Sebastien Loeb Racing reign in SpainSébastien Loeb Racing completed a memorable and richly deserved 1-2 finish at Circuito de Navarra in Spain this afternoon.
Loeb (FRA) himself, partnered with Alvaro Parente (PRT), took another comfortable victory to ensure a double success for the French team after their qualifying race win this morning.
With the morning rain having ceased, Loeb led on a dry track in to the first corner pursued by the sister #10 Sébastien Loeb Racing McLaren MP4-12C of Andreas Zuber (AUT). Zuber pressured his illustrious teammate for most of the first stint until a right rear puncture ensured an early pit stop for a replacement Pirelli tyre. When Loeb handed over the cockpit to his teammate Parente, the #9 McLaren enjoyed a comfortable 11-second margin. Despite a charge from Mike Parisy (FRA), Parente had a secure run to the flag, triggering wild celebrations in the Sébastien Loeb Racing pit garage.
After a faultless weekend, the Sébastien Loeb Racing squad collected 33 points from a maximum of 34 and proved to be the clear pace setters in a variety of track conditions. It was Loeb and Parente’s fourth win of the season, albeit their first in the points-rich main race. The pair has now been promoted in the Pro Cup driver’s standings to fourth place, while in the team’s points they consolidated their second position to ensure that this title goes right down to the wire at the Baku World Challenge by Aztexnika on November 22-24.
Completing the podium at Navarra was Frank Stippler (DEU) and Edward Sandström (SWE) in the #13 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra. Their race had started in dramatic fashion when the front left brake disc had to be changed on the grid immediately prior to the start, after Stippler reported a long pedal on his reconnaissance laps.
After the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT mechanics completed the quick change, Stippler drove a clean and consistent stint before handing over to Sandström, who ensured 15 points for the pair, meaning that they now head to the final round at the Baku World Challenge by Aztexnika in November just 5 points behind teammates and title rivals Stéphane Ortelli (MCO) and Laurens Vanthoor (BEL).
The #11 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT pairing of Ortelli and Vanthoor had an eventful race that resulted in only an 8th position in the Pro Cup finish. An incident on the opening lap when the #0 BMW Sports Trophy Team Brasil BMW Z4 of Allam Khodair (BRA) tipped Ortelli in to a spin which resulted in the Monegasque driver pirouetting down to 17th position. An excellent recovery drive by Ortelli saw him hand over the Audi to Vanthoor well inside the top ten, but just as the Belgian was catching Sandström for 3rd place, a brake problem ensured a lengthy pit stop and ultimately an 8th place Pro Cup class classification.
Ferocious wheel-to-wheel action took place throughout the 60-minute event with Pro Cup and Pro-Am entries fighting together throughout. Taking 4th place in Pro Cup was the #1 HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes of Alon Day (ISR) and Stef Dusseldorp (NDL), who fought back from an early spin and a Drive Through penalty for contact with Allam Khodair’s BMW Z4.
The Pro-Am class saw some typically breathtaking GT sprint racing action at Navarra. Claiming their sixth category race win of the season, Sergei Afanasiev (RUS) and Andreas Simonsen (SWE) went a long way to claiming the 2013 Pro Am driver’s title by taking maximum points once again. Perfect stints by both drivers meant they capitalised on championship rival Hari Proczyk (AUT) only finishing in 4th position, meaning that the HTP Gravity Charouz pair is now 19 points ahead with a maximum of 34 points to play for at the final round in Baku.
Afanasiev and Simonsen headed home the Nissan GT Academy Team RJN ‘graduates’ Steve Doherty (USA) and Wolfgang Reip (BEL), both of whom had possibly their most impressive individual performances of the season so far. Doherty made a sensational start and ran as high as 3rd overall before a fraught pit stop window period saw the team having to re-adjust their plans when Doherty missed the pit entry while embroiled in battle with the other Nissan GT-R Nismo of Alex Buncombe (GBR).
When the American handed over to teammate Reip, the #32 Nissan GT Academy entry got stuck behind the Lamborghini Blancpain Reiter driven by Marc Basseng (DEU). For many laps Reip looked for a way passed the Italian built supercar before he completed a bold and audacious manoeuvre in to turn one and then quickly pulled away, sealing a richly merited 2nd place in Pro-Am.
Rounding out the podium at Navarra today in Pro-Am was the Team Novadriver Audi R8 LMS ultra driven by team owner, Cesar Campanico (PRT) and the team’s new recruit, Michael Ammermüller (DEU). Capturing another 3rd place to accompany their similar qualifying effort this morning, the Portuguese team can make the short trip home this evening very satisfied with two competitive showings this weekend.
The Gentlemen Trophy class pair of Michele Rugolo (ITA) and Claudio Sdanewitsch (DEU) signed off with another impressive display in the AF Corse run Ferrari 458 Italia this afternoon. Sdanewitsch, who was racing at Navarra for the very first time, completed a solid stint. Rugolo then finished the race with some inspired laps, to not only take the victory, but also to claim the fastest lap of the race outright.
With a perfect scene now set for an epic 2013 FIA GT Series finale at the inaugural Baku World Challenge by Aztexnika over 22-24 November, title battles in both Pro Cup and Pro Am class are now primed to climax with tense and riveting conclusions.