Joulié & Cheli win GT4 European Series season opener at Circuit Paul Ricard

Joulié & Cheli win GT4 European Series season opener at Circuit Paul Ricard

Matmut Évolution Toyota crew celebrate victory in first race of the season
New Aston Martin Vantage GT4 wins Pro-Am with Safronov/Vaintrub
Schumacher CLRT team makes winning championship debut in Am


Matmut Évolution Toyota drivers Enzo Joulié and Etienne Cheli got their GT4 European Series Powered by RAFA Racing Club campaign off to the best possible start with a commanding win in the opening race at Circuit Paul Ricard.

 

The reigning FFSA French GT champions successfully converted pole position into victory, with each driver controlling their stint from the front. Indeed, all three class pole-sitters enjoyed similar results: Stanislav Safronov and Aleksandr Vaintrub (Mirage Racing Aston Martin) claimed the top step in Pro-Am, while Schumacher CLRT Alpine drivers Pascal Huteau and Laurent Hurgon beat a pit penalty to claim a runaway Am class triumph.

 

Joulié made his mark on the weekend early by claiming race one pole by 0.3 seconds ahead of Josh Rattican’s Elite Motorsport McLaren. That remained the order when the lights went out as Joulié led the 49-car field through turn one. The safety car made an early appearance when Lorens Lecertua’s Alpine was damaged in a multi-car clash, but when racing resumed Toyota GR Supra GT4 Evo driver Joulié pulled out a gap of more than two seconds over Rattican before his pit stop.

 

A textbook stop from the Matmut team got Cheli back out with a slim advantage over Tom Lebbon, who took over the chasing Elite McLaren, and Cheli then extended the gap to win by almost 7 seconds at the flag.

 

Third place looked to be going to Hugo Sasse and Raphael Rennhofer’s PROsport Aston Martin, but Rennhofer suffered a front-left suspension failure that put the car out. This opened the door for Lluc Ibañez and Alexandre Papadopulos to grab the final podium spot in their NM Racing Team Mercedes-AMG. Papadopulos just held off the charging Code Racing Alpine of Nelson Panciatici and Antoine Leclerc at the flag after a great race-long battle.

 

Robert Consani and Benjamin Lariche were fifth in their Team Speedcar Audi, ahead of reigning Silver champion Gabriele Piana and new teammate Berkay Besler, who turned around a disappointing qualifying to score a solid sixth in their Borusan Otomotiv BMW M4.

 

Safronov and Vaintrub also kept things clean to score the first Pro-Am win of the year. Safronov put Mirage Racing’s new Aston Martin Vantage fourth overall in qualifying and kept pace with the leaders before handing to Vaintrub, who simply had to maintain the gap back to the W&S Motorsport Porsche 718 Cayman RS CS of Finn Zulauf and Max Kronberg to secure the result.

 

EastSide Motorsport was in the fight throughout with Denis Bulatov and Lukas Mayer in its Mercedes-AMG, but the pair lost a potential podium when Mayer picked up a time penalty for running off-track and gaining an advantage. This allowed the all-female Matmut Évolution crew of Gabriela Jilková and Cindy Gudet through, with multiple French Hillclimb champion Gudet taking home a trophy on her circuit racing debut. Reigning Pro-Am class champion Gregory Guilvert will have to wait to start his title defence after a brake issue prevented his Chazel Technologie Course BMW from taking the start.

 

Even an 11-second penalty for a short pit stop could not stop Schumacher CLRT duo Huteau and Hurgon from dominating the Am class. The Alpine pair qualified well clear of their rivals and then showed great pace to pull far enough ahead that the penalty could not deny them. The winning margin was increased when the GPA Racing Aston Martin was given its own time penalty. Kevin Jimenez was involved in a collision late in the race, but he and Florent Grizaud still held second ahead of Adrien Paviot and Nicolas Markiewicz (Team Speedcar Audi).


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