Jean-Baptiste Mela got the upper hand in the duel for the Alpine Elf Europa Cup title. With the Junior crown already secured, the Autosport GP driver sealed the deal in Portimão against his team-mate Laurent Hurgon while Philippe Bourgois won the Gentlemen honours.
The fourth and final meeting of the 2020 season brought the Alpine Elf Europa Cup to the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve. For this first visit to Portugal, two free practice sessions were on the schedule with Jean-Baptiste Mela (Autosport GP) and Mateo Herrero (Herrero Racing) making the most of them to lead the way heading to qualifying.
RACE 1: MELA AND BOURGOIS CROWNED IN THE CHAOS
Scheduled for Friday evening, the opening qualifying session was pushed back to Saturday morning due to a technical issue with the circuit. On an increasingly faster track, Jean-Baptiste Mela edged out Edwin Traynard (Autosport GP) and Laurent Hurgon (Autosport GP) for the pole position.
Despite the excellent start from Edwin Traynard, Jean-Baptiste Mela held on to the lead while Marc Guillot (Herrero Racing) jumped from eighth place to third ahead of Pierre Sancinena (Racing Technology), Mateo Herrero and Laurent Hurgon.
Behind the leaders, the action quickly ramped up. On lap two, Mateo Herrero ran into Marc Guillot while trying to take third place as Laurent Hurgon and Pierre Sancinena looked on. Soon after, Pierre Sancinena had a scare that Lilou Wadoux (Autosport GP) used to move up to fourth place.
On lap six, Mateo Herrero ceded to the attacks from Laurent Hurgon before Lilou Wadoux also found an opening two laps later. Mateo Herrero however tried to answer back, but lost control of his Alpine A110 Cup and slammed into the barrier at the end of the start-finish straight. Due to the debris on the track, the Race Direction red flagged the race and froze the running order at the end of lap seven.
Jean-Baptiste Mela took his fifth win of the season and clinched the title to join Pierre Sancinena and Gaël Castelli in the Alpine Elf Europa Cup record books. His team-mates Edwin Traynard and Laurent Hurgon joined him on the podium while Lilou Wadoux made it an Autosport GP sweep of the top four following the 30-second penalty handed to Mateo Herrero for his responsibility in the incident with Marc Guillot and the red flag.
After setting the fastest lap in the race, Lilou Wadoux preceded Pierre Sancinena and Gosia Rdest (Racing Technology). In his first weekend in the Gentlemen category, Franck Labescat (Race Cars Consulting) took top honours ahead of Phillipe Quétaud (Racing Technology) and Philippe Bourgois (Racing Technology), whose third-place finish was enough to wrap up the Gentlemen title.
RACE 2: SANCINENA RETURNS TO VICTORY
Held just a few hours after the first qualifying session, Q2 saw Pierre Sancinena set the pace ahead of Marc Guillot and Laurent Hurgon in a session with several times invalidated for track limits.
At the start, Pierre Sancinena held onto the lead despite the overtake attempts of Marc Guillot as Laurent Hurgon, Edwin Traynard and Gosia Rdest looked on. The Pole soon found herself under siege from Jean-Baptiste Mela and Lilou Wadoux, who respectively found their way past on lap five, then lap six.
While the leader was first attacked by Marc Guillot, the latter saw Laurent Hurgon growing larger in his rear-view mirrors. The two began a duel that let Pierre Sancinena to pull away, but also let Jean-Baptiste Mela close up on then pass Edwin Traynard for fourth place.
Pierre Sancinena cruised to his first win in the category since his winning campaign in 2018. Despite an intense fight just until the chequered flag, Marc Guillot held on for second ahead of Laurent Hurgon and Jean-Baptiste Mela, who failed to finish on the podium for the first time this year.
Edwin Traynard completed the top five ahead of Gosia Rdest and Lilou Wadoux, in a fantastic battle that saw the two women swap positions several times during the race. Thanks to an excellent start, Franck Labescat finished eighth to take his second win in the Gentleman category ahead of Philippe Bourgois and Philippe Quétaud.
The third season of the Alpine Elf Europa Cup comes to a close with the overall and Junior title for Jean-Baptiste Mela. The driver from Porto-Vecchio led Laurent Hurgon and Pierre Sancinena in the general classification. Philippe Bourgois is this year’s Gentlemen champion.
The Alpine Elf Europa Cup now turns toward the 2021 season, whose calendar and first details will be announced in the next few weeks.
Jean-Baptiste Mela (2020 Alpine Elf Europa Cup winner)
"It was an exceptional season! I wasn't sure I would be racing one week before the start of the season, but Gilles was right to insist. We had a breakthrough last year and the experience I accumulated the two previous years was invaluable in winning the title. I would like to emphasise the phenomenal work done by the Autosport GP team. Not only did we achieve the double with Laurent, but Edwin and Lilou were also very good. We pulled each other up and we managed to avoid any unnecessary rivalry. I stayed calm all weekend, except for a big stress build-up at the beginning of race one. In the end, everything went well and I feel I have fulfilled my mission. Next year I would like to try GT4 or LMP3, but we have to wait and see how the winter goes before we know more!”
Pierre Sancinena (winner race 2)
"We had come close several times, so I am very happy we managed to put everything together to get this win that we have all been waiting on for some time. This victory rewards the work of the whole Racing Technology team, who I would like to thank for all that they’ve done this season. This weekend, we were right on pace on this awesome track and we managed to reach our goal which was to finish third in the general classification!”
Philippe Bourgois (Gentlemen category champion)
"I think it is fair to say we just witnessed the best season in the Alpine Elf Europa Cup history with a very strong field, intense fights and sportsmanship up and down the order! This year the drivers were very combative and this made the pleasure behind the wheel and on track even more enjoyable. I'm a bit frustrated with my last race because I totally missed my start when I wanted to finish in style, but the result is nevertheless very pleasing and I'm very happy with this title.“