Matmut Toyota and PROsport Aston split the pole positions at Circuit Paul Ricard

Matmut Toyota and PROsport Aston split the pole positions at Circuit Paul Ricard

+PROVISIONAL RESULT: Qualifying One, Circuit Paul Ricard

+PROVISIONAL RESULT: Qualifying Two, Circuit Paul Ricard 

Matmut Évolution and PROsport Racing shared the pole positions for the opening two races of the season at Circuit Paul Ricard, with Enzo Joulié and Hendrik Still topping their respective qualifying sessions.

Joulié left it late to strike in the first segment after having a few promising laps scrubbed for track limits, but his best effort was enough to leave him 0.3s clear of Elite Motorsport’s Josh Rattican, who put in his own late charge to rise up the order. Stanislav Safronov claimed Pro-Am pole for Mirage Racing, while Pascal Huteau put Schumacher CLRT’s Alpine on top in Am. 

Second qualifying proved very tight at the top, with the Aston Martins in particular excelling. Still led a PROsport one-two by just edging out Raphael Rennhofer in the sister car by 0.052s with his late effort, while Max Kronberg put his W&S Motorsport Porsche at the head of the Pro-Am field. Laurent Hurgon made it two from two for Schumacher CLRT in Am.

Qualifying 1

For a while it looked like Joulié was set to miss out on top spot when he twice had laps good enough to top the provisional times discarded for straying beyond track limits, but everything came good with his final effort, a 2:11.629s lap that would stand as the fastest out of the two sessions.

A flurry of early times meant top spot constantly changed until Benjamin Lariche first put the #3 Team Speedcar Audi fastest, only to be displaced by Lluc Ibañez in NM Racing Team’s Mercedes-AMG and eventually Joulié when his third flying lap did count and moved him 0.4s clear of everybody. Rattican was best of the late improvers and, while he did demote Hugo Sasse’s PROsport Aston down to third, the McLaren driver couldn’t close enough on Joulié.

Stanislav Safronov produced a mighty lap in Mirage Racing’s new Aston Martin Vantage to score the fourth fastest time overall, and finish well clear of the Pro-Am opposition, with Ibañez’s best good enough for fifth overall, ahead of Lariche. The next-quickest Pro-Am runner was Finn Zulauf, who put the #30 W&S Motorsport Porsche 12th overall, with Denis Bulatov right behind in Eastside Motorsport’s Mercedes-AMG.

The Schumacher CLRT proved unbeatable in Am, with Pascal Huteau putting the #55 Alpine ahead early on and never being headed. Florent Grizaud closed to within two tenths of his rival, but the GPA Racing Aston had to settle for second in class. Andy Cantu made his last lap count to grab third in class in NM Racing Team’s #16 Mercedes-AMG.

Qualifying 2

If Toyota controlled opening qualifying, Aston Martin proved its potential in the second with PROsport Racing locking out the front row of the grid.

The session got off to a slow start when red flags were needed after just one lap to recover the #131 JSB Competition Porsche that had ground to a halt on its out-lap. Once running did get underway, Jean-Mathieu Leandri led the early times in Chazel Technologie Course’s Alpine before Raphael Ronnhofer hit the front. It looked like Rennhofer’s best would be enough as he pitted to save tyres, allowing the others to chase him. That proved a mistake, as Still in the sister PROsport car first closed to striking distance, and then snuck past by 0.052s on his final lap.

Roberto Faria was third for GPA Racing, ahead of Etienne Cheli in the #9 Matmut Évolution Toyota that Joulié had taken to race one pole.  Jamie Day made it four Astons in the top five with his Racing Spirit of Léman car, just ahead of Antoine Leclerc’s Code Racing Alpine.

Max Kronberg gave W&S Motorsport a reason to celebrate, finishing comfortably clear of his Pro-Am rivals in 17th overall. That put him five spot ahead of AV Racing’s Porsche in the hands of Noam Abramczyk. Aleksandr Vaintrub took over the pole-sitting Mirage Aston from Safronov and only just missed second in class, his best being 0.032s off Abramczyk’s time. Cindy Gudet made a solid GT4 qualifying debut, going fourth fastest in the Matmut Évolution Toyota.

This time the fight for Am honours was super tight, yet again going the way of Schumacher CLRT. Laurent Hurgon picked up where Huteau left off to grab pole, but Kevin Jimenez will start the GPA Aston right alongside, just 0.043s down. Nikolas Markiewicz will start third in the #300 Team Speedcar Audi.

Race one is scheduled for 16:40.