POUCHELON DRIVERS FIGHT BACK
Replacing the engine in car 29 on Friday meant an automatic penalty of starting at the back of the grid, so the whole race for Gilles Duqueine and Anthony Reid was about salvaging anything possible. Meanwhile, Thierry Stepec and Philippe Gaillard had car problems in Qualifying and had not set a time reflecting their true capability and were on the back row with the 29 Pouchelon car.
Car 29 - Gilles Duqueine took the start, well aware of the task ahead and desperately keen to try to haul the car into the points. After Gilles' sensational drive in the Spa 24h, everyone in the team believed that he might just do it too. From a start position of 34th, Gilles was in 28th after 2 laps, navigating the early laps traffic with care. Thereafter, the word 'charge' doesn't do it justice. Duqueine dispatched his competitors with a controlled aggression; Charriol and Terny in their Corvettes, Ricci, Tonelli and Bourdais in their Porsches. His rise through the field was incredible. As the pit stops began on lap 16, Duqueine was in 16th position, having made up 18 places in those 16 laps. As further opponents came in to change drivers, the team decided to leave Gilles out until the end of the pit stop window and he was indeed the last car to pit - in the 36th minute. A slow change meant that Anthony Reid was down to 18th at the end of his out lap but he consistently averaged 2 seconds better than his near competitors and picked them off with confidence. He passed Balandras and Ghislain and then had a 10s gap to the next bunch of cars, setting his fastest lap on lap 30 as he reeled them in. In the last 10 laps. Reid flew past his Pau team mate Ian Khan and his Spa 24h team mate Paul van Splunteren, as well as Palma in the Maserati, meaning a finish of 12th. At the time of writing, a protest about the Racing Logistic Vipers, both in the top 10 finishers, is still to be decided and therefore the results are still provisional.
Car 31 - Philippe Gaillard took the start and wisely clung onto the back of Gilles Duqueine as long as possible, following him in each overtaking manoeuvre. This lasted 4 laps and saw Gaillard through to 26th position but as Duqueine lit the afterburner, Gaillard could not match him. Nevertheless, Philippe pushed hard, using the immense power of the Pouchelon Viper on the long Dijon straight to pick his competitors off. He pitted at half distance on lap 20 in 20th position - a stunning performance for his first drive in the car. Thierry Stepec got into the Viper and of course faced stiffer opposition as he pushed up the field but nevertheless made progress. By lap 25, Thierry was 19th and indeed only 19s behind Anthony Reid. After a long battle with Marc Cattaneo in the Porsche, Thierry brought the 2nd Pouchelon Viper home in 20th position, very respectable after starting on the back row.
The team looks forward to tomorrow's race with a good expectation of a similarly entertaining fight back by our cars.