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The Weekend Roundup – Circuit Paul Ricard

8 June 2022

The Circuit Paul Ricard 1000kms often stands out as a highlight of the season and the 2022 edition did not disappoint. 

The first hour delivered non-stop action at the front, with Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini all taking turns at the head of the field. The race settled down during the middle phase and looked to be heading for a straightforward conclusion only for a late safety car to produce a grandstand finish. 

Indeed, a pass for second spot during the final minutes ensured that Ferrari captured a landmark one-two result, while the Pro-Am lead changed hands even later as SPS automotive performance grabbed the win on the very last lap with its Mercedes-AMG. These were just some of the many stories to emerge from a packed weekend in the south of France. 

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Iron Lynx scored its second series win on Saturday evening and the sixth for Ferrari. This was also the Italian marque's maiden one-two finish and the first instance of a pole-sitting Ferrari going on to take overall honours. Davide Rigon now has three Fanatec Endurance wins, while Antonio Fuoco and Daniel Serra are both first-time winners. 

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Saturday's race was the fourth Fanatec Endurance contest in succession to be won by the overall pole-sitter. This run that stretches back to last season's trip to the Nürburgring and establishes a new series record.

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Akkodis ASP finished third with its #88 Mercedes-AMG after a late overtake by Miguel Molina's #51 Iron Lynx Ferrari deprived Jules Gounon of second spot. The crew was clearly disappointed on the podium, but with Team WRT's #32 Audi failing to finish this was an important championship result. Indeed, Raffaele Marciello now has a 20.5-point lead at the top of the combined drivers' standings.

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Nevertheless, it is the #71 Iron Lynx crew of Rigon/Fuoco/Serra who lead the overall Fanatec Endurance standings with 38 points. Marciello/Gounon/Juncadella are just one point back, while the #51 Ferrari trio of Nielsen/Calado/Molina have 30 points.

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ROWE Racing gave the new BMW M4 GT3 its maiden points finish thanks to the #50 crew of Dan Harper, Neil Verhagen and Max Hesse. The BMW junior trio moved from 22nd on the grid to run among the top-five throughout the final third of the contest, while the sister #98 car also showed good performance before being delayed by a puncture. This was a timely display of pace as BMW seeks to extend its record number of TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa victories.  

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There is little question that Valentino Rossi delivered his best performance yet in a GT car at Circuit Paul Ricard. The Italian was in the thick of the action at the start, holding his own among some of the most experienced drivers on the grid, and produced an excellent pass on the #50 BMW.

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Rossi's #46 Team WRT Audi could perhaps have fought for the podium, but its race was compromised by a refuelling issue. Nico Müller was forced to make two pit stops in close succession at the start of the third hour and did well to return to the top-10. Fred Vervisch handled the final phase, which saw the Belgian battle the #50 BMW until the finish.

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Emil Frey Racing lost a likely podium due to a puncture on its #63 Lamborghini, which subsequently required a rear-lights change during the closing stages. Mirko Bortolotti's early charge from sixth to first lit up the opening hour, while Jack Aitken and Albert Costa also delivered strong drives for the Swiss squad. 

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There may have been another contender for the win, but the #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche was eliminated from the race in an unfortunate incident shortly after the hour. Klaus Bachler had led early on and was running third when he came upon a spinning lapped car. The subsequent contact ended his race immediately, curtailing what could have been a strong showing. 

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The #111 JP Motorsport McLaren was also unfortunate to miss out on a good result. After a disappointing qualifying, Christian Klien made remarkable early progress to climb from 32nd on the grid to the fringes of the top-10. Vince Abril was running as high as seventh around the middle of the race before engine issues scuppered the squad’s chances.

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Both of JP Motorsport’s cars ran a special pink and blue livery at Circuit Paul Ricard. The Polish squad took the opportunity to raise money for disadvantaged children and plans to auction off its drivers’ overalls, which also adopted a one-off design for the weekend. “Our motivation for the new livery is Children's Day on June 1st," the team explained in a statement. "We want to make privileged people, as racing drivers and other people in motorsports usually are, aware of thinking about children who do not have the same opportunities they may have had as children."

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The Silver Cup battle was fierce at Circuit Paul Ricard. The #30 Team WRT Audi led early and ran as high as fourth overall before a puncture spoiled its day. The #14 Emil Frey Lamborghini was next to hit the front, only to have its own tyre dramas before crashing into the barriers at Signes. The #87 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG led the middle phase of the race before the #99 Attempto Racing Audi had a brief spell at the front. Ultimately, the #777 Mercedes-AMG of Al Faisal Al Zubair, Axcil Jefferies and Fabian Schiller snatched the win after running among the top-three for the bulk of the contest. 

