The fact that a French team won the first round of an FIA World Championship on Russian territory will go down in history. On the Moscow Raceway Hexis Racing also put its two cars on the front row of the grid in qualifying for the first time since it started racing at world championship level, and then scored its maiden double in the championship race.
Frédéric Makowiecki and Stef Dusseldorp took their second win of the season in their McLaren MP4-12C, and they have closed the gap to the leader from 39 to 17 points in the battle for the FIA GT1 Drivers’ title! Alvaro Parente and Grégoire Demoustier also confirmed their potential with their first podium finish of the season.
Free practice gave a glimpse of the closely-fought battle between the favourites and barely a second covered the first ten in the two sessions. Both McLarens quickly adapted to the 3,931-km Moscow Raceway layout and dominated qualifying.
Stef Dusseldorp was the quickest in Q2 in no. 1 and Alvaro Parente clinched pole in no. 2. Both driver line-ups had a difficult time in the qualifying race that took place on a damp track on rain tyres. Demoustier was tagged by a Ferrari on lap 1 and finished sixth while no. 1 came home fourth.
Only three hours elapsed between the finish of the qualifying race and the start of the championship event. But Hexis Racing turned the situation around. In pouring rain Parente and Makowiecki put the nos 2 and 1 McLarens in the first two places before handing over to Demoustier and Dusseldorp.
The latter took the lead 20 minutes from the end and went on to victory. Despite being harpooned again by a Ferrari Demoustier saw the flag in second place completing a double for the French team.
Philippe Dumas (team manager): “Our setback in Slovakia obviously put a certain amount of pressure on the team, and we’ve been working hand in hand with McLaren to get back in the frame. We should give them a big hand as if we’ve succeeded it’s in great part down to them.
Putting our two cars on the front row was a kind of fulfilment, even if we felt very frustrated after the qualifying race. In medium grip conditions finding the right window with the tyres wasn’t easy. We didn’t give up; we believed we could do it and we took the right setup decisions to get the best out of the Pirellis on Sunday afternoon. This data was of capital importance but in this event everybody was competitive.
The strategy, pit stops and drivers also had to be perfect. I feel that this result is a kind of revenge for Peking last year where we lost the race because of an accident just when we had victory sewn up. Already, it was in the rain at the other end of the world! These exotic trips whether they end in a win or a defeat generate unique emotions.
We’ll miss them in the future if we come back to a purely European series. It’s to experience such moments that we race! To sum up and to be perfectly frank I’d say that this double sets the record straight. I don’t want to talk about the title yet but we’re in the hunt; we’ll give our all and we’ll count the points at the end.”
The FIA GT1 World Championship will visit the Nürburgring for the second-last round on 22-23 September.