The pair of TFT cars produced contrasting results in the opening round of the VdeV Sports at Circuit de Catalunya, with #2 Norma M20 FC machine charging from the midfield to take victory while the sister car suffered at fire on the formation lap.
The #8 Norma M20 FC of Capillaire, Lacoste and Robert had been due to take up pole position for the 6 Hours of Barcelona but a small fire during the formation lap and wrecked their race. It enabled their team-mates of Ander Vilarin, Alain Ferte and Philippe Illiano to take the chequered flag in mixed conditions.
As the lights went out over a track that was still slightly humid those on slicks made quick progress through the field with J.R.T's Norma taking the lead over the opening 90 minutes.
However, they were quickly reeled in by the TFT trio of Vilarin, Ferte and Illiano and despite losing a chunk of time in the middle stint steered clear of danger to take victory by 1m 18s.
Thanks to a late blast through the pack the #40 Equipe Palmyr Norma of David Zollinger, Philippe Mondolot and Fabien Thuner grabbed second place ahed of the #17 Ligier JS 53 Evo 2, prepared by IDEC Sport Racing with drivers Dimitri Enjalbert and Bernard Delhez, who finished second in the Championship last year.
“There are many strong teams present this year in the Proto Endurance category, several of which are capable of winning,” Illiano said. “Our victory is partly thanks to Alain's great first stint, which took place in difficult conditions. The strategy and the timing of our driver changes paid off, plus we made the most of the Safety Car, when it appeared on track. Our success is thanks to our fabulous team and talented drivers, who all worked extremely hard this weekend.”
IDEC's second car, the #15 Ligier, confirmed the team's consistency to finish in fourth place overall and first for the Prestige category. This triumph was highlighted by Fréderic and Nicolas Da Rocha after the race, who were for the first time, accompanied by Gwenaël Delomier.
“It's a real pleasure for our team, as on paper, we don't necessarily appear to have all the cards in our favour,” Frédéric da Rocha said. “We made the most of a good strategy and the young guns in the team gave great performances during their stints, once I managed to get the car through the delicate conditions at the beginning. I'd like to thank the team for providing us with a strong and reliable car.”
DB Autosport made an impressive comeback by completing the top 5 with their #22 Norma, shared between Dannielou/Petersen/Delafosse, who claimed the small honour of producing the fastest lap of the race. Not far behind the #6 TFT car driven by Bazaud/Thirion/Caillon worked its way onto the second step of the Prestige podium, in front of the #21 Norma, fielded by DB Autosport (Bassora/Monclair/Perroy) and the #32 Norma of CD Sport, entrusted to current champions Bole Besançon and Foubert, joined this year by Maulini.
Challenge CN Sprint
After Romain Hullier notched up the season opening win on Saturday an extremely wet track awaited on Sunday morning at Barcelona, which resulted in the race beginning behind the safety car. These harsh conditions particularly affected Houllier (HMC Racing) who failed to keep his pole position throughout the first lap, leaving the door open for Jean Quelet to take the lead.
Quelet claimed victory in a comfortable fashion in SP05, winning by over 40 seconds between himself and the Formula Renault in 2nd place, which by this time had been claimed by Houllier. Following the Frenchman's Funyo was Norbert Sauvain (NS Garage CH) who claimed the final step on the podium.
In Sunday's concluding race Quelet mastered the slippery conditions once again after Houllier skidded of the track under safety car conditions at the start of the main straight. Quelet seized the moment and was aided by the track that was drying out by the minute. Eric Tessier (AGR Bleu Mercure) finished in a very satisfying second place, having just scraped past Arlan Boulain on the penultimate lap.
Oscar Arcila for RC Formula fought back after a frustrating Saturday to take the final win of the weekend in wet conditions.
Starting on the second row, he eased his way past pole-sitter Erwin Creed (Formula Motorsport) and effectively led the whole way, despite having to defend his position several times from a ferocious Alex Peroni (TS Corse), a bright new arrival in VdeV this year.
Overall, RC Formula seemed to have mastered their wet set up, as Alexey Chuklin and Grégoire Saucy finished in 3rd and 4th position. Gilles Heriau (Formula Motorsport) wasn't far behind the top 3 and Pietro Peccenini completed the final 5, meaning the Italian from TS Corse scored big this weekend, coming first in all three Gentleman driver classifications.