Many novelties have accompanied the fifth and last practice of the 2010 CER championship, which took place on Paul Ricard circuit during the first edition of the Dix Mille Tours: among the others the first of all was the organizers’ decision to run two separate races, the former reserved to P1 and GT1 (CER1) the latter to P2 and GT2 (CER2), with the intention of offering harder fought races at the same time satisfying a major number of new entered competitors. Other important novelty was the name of “Grand prix de Gstaad” given to the event by the good office of Stephane Gutzwiller, member of Gstaad Automobile Club and entered into CER with a Chevron B16 P1. Races didn’t fail to meet expectations, in particular in the CER2 where the fight still opened for the two titles charged the leaders much more, giving us palpitations on the final.
Even if the P1 title had already been at Silverstone mathematically given to a very clever Ferrer, the author of a very impeccable season having three good wins to his credit, since free tests it has been easy to understand as an outgoing champion Sheldon was very decided to have this year the success he was still missing, and this even though he had always been among the leaders. The fight which had opposed each other was on the hundredths and had also lasted till the two qualifying sessions in which also Hevia turned out an insidious rival at the wheel of his fine McLaren M1B, third at only 8 tenths of seconds down from Pole position.
Among GT1s the fight for the title was still partly opened, with Denaf the only one in a position to still threaten Moreau’s record, but the difficulties met since Friday minimized the hopes on an overtaking were nearly at the end; for once it were not the Porsches 911 to dominate with Erlich first on the very fast Pantera De Tomaso in front of Sirgue second in a Corvette, while it was only third the first car of Stuttgart factory, the car driven by Tuma-Pace left behind 2 seconds down.
At start Sheldon hesitated and Ferrer took advantage of it taking the first position and immediately attempting to escape with fast laps, while behind him the English driver had so much to do to hold Hevia at bay. The other pursuers soon suffered heavy gaps in running 3-4 seconds down from the first three drivers, but the fight among Guikas (then excluded by the race direction), Quiniou, Primrose, with the addition of Watson/O’Connell that, after few rounds, greatly amused the present public. Even among GT1s the grid-start was rather interesting, with Erlich who, fallen back to thirtieth position after a very bad start, began a furious recovery which in nine rounds would have taken him before all, taking advantage of Sirgue’s retirement, in first position up to that moment.
While Ferrer was passing lap after lap, Sheldon had more and more problems to hold back Hevia’s attacks, clearly at the most by taking the fast big corners hanging out the rear: the Mc Laren’s driver managed to pass him by releasing the pedal and braking on Verriere at the beginning of lap nine but, some double passages made him to slow down coming out of the “s” allowing the English driver to regain the second position. Two laps again and Hevia was forced to go to pits sadly saying goodbye to the 2010 championship.
On lap 12 Ferrer was the first at pits for the obligatory stop, followed by Sheldon on the next lap, but the English driver began by having brake problems and going back on the track he had by then 28 seconds’ delay: for Ferrer was only a question of driving the car to the finishing line and gaining the title as well as the fourth win of the season, while the last few laps were a real ordeal to the English driver, forced to a sort of mild rate and even to a further pit-stop which relegated him to the fifth position. On the finish the second placed car was driven by Quiniou, who was back after two years in P1 with a Lola T210, while the third position was gained by Watson-O’Connell with Chevron B8.
In GT1 the ride of Pantera De Tomaso stopped at eight rounds down from the end, leaving the lead of the race first to de Lesseps in Porsche 911 2.8, later, after his exclusion for a non pit-stop, to Tuma/Pace, always at the wheel of a 911 but in the 3.01 version, behind them Kriknoff and Orjuela/Orjuela all in different 911 variants. The result was very good for Moreau who, in spite of having raced in a zone behind the front, justly won the GT1 title.
Even before appearing on the track the CER2 had provided the public with many starting points, first of all the entry of an extremely rare and charming Rondeau 379C, same as the one in which Rondeau himself, matched with Jassaud in 1980 won the 24 hours of Le Mans, in addition to the 1969 Mirage M3, the only example derived from Mirages M2 and Ligier Js3, a car purposely designed to run the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1971 with Ligier/Depailler.
The weekend on the circuit was one of the most competitive events ever seen before, with a good number of drivers who have raced setting close times, struggling a long battle for getting pole and win. During free practice the drivers started being familiar with the circuit, this time used in the version on a full mistral unlikely what happened in April, with Knapfield obviously favoured in comparison with the others by his powerful Ferrari engine. Qualifying tests immediately saw Nicolet leader at the wheel of a fine Mirage M3, very skilful at setting the time that got him pole already from the first session, pursued by Luco, who had put aside the 936 from Silverstone to give space to the new Ligier, by Knapfield who could afford to run only four laps in the first session and even no lap in the second one. Matters were more complicated for Lafargue, arrived fifth due to the chronic horse power lack of his BMW.
On Sunday afternoon, before the race there were moments of real excitement: drivers appeared with dry out tyres but suddenly it started raining and they were obliged to mount the wet ones. As much as quickly, however, it stopped raining and many drivers chose again dry out tyres, with Luco who remained with wet tyres while Knapfield and Watson preferred to start from the bottom of the line-up so as to be in a position to choose tyres till last. When the red light switched off Luco flashed past Nicolet, but he was soon forced to pull into the pits because of the puncture of the left rear tyre: seen the track conditions the Swiss decided to change tyres mounting the dry out, but on going back to the track he was placed twenty-fourth with about one minute behind Hart, who placed first after a shocking start. While Hart was gaining a wide difference of 14 seconds’ lead in five laps over Quiniou/Nicolet, everybody’s attention was called by Knapfield’s recovery, fourth after only four laps and the fastest driver on track: at the fifth passage Nicolet got into Mistral and from the Bendor inner went in Quiniou, finding himself second, but his run-up ended after two laps on the central straight, where his gearbox failed. Meanwhile, the track was by then completely dry out and Nicolet took action by overtaking a Quiniou in difficulty on the Chicane, who during next lap had to pull out into pits. Meantime, among GTs, Roitmayer arrived absolutely tenth running at the same rate as many prototypes, while Basso, his more dangerous rival, was over one minute behind. In the zone behind the front Luco found his way blocked by Guikas beginning a fine duel that had been lasting a good three laps before the Swiss being able to pass on Signes bend.
On lap 12 the festival of pit-stops started without great expectations, at least the one of the stop-and-go given to Wilkins-Catlow for his disregarding the expected time: the race had been dozing off till lap 17, when Nicolet started running closer to Hart threateningly. On lap 18 the French driver overtook the English driver on Signes and passed easily, but it was Luco who made a spectacle of himself, with his fast laps, took the third position and pointed decidedly to Hart, by then passed through a crisis: the Swiss attacked the rival and passed him during lap 24, but at the same moment Nicolet slowly pulled out into the pits with a broken accelerator cable, leaving the first place definitively to the Ligier car. While Guicas, second one, was penalized by black flag having skipped the pit-stop, Lacroix gained the second position, but he had also to surrender before the arrival because of the failure of his gearbox lever. Butts, the author of a fine race, arrived second, followed by Scemama, while Lafargue had to be satisfied with the final fifth position that won him the P2 title. In Gt1 Roitmayer won before Basso and Ceron, with the title given to Faveny-Roitmayer.