Making its very appearance in the GT4 European Series Southern Cup this weekend, Schubert Motorsport’s new #200 BMW M4 (Beitske Visser-Dennis Marschall) has won the opening race of the Barcelona round after a thrilling finish.
In the AM FFSA French GT championship, Maserati has claimed a maiden victory this year courtesy of GP 34 by Gemo Motorsport’s #34 GranTurismo (Philippe Marie-Olivier Gomez).
Despite intense pressure from several cars, BMW Motorsport Junior Dennis Marschall held his ground until the chequered flag to conclude what his team-mate and fellow BMW protégé Beitske Visser had brilliantly started.
Indeed, the Dutch ace surged ahead from third on the grid to overhaul the front-row starting Ginettas, the #111 Classic & Modern Racing G55 and the #8 Speed Car machine and lead into the first corner.
A contact in the pack on the opening lap led to an early Safety Car period, soon followed by a red flag as safety barriers around the track needed repairing.
Once racing resumed in earnest, Visser nailed the re-start to fend off any challenge from Energy By ART’s #4 Porsche Cayman Clubsport MR GT4 (Alain Ferté-Gregoire Demoustier) and Robert Consani’s #8 Ginetta. Pole sitter and AM points leader Stéphane Tribaudini had already slipped down the order but the #111 G55 remained the highest ranked car in its category at that time.
As soon as the mandatory driver change window opened at the 25th minute, a gaggle of competitors, including several front runners, rushed into the pits. On the other hand, Schubert Motorsport elected to keep Visser on track until the very last moment before she handed the wheel over to Marschall, who headed back out on track still in first place.
The BMW Motorsport Junior immediately had to withstand intense pressure from Spanish racer Ander Vilarino in the #2 TFT Racing Porsche he shares with Swiss driver Niki Leutwiler.
The mano a mano then turned into a three-way battle when Ekris Motorsport’s #888 BMW Ekris M4 GT4 (Max Koebolt-Ricardo van der Ende) joined the party. The three cars would stay glued together for the final 20 minutes of the hour-long contest. Marschall kept his cool all the way to beat a charging Vilarino by less than a second.
Elsewhere, the Pro-Am title fight featured a major twist in the second half of the race when the #8 championship-leading Ginetta of Robert Consani-Benjamin Lariche had to retire while running a strong fourth.
Mike Parisy and Gilles Vannelet, their main rivals in the #30 CD Sport Porsche, could not really capitalise on this misfortune, as they had to settle for ninth place. It is worth noting that the Race 1-winning BMW M4 is not eligible to score points towards this year’s GT4 European Series Southern Cup since the car had not raced in the championship prior to this weekend.
The AM class saw an unexpected turn of events as well when the #111 CMR-run Ginetta of points leader Tribaudini and team-mate Michael Petit hit trouble and slipped out of contention. This paved the way for GP 34 By Gemo Motorsport to grab the opportunity and that’s exactly what Philippe Marie and Olivier Gomez did, taking the #34 GranTurismo to a strong class win.
The GP 34 By Gemo Motorsport pairing headed two CMR crews in Fabien Michal-Georges Cabanne (#666 Ginetta), who close the points gap to Tribaudini as a result, and Sylvain Debs-Gwenaël Delomier (#999 G55).
Beitske Visser, #200 Schubert Motorsport BMW M4 GT4: “I had a perfect start from third position. After the red flag, I tried all I could to manage and save the tyre so Dennis [Marschall] would get a healthy car for the second stint. He finished the job superbly and I’d like to extend my warm thanks to everyone in the team for this nice win.”
Dennis Marschall, #200 Schubert Motorsport BMW M4 GT4: “That was quite a tough and intense stint with pressure from several cars behind! In those conditions, you have to strike the right balance between pushing 100% and not making any mistake. Our driver change was very good. I had some experience in the procedure and I’d like to point out the calmness shown by Beitske [Visser], which gave us the opportunity to re-join the track in P1. That said, we did not expect to win on our first race in the Southern Cup, so massive congratulations to the entire team.”
Philippe Marie, #34 GP 34 by Gemo Motorsport Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4: “We’re delighted with this win, which comes after we had a tricky start to the season. The GP 34 by Gemo Motorsport guys have been working their tails off and this success comes as well-deserved reward for everyone in the team.”
Olivier Gomez, #34 GP 34 by Gemo Motorsport Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4: “For my very first weekend in the GT4 European Series Southern Cup, I have been quite surprised by my performance, especially in such a competitive field. Philippe is a fast driver and I think we make up a consistent pairing. Our Maserati was perfectly set up by the GP 34 by Gemo Motorsport crew and I hope we can come back for more in Race 2.”
Jim Pla and Pierre Sancinéna (#1 Racing Technology Porsche Cayman Clubsport MR GT4) have secured their maiden GT4 European Series Southern Cup win in the second 60-minute race held at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Meanwhile, Maserati and GP 34 by Motorsport have made it two wins from two events in the French FFSA GT AM Championship, following a last-lap move from the #34 GranTurismo of Philippe Marie-Olivier Gomez.
That pass was only one of many twists in a race that took place in tricky wet-weather conditions after heavy rain swept across the Spanish Grand Prix venue ahead of the start.
