|Review:||First in the French Championship and Second in the European Championship|
With drivers Policand and Prignaud, Sport Garage gained their first victory in the French GT3
Championship this weekend with an eight-second victory from the favoured Audi R8 of Ortelli/
Hallyday. Team Sport Garage had an extremely tight time schedule at the Circuit Paul Ricard,
as they competed in both the French and European GT3 Championships over the weekend,
with the factory ALPINA team competing in the FIA GT3 Euro-Championship as usual.
In a last-gasp, last-lap effort, Jens Klingmann captured the Pole for Saturday’s FIA GT3 race
in a time of 2:08.728, but 1/100ths of a second faster than Accary‘s 2nd-place Aston Martin.
Csaba Walter was only 2/10ths back from Klingmann in the #25 B6GT3, but that meant a hardfought
5th place on the grid in the closely-matched field. In qualifying for Sunday’s race, Claudia
Hürtgen was absolutely on the limit earning 2nd place. Martin Matzke, Jens Klingmann’s
co-driver, got caught up in traffic: without the benefit of a clean lap he had to settle for a 15th
Shortly before the start of Saturday’s race, the dark rain clouds mixing with the sun became ever
more ominous, so that by the start of the race the first raindrops began to fall. Jens Klingmann
had a good start, but Thomas Accary still managed to squeeze by out of the first turn. With an
aggressive turn of pace, these two separated themselves slightly from the field. Suddenly, the
Aston Martin spun and crashed hard into the Armco barrier. The reason was the kerbs, which
became extremely slippery to those running slick tyres in the light rain shower. This left Jens
lying first. In the pack, another four cars crashed in the same place, and into one another.
Due to this massive racing accident, the steward of the meeting called an immediate end
to the race. Jens crossed the line 1st, with Csaba Walter in 4th place. Per race regulations,
the positions at the end of the last full lap were taken for the result, giving Accary in the Aston
Martin a lucky win from Jens Klingmann, with Csaba Walter lying 7th at that point. Due to the
heavy damage to the Armco barrier, the race could not be re-started, and by virtue of the short
distance covered, half-points in the championship were awarded.
In Sunday’s race, Claudia Hürtgen had a terrific battle with the 2nd Aston Martin, driven by Fred
Makowiecki. They ran side-by-side through Turn One, with Makowiecki just managing to wrest
away the lead. Kevin Estre in the ALPINA customer team Sport Garage laid down a brilliant
start from 6th place, consistently over-taking competitors in the first few laps to find himself in
3rd place directly behind Claudia Hürtgen.
In the second factory ALPINA B6GT3, Martin Matzke complained about a decided lack of power, forcing him to dive down pit lane with but 15 minutes gone. A connecting tube in the air
intake had come loose, and after a short repair, the car was back out on the track. The pit stop window for the mandatory driver changes then opened, and ALPINA completed a perfect
hand-off from Claudia Hürtgen to Csaba Walter.
The Aston Martin stop didn’t go quite as well, allowing Csaba Walter to take over the lead. Jens
Klingmann’s stop in the #25 B6GT3 was also trouble-free, but then he suffered the same loss
in power that had hindered his colleague. It seems that the problem with the connecting tube
hadn’t been successfully repaired, causing the same fault and forcing Klingmann to park his
race car early.
In the interim, Csaba Walter had built his lead to eight seconds over the Mutsch/Salles Ford
GT, driving toward what seemed a clear victory. Then disaster struck but four minutes from the
end: tyre damage at the front left, just like in Portimao, dropping the #24 B6GT3 back to 8th
position. “It’s really unbelievable that we lost this race so close to the end, “ said team boss
Andy Bovensiepen sadly, “but our team showed yet again that we’ve got the stuff to run at the
front. Klingmann & Matzke’s 2nd place on Saturday, as well as the win earned by our customer
team in the French championship, show that our race car has become truly competitive.”
The ALPINA factory team’s next sorties will be the ADAC Masters in Oschersleben on the 16th-
18th October, and the final FIA GT3 European Championship race at Zolder in Belgium on the
Keep track of ALPINAs season on our GT3 pages