It was at the end of the 1988 season that the Alpine Europa Cup – contested with V6 Turbo powered GTAs – ran its final race at Circuit Paul Ricard. Thirty years later, the story began again at the same track, with a field of colourful A110 Cup cars, attracting the public’s curiosity and admiration.
As early as free-practice, all the drivers were unanimous in their praise of the agility and performance of the car on the circuit that will soon host the French Formula 1 Grand Prix.
RACE 1: SANCINÉNA IN CONTROL FROM START TO FINISH
After claiming the first pole position of the season Friday evening, Pierre Sancinéna (CMR) got a perfect rolling start to take the lead ahead of team mate Vincent Beltoise. Sylvain Noël (Racing Technology) held on to third place ahead of Nicolas Milan (Milan Compétition) and Laurent Hurgon (Autosport GP) who got past Eric Hélary at the outset.
The top four stayed nose-to-tail early in the race and pulled away from Hurgon and Hélary, who were in a battle of their own. Starting last after going off track in qualifying, Jean-Baptiste Méla made his way through the field up to eighth place.
In a never ending dogfight, Sylvain Noël and Nicolas Milan gradually lost ground to the leaders. Milan found his way past just before the mid-way point of the race.
After 20 minutes, Vincent Beltoise pushed hard to close the gap to Pierre Sancinéna. The final laps were blistering as Jean-Baptiste Méla continued his charge up the order. After overtaking Thomas Padovani (Milan Compétition) and Eric Hélary, he had Laurent Hurgon in his sights.
On the penultimate lap, Vincent Beltoise made a move that saw him take the lead…but it was short lived when Sancinéna retook the position. The two passed the timing line just a few seconds before the 30 minute mark and the last lap provided a final opportunity to change the order. However, these extra kilometres were fatal for Vincent Beltoise and Laurent Hurgon, who ran out of fuel with the finish line on the horizon.
Pierre Sancinéna won with a healthy gap to Nicolas Milan, who had to fight off Sylvain Noël just until the very end of the race. Jean-Baptiste Méla inherited fourth place ahead of Thomas Padovani, Marc Sevestre, Grégory Romano and Pierre Macchi.
RACE 2: BELTOISE GETS HIS REVENGE
Also on pole for race two of the weekend, Pierre Sancinéna was dislodged from the lead in the very first metres by Vincent Beltoise and Nicolas Milan. The race 1 winner still managed to hold on to third place, in front of Sylvain Noël and Jean-Baptiste Méla. But an electrical issue saw his race end after just two laps.
Méla overtook Noel to slot into third place behind Beltoise and Milan. Laurent Hurgon was fifth ahead of Manu Guigou (Automeca), Thomas Padovani and Alessandro Sebasti Scalera (Team Duty Car).
While the gaps widened in the field, some duels increased the entertainment value of the race, like Pierre Macchi (Autosport GP) and Grégory Romano (CMR) in the battle for 12th place and Padovani, who tried to take away fifth place from Hurgon.
In the final minutes of the race, Méla caught Milan and the duel for second place was on. Despite the pressure from the Junior category driver, the driver-preparer used his race craft to hold the position. Two runner-up finishes sees him take the lead of the general classification.
Sylvain Noël finished just off the podium ahead of Laurent Hurgon, Thomas Padovani, Manu Guigou and Alessandro Sebasti Scalera.
The Alpine Elf Europa Cup will be back in action in three weeks at another legendary circuit, the Nürburgring (June 22 & 23).
Pierre Sancinéna (winner race 1)
“Race one was very close with Vincent. We played a game of cat and mouse, but he caught up to me in the final laps because my rear tyres began to degrade and I was sliding in all the corners. We swapped the lead several times. It was a great battle, because it remained very clean and proper. It’s a shame he had a problem, because I would have liked to share this podium with him.”
Vincent Beltoise (winner race 2)
“I am a little disappointed to get my revenge by profiting from a technical problem for my team mate, but I really appreciate this victory! The race was rather calm, because I managed to quickly create a gap to the others. The car stayed consistent from start to finish and I had a great time behind the wheel. The season is off to a good start, I believe we showed good speed, but consistency will be the key to success this season.”
Nicolas Milan (leader Alpine Elf Europa Cup)
“Obviously I am happy to take the lead in the Alpine Elf Europa Cup, but I haven’t forgotten that I was quite far behind the leaders. I think I had a good enough car for the win. I simply have to improve in the meetings to come. We had some great door handle-to-door handle battles. It was really a lot of fun behind the wheel.”
Pole position: Pierre Sancinéna – 2:17.005
Meilleur tour: Vincent Beltoise (CMR) – 2:17.701
Pole position: Pierre Sancinéna – 2:16.538
Meilleur tour: Vincent Beltoise (CMR) – 2:18.372
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