On a soaked track, Julien Piguet thought he had enjoyed a tremendous start when BMW Team France’s #9 BMW Ekris M4 GT4 approached the first corner in the lead, having launched from ninth. But the two-time Nevers Magny-Cours winner, who races alongside Fred Johais this year, was soon handed a drive-through penalty for jumping the start.
The misfortune promoted Steven Palette and the #18 Porsche, which had lined up 11th on the grid. The Martinet By Alméras driver had behind him the two Racing Technology-run Porsches – Jimmy Antunes on the #11 Cayman and Jim Pla on the #1 Porsche, who soon got past his team-mate.
Having encountered technical gremlins in qualifying, CD Sport’s Morgan Moullin Traffort (#31 Cayman) and Mike Parisy (#30 Porsche) were already making steady progress through the field. And so was Lonni Martins, who had started P24 and already featured in the points-paying positions with the #5 Riviera Motorsport-entered Porsche.
After taking over from race leader Palette, Henry Hassid headed back on track still in the lead but he soon came under pressure from Pierre Sancinéna, who had replaced Jim Pla in the second-placed Porsche. The Team Racing Technology driver soon relieved the #18 Porsche from first place before pulling away and building a gap that would keep stretching until the end.
The battle for second place involved thrilling on-track battles between Hassid, Christophe Hamon (#5 Cayman), David Hallyday (#31 Porsche), and CD Sport team-mate Gilles Vannelet (#30 Cayman). Right behind, the #8 Pro-Am championship-leading Ginetta of Benjamin Lariche-Robert Consani remained in the hunt and ready to pounce should their rivals up the road hit a snag.
With grip conditions still far from being at a premium, the drivers had to walk on a razor’s edge but they did so brilliantly to put on a great show. Hamon eventually pulled clear of the hunting pack and went on to secure Riviera Motorsport’s maiden Southern Cup podium in the team’s young history.
CD Sport scored valuable championship points in both the Drivers’ and Teams’ standings, as Parisy-Vannelet came home third, just ahead of team-mates Moullin Traffort-Hallyday. For Lariche-Consani (#8 Speed Car Ginetta), it was an exercise in damage limitation with sixth place at the flag, behind the Palette-Hassid pairing.
The #9 BMW Ekris M4 GT4 recovered from its early drive-through penalty to secure seventh, ahead of CMR’s #26 pole-sitting Ginetta (Soheil Ayari-Nicolas Tardif). The #2 TFT Racing-run Porsche (Ander Vilarino-Niki Leutwiler) and #69 Saintéloc Racing Cayman of Greg Guilvert and Manu Rodrigues completed the points-paying positions.
Sunday’s Race was equally exciting in the French FFSA GT AM championship since the class winners were only known on the final lap of the 60-minute event. Having slipped behind BMW Team France’s #6 BMW Ekris M4 GT4 (Jean-Claude Lagniez-Olivier Gomez) after the mandatory driver change, the #34 Maserati GranTurismo got back ahead in a last-ditch effort that resulted in a second win for the GP 34 by Gemo Motorsport team.
Lagniez-Depauw were able to find solace in securing another podium finish, which came after the pair of top-three results they had scored at Nevers Magny-Cours last month. Paul and Jean-Philippe Lamic (#54 Vic’Team Ginetta) stepped onto the third step of the rostrum.
In light of a thrilling Race 2, which saw riveting battles and sportsmanship on track, one will be pleased to notice that cooler heads have prevailed among the ranks of the GT4 European Series Southern Cup ahead of a promising season finale.
Jim Pla, #1 Racing Technology Porsche Cayman Clubsport MR GT4: “We had often finished in the points, even come close to the podium several times this year. We really wanted to get there before the end of the season because we knew we had the potential to achieve it. We had a great start and the car had a very good setup. Furthermore, the driver change went smoothly. This win comes as a great reward for the Racing Technology team, soBig thanks to everyone!
Pierre Sancinéna, #1 Racing Technology Porsche Cayman Clubsport MR GT4: “We are not racing for the championship so there was not much to lose in attacking for the win. Our only goal was to get a strong result. In the light of Jim’s pace, I knew we had the speed to be at the front. That was not a given at the start of the weekend though, but the team found a great setup, which I am very thankful for!”
Philippe Marie, #34 GP 34 by Gemo Motorsport Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4: “We’re delighted after winning both AM races this weekend. Olivier handed me the car in perfect shape but I still had to get into the groove. I did not manage this right away and was overhauled by the BMW. I was still able to keep pace with Jean-Claude [Lagniez] and overtake him on the final lap, but that was a close fight! Many thanks to the entire GP 34 by Gemo Motorsport outfit for this great weekend.”
Olivier Gomez, #34 GP 34 by Gemo Motorsport Maserati GranTurismo MC GT4: “I initially struggled to get into a rhythm due to the rain and ever-changing grip conditions. But Philippe [Marie] was super fast and at the end of the race, we were jumping up and down on the pit wall when he made his move for the lead! This second win capped a dream weekend for my GT4 European Series Southern Cup debut and I’d like to extend my warmest thanks to everyone at GP 34 by Gemo Motorsport.”