Following an exciting start to the new Lotus Cup Europe season at Hockenheim, the FIA International Series moves south to the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet on 19-20 May, sharing the track with the big rigs of the Coupe de France Camions.
Paul Ricard is gearing up for the return of the French Grand Prix next month, so an already smart venue should be in pristine condition ready for the Formula One circus. The track provides a good workout for the cars, with two long straights and a highly-technical section linking these at the end of the lap.
At Hockenheim, a boosted V6 Cup field put on a thrilling show as the Evoras of Britain’s Steve Williams and Hungary’s Bence Balogh upstaged all of the Exiges with dominant performances. Behind them, an impressive category debut with an Evora saw Britain’s Jason McInulty complete the podium in the season-opener, but reigning champion John Rasse got his title defence off to a strong start with third in the second race.
The fight at the front of the pack also involved 2016 champion Tamas Vizin, usually the quickest of the Hungarian contingent, and multiple race-winner Xavier Georges from France, who has been victorious at Paul Ricard on both visits to the track. Britain’s David McInulty also came close to a podium finish, whilst Belgian Thierry Verheist and Hungarian Tibor Valint should also be in the top ten.
On Lotus Cup Europe’s debut visit to Paul Ricard two years ago, the 2-Elevens set the pace, which should give plenty of hope to an exclusively-French category. Christophe Lisandre is the obvious choice for class wins, but Christopher Laroche or his brother Franck could pick up the spoils. The podium positions should be hotly-contested, with Benoit Roger, Philippe Loup and Nathalie Genoud-Prachex all hoping to repeat their rostrum visits from Germany.
Andrew Wright dominated an all-British Open class at Hockenheim in his Series 1 Exige. However, David Harvey and his 340R will lead the challengers at Paul Ricard that will also include Ian Fenwick and Dave Carr.
Expect to see plenty of fighting in the Production class, where Sweden’s Sven Pettersson has already set himself up as the man to beat. Frenchman Thierry Hedoin proved to be a tough opponent last time out as the two Elise Cup Rs fought for the wins, and the similar cars of Swede Cai Cederholm and Briton Mark Yates also made the podium in Germany.
With class finishing positions carrying much of the weight in the title standings, two wins for Williams in a very packed V6 Cup class puts him at the head of the table, six points clear of Pettersson. Wright is in third, just three points behind, whilst Balogh’s two second places put him in equal third place. The first of the 2-Elevens is in fifth, both Laroche brothers equal on, appropriately enough, 57 points.
Three rounds at Paul Ricard should provide plenty of opportunities for the drivers to shine as the title chase heats up in the Mediterranean sun.