In a thrilling FIA GT Series opener at Nogaro this afternoon, Sébastien Loeb (FRA) and Alvaro Parente (P), claimed a superb victory to ensure that the 2013 season will be one to savour this year. Taking his Sebastien Loeb Racing McLaren MP4-12C to the chequered flag, 9-time World Rally Champion and motorsport legend, Sebastien Loeb, was roared on to victory by a huge Easter holiday crowd at the traditional Coupes De Pâques meeting at Nogaro in south-west France.
I had a really good time driving the car today
For Loeb, it was a dream start to his first full-season campaign as a circuit driver and immediately after the race he paid tribute to his team mate, saying: “Alvaro was very good today, he did a great start in the qualifying race and even if our competitors closed the door he never let them go. It is very different from what I am used to do, I am here to learn, but I had a really good time driving the car today, it was a great fight from the start to the finish.”
Second place was a fine reward for Rene Rast (DEU) and Niki Mayr-Melnhof (AUT) as they picked up points for 2nd place but also maximum points in the PRO-AM class. Rast led for the fist half of the race, despite intense pressure from Alvaro Parente’s McLaren MP4-12C. After the pit stops, Loeb reduced a three second gap to Mayr-Melnhof, and so began a riveting dogfight that continued for a further 20 minutes until Loeb broke through Mayr-Melnhof’s defences.
Rast was happy after the race and enjoyed his battle with Parente, saying: “I think we can be really happy, we had a hard fight with Alvaro, I think he was a bit faster on the straight so I had to block his way, and he could not find a way through. But we didn’t touch one time so it was a fair and very good fight.”
“It is an excellent way to start the season,” confirmed Alon Day. “We had a nice clean race and the team gave us a superb pit stop. Everything we planned came together and I am proud to represent my country here in the FIA GT Series.”
Coming 2nd in the PRO clas was the #5 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra of Enzo Ide (BEL) and Anthony Kumpen (BEL). After a good platform was set by Ide’s opening stint, Kumpen chased down Mayr-Melnhof in the latter stages but just missed out on claiming 3rd overall by 0.2 secs. Cesar Campanico (P) and Carlos Vieira (P) claimed 3rd place in PRO-AM and 5th overall in the Novadriver Audi R8 LMS ultra, continuing their excellent pace this weekend so far.
In the Gentlemen’s Trophy class, Fabien Barthez (FRA) and Gerard Tonelli (FRA) claimed a hugely popular victory for the French SOFREV ASP team. Barthez impressed with his opening stint by taking the lead early on from the #8 Rodrive entered Ford GT. Tonelli then completed the race in the Ferrari 458 Italia to please an ecstatic crowd.
“The objective for us today was to take the car to the finish line,” said French national footballing treasure, Barthez. “We knew that it could be easily damaged so we were careful, and tried to bring it back in one piece for the team. We did not think about getting a result, it just came naturally.Gerard and I really enjoyed driving the car and are looking forward to the main race tomorrow.”
Stéphane Ratel, CEO and Chairman of SRO Motorsports Group, commented on the day’s events, saying: “Today was a wonderful way to start the 2013 FIA GT Series season. A large crowd, a good grid of cars and a great result for Sébastien Loeb and his team in their home country. Tomorrow we will see an even larger crowd I am sure and some more exceptional GT racing.”
FIA GT Series