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The #30 Audi started from class pole and has a strong claim to being the fastest Silver Cup runner of the weekend. Indeed, despite losing a significant amount of time following its puncture the car recovered to finish fourth in class, just two seconds in arrears of the sister #31. 

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Al Zubair/Schiller/Jefferies lead the standings with 43 points while the #30 Team WRT trio of Neubauer/Simmenauer/Goethe have 41. The leading duo have already established a gap, with a further 17 points separating the #30 crew from the #87 Akkodis ASP squad. 

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In the Gold Cup, Inception Racing scored a hugely impressive win with its #7 McLaren. Not only was the British squad a lap clear of its closest class rival, it also finished ninth overall. Though just the second race for the new category, this sets a record that could take some time to beat.

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The #83 Iron Dames Ferrari took second in the Gold Cup, making Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting and Sarah Bovy the first all-female crew to score a Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS podium. Bovy also recorded the fastest qualifying lap by a bronze-graded competitor, posting a best time of 1m55.097s. 

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Team WRT completed the class podium with its #33 Audi of Ryuichiro Tomita, Maxime Robin and Arnold Robin. This marked an excellent return to competition for the trio, who were unable to take the start at Imola due to a technical problem.  

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The #57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG missed out on the class podium due to late problems, but this should not overshadow a standout showing from Lorenzo Ferrari. The silver-graded Italian was second fastest overall in Q2 and made instant progress up the order after taking the start. 

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It's all square at the top of the Gold Cup standings, with the Inception Racing crew now level with Imola winners Bohn/Renauer/Renauer (#911 Herberth Motorsport Porsche). A pair of Ferrari line-ups are next: the #21 AF Corse crew of Delacour/Sbirrazzuoli/Balzan have 30 points, while Bovy/Frey/Gatting have 24.

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SPS automotive performance's third straight Pro-Am win (which includes the 2021 finale) could not have come in more dramatic fashion. Garage 59 led much of the race with its #188 McLaren, but steering issues during the final stint hampered Henrique Chaves. He might have held on were it not for the late safety car, which gave Dominik Baumann the chance he needed to snatch victory on the very last lap.

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The #20 Mercedes-AMG didn't lead at all until the final hour. The #188 McLaren was dominant early on before the #52 AF Corse Ferrari assumed control during the middle phase of the race. Two penalties during the closing stages ultimately scuppered the Italian squad's effort, after which SPS made its charge to victory.  

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With two wins in 2022 – each with a different teammate – Pierburg and Baumann lead the Pro-Am standings on 58 points. The Garage 59 crew of West/Chaves/Ramos have 48, while AF Corse trio Machiels/Costantini/Bertolini have amassed 38 points. 

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The fastest lap of the weekend came from Davide Rigon, whose 1m53.423s in Q2 was a major factor in the #71 Iron Lynx Ferrari securing overall pole position for Saturday's race. Dani Juncadella took the best race lap, posting a 1m54.881s in the #88 Mercedes.

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Saturday’s pole position was Ferrari's 12th in the Fanatec Endurance Cup, extending the Italian marque's record total. At the other end of the scale, Iron Lynx earned its first pole position in the series. Davide Rigon now has four poles, while Antonio Fuoco earned a second and Daniel Serra took his first. 

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Akkodis ASP dominated Friday's Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series race. Tommaso Mosca won overall to secure five real-world Silver Cup championship points, while Raffaele Marciello took Pro class honours and moved his team to the top of the combined standings. The series continues with another 60-minute Assetto Corsa Competizione race as part of the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa programme. 

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A total of seven drivers made their Fanatec Endurance debuts at Circuit Paul Ricard. Alessio Picariello, Isaac Tutumlu Lopez and Piti Bhirombhakdi had all previously started Sprint events, while Franco Girolami, Tanart Sathienthirakul, Matthew Payne and Tyler Cooke were newcomers to the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS paddock. 

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Antonin Borga was scheduled to make his series debut, but the #107 CMR Bentley was forced to withdraw from the event after suffering terminal engine damage on Friday. The French squad will be back for the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa. 

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Mercedes-AMG has stretched its lead at the top of the global Fanatec GT World Challenge Powered by AWS standings to more than 1,000 points, while Ferrari scored well at Circuit Paul Ricard thanks to the combined efforts of Iron Lynx, Iron Dames and AF Corse. McLaren and BMW also enjoyed a successful weekend, with each securing its biggest points haul of 2022. 

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The next stop on the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS schedule will see the Sprint Cup make its annual trip to Zandvoort on 17-19 June. From there, the paddock will move to Spa-Francorchamps to contest the annual TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa test days on 21-22 June. Indeed, the 74th edition of the Belgian endurance classic represents the next event on the Fanatec Endurance calendar.

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