closed the top ten.

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In the overall standings, Fabien Michal and Grégory Guilvert maintained a sixteen-point lead over Stéphane Lémeret and Pierre-Alexandre Jean before Sunday's final.

In the teams, CMR (146 points) kept the advantage over AKKA-ASP Team (130 points) and Saintéloc Racing (129 points).

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In the Am category, Sylvain Caroff started in front of Pascal Gibon and Pascal Huteau.

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After a hectic start, Pascal Gibon emerged in front row ahead of Romain Brandela (BMW M4 GT4 #37 / 3Y Technology) and Pascal Huteau while Julien Lambert went up from eighth to fourth place.

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The rebounds at the restart allowed Romain Brandela to take the lead after a contact between Pascal Gibon and Pascal Huteau.

Julien Lambert exploited this opportunity to take second place ahead of Gwenaël Delomier while his rival fell in ninth position.

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The title got even closer to the AGS Events crew when Romain Brandela lost twenty seconds in a collision with Dmitry Gvazava (Alpine A110 GT4 #7 / Speed Car), but the changes of drivers were playing in favor of Full Motorsport since Christophe Hamon prevailed ahead of Nicolas Gomar and Didier Dumaine.

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Having a comfortable margin, Christophe Hamon managed his lead in his relay while Nicolas Gomar controlled to secure his second place. At the same time, Didier Dumaine lost to Gilles Vannelet and Paul Evrard (Alpine A110 GT4 #61 / Zentech Sport).

The classification was no longer evolving thereafter, allowing Full Motorsport to sign its first victory in the French FFSA GT Championship and Julien Lambert / Nicolas Gomar and AGS Events to win both titles in the Am category.

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Race 2

Author of the best time on Saturday morning in Q2, Jim Pla settled in pole position ahead of Julien Piguet.

In the duel for the title, the leaders Grégory Guilvert / Fabien Michal started from the fifteenth position, twenty-four positions ahead of Pierre-Alexandre Jean / Stéphane Lémeret who had to fill a deficit of sixteen points.

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While Jim Pla gradually widened the gap on his four pursuers having detached from the pack, Grégory Guilvert integrated the top ten in the sixth round while his opponent Pierre-Alexandre Jean was fifteenth at the opening of the window of changes of pilots.

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If the crew Jim Pla / Jean-Luc Beaubelique kept the lead after the pitches, their teammate Fabien Barthez realized the good operation by continuing the catch up of Aurélien Panis since he began his relay in the second row ahead of Laurent Hurgon, who had relayed Julien Piguet a loop earlier.

Behind, the Alpine A110 GT4's Benoit Lison and Rodolphe Wallgren (Alpine A110 GT4 #2 / Speed Car) remained in ambush.

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In parallel, Stéphane Lémeret relayed Pierre-Alexandre Jean coming out just in front of Fabien Michal.

The Belgian continued the offensive while Fabien Michal was delayed by contact with Christopher Campbell before finding the top ten.

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In the lead, Laurent Hurgon lifted his pace to overtake Fabien Barthez before catching Jean-Luc Beaubelique up.

The junction was made ten minutes from the finish and the driver of the BMW Team France took the lead from his first attempt.

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If he crossed the finish line ahead of Jean-Luc Beaubelique and Fabien Barthez, who held third place in the photo-finish against Benoit Lison's return, a five-second penalty, for a yellow flag overtake, was nevertheless awarded to him after the race and relegated him to second place between the two crews AKKA-ASP Team.

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Rodolphe Wallgren lost his fifth place in a spin in the penultimate lap.

His teammate Robert Consani (Alpine A110 GT4 #8 / Speed Car) was then in the top five ahead of Stéphane Lémeret, Alain Ferté and Fabien Michal, whose eighth position was finally enough to secure a second consecutive title of Champion de France FFSA GT to his team.

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If all the titles were played the day before, the category Am was more disputed than ever during this last test of the season.

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Gilles Vannelet was best placed on the grid ahead of Nicolas Gomar and Julien-Alexandre Courchet (Ginetta G55 GT4 #777 / K-Worx).

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Fifth at lights out, Christophe Hamon made a superb start to the race by taking second place between Gilles Vannelet and Nicolas Gomar before taking the lead in the eighth lap.

For his part, Julien-Alexandre Courchet was quickly forced to withdrawal after a collision.

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Leading the way, Christophe Hamon quickly widened the gap before passing the wheel to Gwenaël Delomier at the opening of the window of pilot changes.

Despite different strategies, the classification evolved shortly after the pit stops since the duo Full Motorsport still led the race while Romain Brandela was removed from the provisional podium by Julien Lambert then Bruno Miot (Alpine A110 GT4 #61 / Zentech Sport).

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Gwenaël Delomier however saw Julien Lambert return, but both men were victims of a puncture.

Bruno Miot then seized the opportunity to climb to the forefront and win the first victory of the Zentech Sport team in the last lap ahead of Pascal Huteau and Gwenaël Delomier, who maintained the third place.

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Thus ends this season of the FFSA Championship GT4 2019

See you next year

2020 calendar

FFSA GT French Championship - Final - Circuit Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 089FFSA GT French Championship - Final - Circuit Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 090

(Based on SRO Motorsports Group / FFSA GT4 Press release)

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