Hugo Sasse and Mike David Ortmann continued Aston Martin’s winning streak in this year’s GT4 European Series by fighting through the field to secure a second victory at Circuit Paul Ricard, and in doing so moved to second place in the Silver Cup championship.
Superb stints from both Sasse and Ortmann helped them eventually overhaul the #15 NM Racing Team Mercedes-AMG of Lluc Ibañez and Enzo Joulié, which had led the first half of the race from pole. Championship leaders Gus Bowers and Konstantin Lachenauer made it a double celebration for Aston Martin, bringing their Racing Spirit of Léman Vantage through to second, with Ibañez and Joulié claiming a second podium finish of the weekend in third.
V8 Racing’s Kenny Herremans and Dante Rappange ran out as clear winners in the Pro-Am class, while Julien Lambert and Wilfried Cazalbon claimed a dominant Am class victory in their #89 AGS Events Aston Martin Vantage.
Aston on a roll
After the #10 Racing Spirit of Léman Aston Martin Vantage celebrated a double victory during the opening round at Imola, it was the turn of the #24 PROsport Racing version to do likewise at Circuit Paul Ricard as Hugo Sasse and Mike David Ortmann survived a tense final lap to complete the double in France.
Having won from 11th on the grid on Saturday, few discounted the #24 from adding another strong result with the car lining up fourth for the second race in the South of France. Sasse made his intentions clear right from the start by diving past Gus Bowers’ #10 Vantage when the lights went out to run third.
The star of second qualifying had been Spaniard Lluc Ibañez, who had secured pole position in the #15 NM Racing Team Mercedes-AMG and used a good start to fend off Pro-Am pole-sitter Kenny Herremans in the V8 Racing Chevrolet Camaro, which had lined up second.
With no safety car interruption to the race, the Silver Cup crews were given the chance to dominate, and soon both Sasse and Bowers found a way past Herremans to make it a Silver Cup top three in the race.
Up front, Ibañez was struggling to pull clear of Sasse’s Aston Martin, and only held a slender lead by the time the pit window opened. When Sase stopped to hand over to Ortmann, Ibañez opted to stay out as long as possible, only stopping to relay Enzo Joulié right at the end of the window. When the order worked out after the stops, Joulié rejoined with a couple of seconds in hand over Ortmann, but the German was fully up to speed and quickly ate into the gap.
Ortmann caught Joulié with 15 minutes to go and lined up a great pass for the lead into Signes corner. Even though the PROsport car was now in the lead, the race wasn’t done as Konstantin Lachenauer (who had taken over from Bowers in the #10) also found a way past Joulié and latched on to the tail of the leader. That led to a breathless final five minutes as Ortmann and Lachenauer circulated as one, with rarely more than a car’s length between them. However, try as he might, Lachenauer couldn’t find a way through, with traffic playing its part in helping Ortmann to the flag just 0.2s ahead.
Joulié was third, capping a strong weekend for the NM Racing Team, which recovered superbly from a tough season opener to score two podium finishes this weekend. Also bouncing back from a tough start to the year were Team Speedcar duo Benjamin Lariche and Robert Consani, who scored fourth place in their #3 Audi R8 LMS. Dante Rappange built on great work by Herremans to make the V8 Camaro a clear winner in the Pro-Am class, with the car’s closest class rival down in 10th.
While the Pro-Am win was comfortable, the fight for the remainder of the podium places was not, with some hard battling going on down the field. Eventually Jim Pla came through to score second in the #87 Akkodis ASP Team Mercedes-AMG he shares with Jean Luc Beaubelique, the result moving the pair to the top of the class standings. Vincent Andronaco/Andreas Mayerl grabbed third to salvage something from an otherwise difficult weekend after their retirement from race one. The final place on the podium should probably have gone to the Greystone GT McLaren 570S of Tim Whale/Adam Carroll, only for Carroll to slow with a technical issue on the final lap. Ivan Jacoma and Alex Fontana were fourth for Centri Porsche Ticino, giving them second in the points.
Julien Lambert and Wilfried Cazalbon soared to the top of the Am class championship with a dominant victory. Lambert worked his way into the lead past title rival Christophe Hamon early on, but had to hand the place back for track limits at the start. Regardless, Lambert made his way past a second time and the fight was settled when Hamon was forced to retire the #69 Audi he shares with Michael Blanchemain with a technical issue. Cazalbon brought the #89 AGS Events Aston to the flag in 14th overall, a huge nine places ahead of the second-placed Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG of Mauro and Benjamin Ricci. Race one winner Stanislav Safronov and Aleksandr Vaintrub completed the podium in the #88 NM Racing Team Mercedes-AMG.
The next round of the GT4 European Series takes place at Misano in Italy across the weekend of July 1-3.