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Swiss On A Roll At Rainy Ricard, Cool Racing One-Two, Bell & Smith A First Win

Leutwiler and Andlauer take GT3 for Porche

It would be a fine 1,2 finish by Cool Racing in conditions that went rapidly from tricky to treacherous with Matt Bell and Maurice Smith making no errors as others struggled.

Smith kept to his plan and handed it over to Bell in good order and with the opportunity to push, bad luck for Graff on the timing of a Full Course yellow put the Cool Racing Ligiers to the front and Matt Bell then closed in on team-mate Cauhaupe in the sister car and executed the pass for the lead up the inside of Signes with a faultless move.

In GT another cool-headed performance produced the win with Niki Leutwiler and Julien Andlauer sweeping away the memories of an awful start to the season here at Paul Ricard just a few weeks ago. This time the Porsche 911 GT3 R behaved itself beautifully and both drivers delivered fault-free runs. They used the advantage they held in the pit stops (coming into the weekend out of the top 5 in the points meant no pit-stop penalty tie) to take the lead and for Andlauer to pull away as the weather got worse and worse.

Race Report

A messy transition through the opening corners saw Nicolas Maulini in the #37 Cool Racing Ligier forced wide across the infield but taking the lead as a result, sensibly ceding it to Rory Penttinen’s #26 Graff Ligier before being told to do it by Race Control!

Rino Mastronardi, losing pole after scrutineering in GT3 for a rear diffuser infringement took less than a lap to get back to the lead in class from the back of the field in the #8 Iron Lynx Ferrari.

Moritz Kranz in the 21 Mühlner Duqueine looking to get by the DKR Duqueine lost grip in T3 and spun back to 6th only to immediately start a recovery, passing Maurice Smith in the #69 Cool racing JS P320 for fourth as the second-placed #37 Cool Racing car was dealt a drive-through for a Jump start

Alexander Matschull suffered a wild spin as he outbraked himself into T1 in the #55 Rinaldi Duqueine in pursuit of Maurice Smith.

Niki Leutwiler was on the move too, moving up to second from fifth in GT in the #2 Porsche.

Maulini’s penalty put him down in 6th, Glorieux up to second but losing ground to the leader.

3 minutes in and the rain started again.

Kranz went by Glorieux for second, the DKR man pitting immediately for wets, Maulini up to third

Penttinen was looking very strong, 16 seconds up on Kranz in the lead. The Weather though was getting very tricky with spins for MV2S and Team Virage and for Sultanov in the #67 Kessel Ferrari.

Turn 2 and 3 was looking particularly looking treacherous, multiple cars struggling to stay on track. Everyone stopping for wets except Rob Hodes in the #10 Nielsen Duqueine. A Full Course Yellow was called just as the pit window opened, for recovery of debris around the circuit, the leader though had gone by and would complete a lap under the 80 km/h FCY, that delay would cost them, dear!

The race went back to green with 65 minutes remaining, through into the lead went the #37 Cool Racing Ligier (Edouard Cauhaupe) with Matt Bell through into second in the #69 Cool Racing car and catching the new leader. The Graff car had pitted as soon as possible but the race went back to green with the car still in the pits, it emerged running third but 50 seconds back, the timing of the FCY an absolute disaster for the then leader.

In GT3 as the pitstops rolled through the #2 Porsche took charge, Niki Leutwiler had already taken the lead in the worst of the conditions but the car took a further advantage by dint of the pitstop time penalties that apply to the leading cars in the points standings. Andlauer emerged from the pit cycle almost 45 seconds to the good in class. The Battling Ferraris behind switched positions thanks to the pitstop penalties, David Perel gaining 19 seconds (and the position) over the #8 Iron Lynx car, Nicklas Nielsen now 5 seconds behind.

Despite the weather getting progressively worse for the remainder of the race the order was pretty static upfront, though multiple runners suffered off-track moments.

The #66 Rinaldi Duqueine found trouble, Dominik Schwager with damage and making his way back to the pits after contact.

Matt Bell though had homed in on the losing sister car and tracked his team-mate for a lap or two before finding the opportunity to slip up the inside at Signes, a great move, to take the lead

There were few dramas around the mandatory extra fuel stops though Andy Meyrick, who had run in third for quite a while, suffered a lurid 540-degree spin after hitting standing water at T3

He’s recovered a place by the end though as Dino Lunardi, who had just made it through the gloom to third place, ground to a halt out of the final turn, a noble effort to push the car across the line finally abandoned.

Cool Racing took the one-two, a first win for the #69 crew of Matt Bell and Mo Smith, with the luckless Graff pair completing the podium. In GT the chasing Ferraris duelled to the flag. The #2 Porsche took the win, over a minute clear by the flag with the #74 Kessel and #8 Iron Lynx Ferraris separated by just over a second.