Paul Ricard: Matech Competition race report

After a hard morning warm up session, Matech Competition took the start of the Championship race from 7th and 18th positions. At 9.10am during the warm up, Natacha Gachnang crashed the Matech Ford GT1 no.6 at turn 4 of the Paul Ricard circuit....

After a hard morning warm up session, Matech Competition took the start of the Championship race from 7th and 18th positions.

At 9.10am during the warm up, Natacha Gachnang crashed the Matech Ford GT1 no.6 at turn 4 of the Paul Ricard circuit. The young Swiss driver went to the medical center for her leg to be examined, which had broken during the Abu Dhabi crash.90 minutes later, she returned to the pit box, despite being in pain, but keen to drive as strong as possible during the race.

After hitting the wall, car no.6 was damaged on both the front and the rear, and the team were not sure the car would make the start of the race. However, thanks to the mechanics' hard work, Natacha and Olivier could take the start at 2.15pm. The start was very complicated for both Matech Competition cars: car no.5 was 9th after 2 laps and Olivier Panis in car no.6, lost a few positions because of a car stopping after a crash.

Driving the Matech Ford GT1 no.5, Romain Grosjean did his best to reach the podium. In lap 5, he was up to 4th and a retired car gave him the 3rd place. The driver change was good and his team mate Thomas Mutsch returned to the track in 3rd position. Unfortunately, he had to use the tyres from the qualifying race and which were not good enough, they lost all their grip and the car developed a lot of understeer. It became very difficult for the German driver to resist the attacks of the others drivers, finishing the race in 7th position.

Once again unlucky, the driver line up of car no.6 had a very bad pit stop. During the first part of the race, Olivier overtook many competitors and after the pit stop, Natacha rejoined the circuit in 13th place. But because of the seat belt and the clutch, the story was different. Seated in the car, driver 1 helps to fit the seat belt for driver 2, but one belt could not be secured fully tight. Then, a transmission problem caused by Natacha's accident in the morning session stopped her in the pit lane. After a few tests, she managed to leave the pit lane...but just for one lap as 1st gear was not available. With a lot of lost time, the decision was taken to return to the pit and retire, to save the gearbox.

Matech Ford GT1 no.5
Thomas MUTSCH : "A very good start by Romain but with only 8 tyres for 3 races, they degraded a lot after just 3-4 laps. The car wasn't good, with a lot of under steer in the corners, and no grip at the rear, it was like driving on a wet track. It was really hard, but we took some precious points for the championship".

Romain GROSJEAN : "A good start but we knew that it was going to be hard because of the tyres at the end of the race. Its a pity because without that, we could take a lot of points for the championship. The good thing is that we lost the ballast, the bad thing is that we've lost a lot of points against Maserati".

Matech Ford GT1 no.6
Natacha GACHNANG : "It was a hard race, because Olivier had been blocked by others drivers. In the pit, the transmission had a problem and it was very hard to leave the pit, as I couldn't use 1st gear, so the best thing to do is to retire ".

Olivier PANIS : "First of all, I really would like to thank the team, I spent a good weekend here and it's really a beautiful championship, the team is good and everything is professional. Now, we need to work and improve. During these two races, we weren't very lucky. I was blocked at the start but being careful with my tyres, I went back to the others easily and overtook some of them. Being 18th, it was not a good idea to do everything to get on top. Anyway, it was a really great experience, and we will be better next time! ".

-source: matech-competition.ch

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Olivier Panis , Natacha Gachnang , Romain Grosjean , Thomas Mutsch