After a year of great successful events the CER of 2011 season has opened on the very new circuit in Navarra. The circuit is located to the south of Pamplona among gentle hills and lush fields of wheat. The good number of participants (forty) didn’t succeed in fading the partial disappointment due to the absence of longed awaited Ferraris 312 Pb and Toj Sc302: due to various reasons these prototypes claims for one visit to the Paddock of the category, but in return, for the first time we have seen the still existing three Lolas T280, one beside the other. Luco was also absent because of the concomitant commitments of the six-hour Le Castellet. Since the qualify it has been evident that the most insidious opponents of Nicolet’s Mirage M3 would have been Quiniou, Lafargue and, unexpected surprise, duo Watson-O’Connel, literally transformed in winter: I have sometimes struggled to believe in the time set particularly by the second one, times that have always been the best ones in the course of the two-session practice. Behind them, separated by over a second, Quiniou, Nicolet, Lafargue, Busst and Scemama all gathered by only seven tenths; moreover the English driver, after the excellent second time set in the first session, abandoned the second session, keeping the vehicle in view of the race long hour. Among the P1s, Sheldon absent and with Ferrer passed to P2, the best time was set by France at the wheel of a fine Lola 170Mk3, while there was the excellent behaviour of Cazalieres in the Chevron B16 Mazda, first car with rotary engine, which took part in the 24 hours of Le Mans back in 1970. With only GT2s on the track and above all without any Porsche 935 close to him, McInerney has newly brought his BMW M1 up to the top of the time list, while in GT1 the Ford Gt40 driven by Nahun has completely swept away the big group of Porsches 911 and Corvettes, separated by over three seconds and a half.
On Sunday afternoon the cars have lined up with dry tyres, but the blanket of rain clouds that gathered on the circuit foretells anything good! On the green light Watson was caught by Nicolet, Quiniou and Lafargue, but on first braking for the hairpin the P2 champion braked too late and ended by crashing into an innocent Quiniou, who ended into a spin causing panic among those who were arriving: among them Butts and Guenat who turned round losing many positions. On the contrary, it was Lafargue who took advantage of the situation, he stuck to the exhausting pipes of Nicolet’s car, getting the spectators to portend a duel between the standard bearers of the Oak Racing, while Da Rocha, finally in a revised car after many troubles met during the qualify, got rid off Watson and Barbot, starting a duel with the Sauber driven by Scemama who stopped only at mid-race, when was forced to retire for gearbox failure. Before, Lafargue lost some tenths on each lap and on the fourth lap the rush to keep contact with Nicolet got him to make a mistake in the final part of the track: when he re-entered the asphalt ribbon he was fifth, but after only six laps he came alongside Scemama on the second straight of the circuit in order to recover the second position. The Swiss, always a hard nut to crack, pulled the brakes to the limit and Lafargue in desperate attempt to pass ended into a spin, losing many positions; a little later he went back for the obligatory stop in the pits during which it was also repaired the rear light damaged at the start contact. Quiniou wasn’t also lucky, ending into a spin at the entrance of the start straight in an attempt to overtake Barbot. As for Nicolet, in spite of a not impeccable pit stop which forced him to recover over Scemama, it seems to him to have made it, but behind him O’Connel fires and flames repeatedly setting the new lap record, despite the first drops of rain were coming down on the circuit. The last laps were thrilling together with the first ones which, due to some little mistakes made the race final unpredictable: O’Connel passed four laps from the end but after two Nicolet took the lead of the race again and held it even when, on the last lap, the rival tried a desperate passing out. Behind them, Scemama was forced to retire because of injection problems, Busst arrived, the author of an excellent recovery that brought him from position 19 of the first lap to the third overall.
In P1 the race was dominated by France, who sometimes managed to occupy top positions, followed by Francioni, the leader of an excellent race after a start from the last row and by Cazalieres, with brake and gearbox problems, who was able to have the better of compatriot Richard Mille, while young Pierre Nicolet had to give up when he was second in the class due a piece of another car which punctured the radiator.
On the contrary, there was fight in GT2, where MR John of B had to give up to a fast McInerney at only five laps from the end, while Trabel was placed third in the second M1, long struggling with the twin car.
Finally, a look at GT1, where Moreau alone tried to resist the overwhelming power of Nahun/Thuner at the wheel of a Ford Gt40; he managed to finish with a lead of just 40 seconds. The couple Orjuela was third in a Porsche 911 RSR 3.01, authors of a race solo.