Text: Rick Kiewiet
The Mercedes AMG GT3 proved the car to beat in the South of France, as Akkodis ASP and Al Manar Racing made it a 1-2 finish for the Stuttgart brand. Behind winners in the #88 Raffaele Marciello, Jules Gounon and Timur Boguslavskiy, the #777 in the hands of Luca Stolz, Maro Engel and Fabio Scherer finished some 10 seconds later. The #98 ROWE Racing BMW M4 finished third at respectable distance, having led for about 2 hours in the middle of the race. Nonetheless, drivers Philipp Eng, Marco Wittman and Nick Yelloly leave the French Riviera as championship leaders.
Qualifying was already a prey for the #88 squad, with a near perfect lap of Jules Gounon, the fastest of the weekend. It was a five-way battle between the two Mercedes' of Akkodis and Al Manar, the two AF Corse Ferrari 296's and the #40 Audi R8 of Trésor. The #777 Mercedes joined the #88 on front row, while the Trésor Audi of Ricardo Feller, Matteo Drudi and Dennis Marschall managed to split the AF Corse Ferrari's of Rovera, Shwartzmann and Nielsen (#51) and Serra, Rigon and Fuoco (#71).
Jules Gounon had an excellent start in the #88 and behind the second Mercedes Dennis Marschall managed to get passed the #51 to take third. Both Ferrari's dropped back a bit at the start and found themselves at p6 and p8 after lap 1. This also saw the only Safety Car period of the race to recover the Barwell Lamborghini from the barriers leading up to the Mistral straight.
Over the course of the first half of the race, the #88 gradually dropped down the order a bit, as low as fifth at 2/3, but a late masterclass from Marciello handed them the lead. He climbed back up from 5th to the lead within an hour and led comfortably through the last.
The #40 Trésor Audi had taken over the lead and led the race during the third hour, after which a puncture took the car out of contention and eventually out of the race. Philipp Eng in the #98 BMW inherited the lead. With just under 1,5 hours to go, he handed over to Nick Yelloly but by then Marciello was already on a charge. Yelloly rejoined the track about 6 seconds ahead of Stolz in the #777 and Marciello, but soon had to give way to both. Patric Niederhauser in the #25 Sainteloc Audi also managed to get by, but they were handed a five-second time penalty for track limits right after the race, which handed p3 back to the #98.
Audi was victorious in both the Gold and the Silver cup. The Gold cup was won by the #21 ComToYou Audi of Soulet, Baert and Hofer while Aka, Patrese and Delli Guanti finished first in Silver.
Next race is going to be the season's blue ribbon event: the Crowdstrike 24 hours of Spa in the first weekend of July.