Over the last week-end of September/first of October the competitors in the Carrera Cup France and GT3 Cup Benelux (35 drivers in a total) were at Barcelona, on the Circuit of Catalunya, for the penultimate meeting for this year. The Spanish F1 track was, together with Spa, the only race track used outside of France during the 2017 season.
From the qualifying sessions, Florian Latorre (Martinet by Alméras) impressed everyone once again with the pole positions for both races, making it seven times in a row this season.
Latorre set 1:51.645 in the first qualifying session and 1:51.195 in the second. He was followed by Julien Andlauer (Martinet by Alméras) (1:51.657) second in the first qualifying and Valentin Hasse-Clot (Sébastien Loeb Racing) (1:51.380 – second for the second race).
The Team of Philippe Alméras was in good form for the race at the track that is located the shortest distance of the team base (Montpellier, south of France).
At the start of the first race (and the eighth of the season), pole sitter Latorre lost his advantage because of too much wheel spin but Julien Andlauer (2nd on the grid) made a good start and set himself up in the lead followed by Joffrey de Narda (with both cutting the first chicane due to a very late braking). But there was big drama behind, as rookie Antoine Jung (Team Vendée Autosport) crashed heavily against the pit wall. The safety car had to be deployed while the track was cleaned and the heavily damaged car was removed.
The restart was given with 20 minutes remaining and the standings at that point were: 1. Andlauer, 2. De Narda, 3. Latorre 4. Güven.
The two drivers up front established a good distance between themselves and the following group (Andlauer led De Narda by 11 sec). The closing laps of the race saw a close battle for third place between Güven, Latorre and Valentin Hasse-Clot, with the three overtaking each other at almost every corner, but finishing in the same order in the end. In the B class (gentlemen drivers) Roar Lindland won, followed by Christophe Lapierre and Nicolas Misslin.
The second race was a more intense contest, especially due to the changing weather conditions. With problems in qualifying due to not respecting the track limits (and therefore the best laps deleted by race stewards), Julien Andlauer (points leader) had to start 13th and Ayhancan Güven (Attempto Racing) 30th.
With a very good start this time, Lattore maintained his lead into the first corner, with Valentin Hasse-Clot and Joffrey de Narda right behind. But big drama was unfolding behind with a four-car crash (Misslin, Perfetti, Derdaele and Maasen) that once again brought the safety car into action for a few laps in order to let marshals do their job.
A few moments later, the first drops of the rain made the race track very slippery for the restart.
After the restart, and with just 16 minutes remaining in the race, Latorre maintained his lead but soon received a drive-through penalty for a jump start. As a result, Valentin Hasse-Clot took the lead, followed by Beltoise, Lindland and Julien Andlauer (who had recovered well from his poor starting position).
As the rain intensified, title contenders Julien Andlauer (points leader) and Joffrey de Narda had a very spectacular battle for the third place. With four minutes remaining, Andlauer spun and went off the track at the exit of the very long third corner, and fortunately Christophe Lapierre managed to avoid him as Andlauer was right in the middle of the track.
With a very slippery track and the cars still on slick tyres (there is no ABS nor traction control on these cars), Valentin Hasse-Clot managed his lead ahead of Vincent Beltoise. The cars finished in that order with Turkish driver Ayhancan Güven in third (after starting 30th). Güven passed Lindland for the third place on the last lap of the race at the end of the start/finish line.
Joffrey de Narda finished fourth and points leader Julien Andlauer ended in ninth place. With two races remaining (14-15 October at Paul Ricard, Le Castellet) the title fight is still very close.
Roar Lindland won the B class in front of Christophe Lapierre and ex-Le Mans 24h racer Yannick Mallegol.
Ex-Porsche Supercup star David Saelens finished seventh overall and first in the Benelux GT3 Challenge while Dylan Derdaele was the winner in the first race.
Standings after Barcelona
|Overall standings||1||Julien Andlauer||154|
|2||Joffrey De Narda||144|
|Class B standings||1||Christophe Lapierre||166|
|Rookies Trophy||1||Valentin Hasse-Clot||114|
|Teams standings||1||Martinet by Alméras||282|
|2||Sébastien Loeb Racing||249|
Written by: Lucian Sonea
Images by: Porsche/Alexis Goure