Season Final at Estoril: Another win for the Pescarolo Team Autovision
Arriving at Estoril, we knew we were up for headaches and maybe heartaches… We had to finish in front of Boullion/Bellichi to win the driver’s title, and clinch both pole position and victory in order to secure the Team Title.
The fight started on the very first day of free practice. We took the advantage on the first session, then went through a long debriefing in order to refine our set up to the specifications of Estoril, knowing that Rebellion would come back harder than ever… Our team made an impressive 1’31’’ 9 but Jean-Christophe Boullion cut our time by a full second right before the end of the session.
Our engineer Claude Galopin didn’t sleep well that night but came out with a different and rather radical set up on saturday morning for the third testing session. We then decided to let Julien Jousse drive for an hour, since it’s him who will fight for the pole position. He ends the session with a fastest lap under the 31” barrier, but Rebellion fights back and post a 1’30”034 with Jani behind the wheel.
The real title fight begins the afternoon, since we need the extra point from pole position to secure the title. Fearing an early red flag, Julien is the first to go out. With fresh tires, he has only lap to perform. Result: 1’30”317 ! Boullion goes after him but can only manage a 1’30”582. Hope is on our side. But Rebellion has two cars and Jani manages one more time an incredible 1’30”10. We lose the pole –and the point- for two tiny tenth of a second…
When Henri Pescarolo’s team was resurrected earlier this year, it won the opening round of the LMS Championship at Paul Ricard. Can we manage to end the season like we started it ? It’s still possible.
Green light ! Jani takes advantage of his pole position and Bellichi manages to slip right behind him. For the next 22 laps, the gap between the 3 LMP1 won’t exceed 8”. Then, the trio becomes a duo when Jani has to come back in the pits for a very long stop. The race that followed looked more like a 6 hours long Grand Prix than an Endurance race. After the 100th lap, Jules Boullion was inflicted with a stop and go for overtaking under yellow flag, giving us a welcome breathe of fresh air. Unfortunately, a few laps later, Emmanuel Collard suffers from the same penalty. After his S&G, his come out of the pits right behind the Rebellion… From then, the gap between the two cars never exceeded 3 seconds.
Just like in Grand Prix, the Pescarolo Team Autovision managed to steal the lead with a lightning fast pit-stop. Julien Jousse went back on the track with a 12 seconds lead over Bellichi’ Rebellion, both on fresh tires. But the Rebellion was now surprisingly slow! We later learned tha Bellichi was ill. Rebellion called him in at the end of his relay and put back JC Boullion with a set of new tires on order to finish the race with a single pit stop. In order the keep the lead, we had to readjust our strategy as Boullion was doing a strong come back with his fresh tires. Christophe Tinseau was supposed to drive for the last relay in order to share the Driver’s title with his teammates but the extra time for a driver change would jeopardize this very title and the victory. So Julien Jousse remained at the wheel and came back on track riiiiight in front of Boullion after his last stop. With fresh tires again, the Pescarolo pulled out a 19 second lead with two laps to go. We did it!
This incredible victory is a sweet reward for a team that didn’t even existed in September 2010. We owe this rebirth to our faithful partners, Motul, La Sarthe and enthousiastic new sponsors like Nerim, Eolen, Renault Rent, and of course Autovision. With them, we managed to go head to head against a prestigious opponent like Rebellion-Toyota.
We did everything we could to win the Team Title, loosing it by a single point. Yet, we deserved it after 2 wins when Rebellion had none ! If only we had clinched the Pole Position at Estoril… But it was a fair and fantastic fight and our congratulations go to Rebellion.
Our drivers Emmanuel Collard and Julien Jousse can now savour their title. Christophe Tinseau deserved it too, his dedication to the team during this 2011 campaign was invaluable and his sacrifice in Estoril shall not be forgotten.
On top of these nice statistics, we can add our victory in the Michelin Green X Challenge an the reward that comes with it: automatic invitation to the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans.