Circuit Paul Ricard held the final race of the Ultimate Cup Series on the first weekend of December. The second season of the French championship was concluded with two endurance races: the first race reserved for the prototypes while the second saw solely GT action.
Prototypes 4-hour race
Cool Racing monopolised the front row of the starting grid for the final round of the Prototypes. For their very first race in LMP3, Sébastien Baud and Théo Chalal set their best average in the #37 Ligier JS P320, only just in front of their teammates Antoine Doquin and Bruce Jouanny on the #69 Ligier.
With a night finish ahead, the final round promised an exciting sunset, only equalled by an exciting four hours of racing. Suspense reached its climax in the last half hour with a duel at the front of the field.
Having started from pole, Sébastien Baud made a good start but caused the first neutralization following a run-off. He lost control of #37 Ligier and was forced to retire. A second neutralisation shortly before the end of the first hour to recover the stopped #16 Ligier BHK Motorsport at the edge of the track due to a technical problem bunched up the field once more.
Some teams seized the opportunity to make bold strategic choices. One of those was the #10 Team Corner Ligier with Julien Gerbi and Petru Florescu at the wheel. The duo entered the final hour in the lead having read the race correctly and following their strategy up with a high level of performance in their first outing as co-drivers.
The hierarchy was shuffled at the last round of pitstops when a fight for the victory emerged between the #69 Ligier JS P320 of Cool Racing and #88 Ligier of Team Virage. Bruce Jouanny, host of ‘Top Gear France’, was leading the race when the 100th lap arrives. However, behind him the headlights of the #88 Ligier driven by Julien Falchero began closing in. In the end the gap between the two men stabilised and victory was safe for the Cool Racing crew.
Winning his first race of the season in the Ultimate Cup Series, Bruce Jouanny took the chequered flag with his young teammate Antoine Doquin, only 16 years old. The duo gave Cool Racing its first win of the season, the third of a Ligier in four races. Despite all the efforts of Julien Falchero, the Ligier #88, also driven by Miguel Cristovao and Julian Wagg, finished second at 3.185 seconds from the winners. Team Virage achieved a double podium with the third place in LMP3 of the #10 Ligier of Julien Gerbi and Petru Florescu and clinching the 2020 title with the latter duo.
GT Endurance race
Qualifying for the GT Endurance Series saw the #61 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 drivers Jérôme Policand and Mauro Ricci establish the best combined time to clinch pole position. The front row was completed by the #17 Renault R.S 01 of Autosport GP.
The nearly 40-car strong GT Endurance starting grid took the green after two warm-up laps with the #45 AB Sport Auto Renault R.S. 01 immediately taking the lead at the first corner.
A collision further back in the field brought out the first safety car of the race. This gave teams the chance to put daring strategies, most notably by the championship leading #1 Visiom Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo — this in contrast to the three leading cars: the #45 Renault, #17 Renault and the #61 Mercedes-AMG.
Fighting continued between the various frontrunners in each category, including in the overall classification where Eric Cayrolle in the #45 Renault and Milan Petelet in the #17 Renault engaged in an intense duel for the first place. This duel took a tragic turn when the two cars collided before the end of the first hour, damaging the #17 Renault’s front left corner. Although Petelet managed to get back to the garage, retirement was inevitable.
Past the halfway point the #1 Ferrari gained the lead with Jean-Paul Pagny back in control of the race on lap 59 after an excellent stint by Thierry Perrier. From then on, the Ferrari would not be challenged any more especially after its closest rival, the #45 Renault fell victim to technical problems.
At the start of the last hour, Jean-Bernard Bouvet enjoyed a substantial lead to launch him to a third victory of the season, as well as a second consecutive title in GT Endurance for the crew of the #1 Visiom Ferrari.
#61 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 drivers Mauro Ricci and Jérôme Policand made good appearance for their only race of the season at Le Castellet by finishing second at 39 seconds from the winners. The third step of the podium went the way of #666 ABM Lamborghini Huracán ST pilots Stéphane Louard, Simon Escallier and Lucas Valkre.
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