Matmut Évolution leads the way in season’s first practice at Circuit Paul Ricard

Matmut Évolution leads the way in season’s first practice at Circuit Paul Ricard

+PROVISIONAL RESULT: Free Practice, Circuit Paul Ricard

Matmut Évolution’s twin Toyota GR Supras enjoyed a flying start to the season at Circuit Paul Ricard, claiming the fastest times in two of the three classes.

Reigning FFSA French GT champions Etienne Cheli and Enzo Joulié gave the team a superb start by setting the outright fastest time of the first session, with Gabriela Jilkova and Cindy Gudet doubling the team’s joy by leading the way in Pro-Am.

The first practice outing of the year took place in brilliantly sunny conditions, and things soon started to heat up out on track too. Nelson Panciatici was quickest out of the blocks in the Code Racing Alpine, topping the overall times during the early laps before Lluc Ibañez put the #15 NM Racing Team Mercedes-AMG he shares with Alex Papadopulos out front. But then came Joulié, whose best put the Toyota 0.24s clear.

Two brief full course yellow periods would interrupt the field’s efforts to chase down Joulié, and that time would stand until the flag, keeping Matmut in the clear. 

Roberto Faria brought the GPA Racing Aston Martin he shares with Baudouin Detout third overall, ahead of the Elite Motorsport McLaren Artura of Josh Ratticon and Tom Lebbon. Benjamin Lariche and Robert Consani were fifth in their Team Speedcar Audi, with Hugo Sasse and Raphael Rennhofer rounding out the top six for the returning PROsport Aston Martin team.

A great lap from Jilková put the #66 Matmut Toyota clear in Pro-Am, and ninth fastest overall. Emil Skäras and Hans Holmlund were 0.3s and four places behind in 13th overall for Toyota Gazoo Racing Sweden, while Lukas Mayer/Denis Bulatov were third in class aboard the Eastside Motorsport Mercedes-AMG.

GPA Racing’s Kevin Jimenez and Florent Grizaud finished well clear of the Am class opposition, Jimenez’s best effort placing the car just outside the top-10 overall. Adrien Paviot and Nicolas Markiewicz were second in the class with the #300 Team Speedcar Audi, while NM Racing Team’s Andy Cantu/Dilantha Malagamuwa rounded out the top three.

Pre-Qualifying takes place at 19:15 local time.