Benoit Castagné (Raiwoit Racing) and Nicolas Milan (Milan Compétition) each scored a victory and a second place in the Coupes de Pâques on the Nogaro ciruit confirming their status as favourites for the 2018 Clio Cup France title! In the first round of the season Yoann Baziret making his comeback and newcomer, Anthony Jurado (Setup Racing), both tasted the delights of the podium in the Gers.
After four free practice sessions in which Milan, Baziret and Castagné shared the fastest times all the drivers were ready to tackle the first qualifying session on Sunday morning when the sun was already blazing down. Castagné clinched the first pole position of the season with almost 4/10th _of-a-second in hand over Milan, Baziret and Dorian Guldenfels (GPA Racing).
RACE 1: CASTAGNÉ DRAWS FIRST BLOOD!
The first race got off to a pretty hectic start especially in the mid field with around ten cars making contact leading to the premature retirements of Denis Bernardi (Sportech), Alexandre Gadois (Autosport GP), Marc de Fulgencio (Team VRT) and Mathieu Lannepoudenx (Milan Compétition).
Up front, it was all looking good for Castagné who had held on to the lead from Milan, Baziret, Guldenfels and Pierre Tierce (Tierce Racing). After the drivers sized up the situation in the opening laps, things began to hot up in the group chasing the leaders. Jurado took seventh place from Jérémy Curty (TB2S), while Thibaut Bossy (TB2S) broke into the top 10 by getting past David Bouet (Autosport GP).
Jurado and Curty, locked in a wheel-to-wheel battle, put on a thrilling show and sliced past Stéphane Auriacombe (Tierce Racing), who was sixth, and then Tierce.
Five minutes from the end Milan closed the two-second gap and latched on to Castagné‘s bumper setting up a thrilling finish. The drivers just behind were not giving anything away either as they fought for places in the top 6. The most spectacular overtaking moves came from Julien Baziret (Setup Racing) who shot past Auriacombe, while Curty got his own back when he repassed Jurado.
Milan launched a final attack on Castagné who held on to the finish and took the chequered flag to score the first victory of the 2018 season. Baziret underlined his return to the Clio Cup with third place on the podium. They were followed by Guldenfels, Curty, Jurado (1st Junior), Tierce, Julien Baziret, Bossy and Auriacombe (1st Gentleman).
RACE 2: MILAN TIMES IT RIGHT
The second qualifying session was an incredibly closely-fought one with 17 cars in the same second and gaps of only a thousandth-of-a-second between some of them. Nicolas Milan took his revenge and set pole in front of Pierre-Etienne Chaumat (TB2S), Benoit Castagné and Dorian Guldenfels. Jérôme Da Ros (Tierce Racing) had an off-course excursion and was forced to withdraw from the race.
Chaumat made the best start when the lights went out, but spoiled it all by going straight on in the first corner and rejoined the race in 25th place. Castagné who was hot on his heels inherited the lead followed by Milan, Thibaut Bossy, Guldenfels, Anthony Jurado, Alexandre Gadois, Corentin Tierce, Julien Neveu (Autosport GP), Yoann Baziret and Edwin Traynard (Autosport GP). Like the previous day, Jurado was going pedal to the metal and shot past Guldenfels second time round. In the meantime, Castagné pulled out a couple of car’s lengths over Milan and Bossy locked in battle.
On lap 3, Gadois attempted to pass Guldenfels. The two cars touched and Gadois snatched fifth, while Guldenfels was overtaken by Tierce and Neveu as he ploughed through the gravel trap! Shortly afterwards the GPA Racing driver came into the pits and retired.
Kevin Jimenez (GPA Racing) went off on lap 7 bringing out the safety car. This completely relaunched the race as the field bunched up and a few drivers were determined to take advantage of this heaven-sent opportunity!
Jurado was the first to do so when he passed Bossy and took third place. Two laps later Milan tucked into Castagné’s slipstream and slipped past at the end of the long straight.
Despite coming under intense pressure from Castagné until the final corner Milan kept his rival behind and took the flag in first place. Jurado, who won the Junior category, also clinched a place in the overall classification by finishing third followed home by Gadois, Bossy and Neveu. Edwyn Traynard, Tierce and Marc de Fulgencio filled the next three places in the Junior category. In the Gentlemen’s classification victory went to David Pajot (Vic’Team) from Stéphane Auriacombe and Emmanuel Raffin (Autosport GP).
The next round of the Clio Cup France will be held at the Pau Grand Prix meeting (11 - 13 May).