Despite the local tradition of showers and sunny intervals, this weekend's Rencontres Peugeot Sport meeting enabled competitors to celebrate the season's midpoint in a particularly festive atmosphere, with some exceptionally close racing, an action-packed programme and competitors from the French GT/GT3 Championship and the Caterham Challenge mixing it with runners from Peugeot's one-make series, namely the THP Spider Cup, the Coupe 207 THP, Relay Races and the Trophée GT.
THP Spider Cup (round 4 of 8): Guilvert and Briché take the lion's share of success at Spa!
The Belgian Ardennes produced its familiar cocktail of fickle weather with a mixture of showers and sunny intervals, but that didn't prevent the THP Spider Cup regulars from delivering another exciting show. The Spa-Francorchamps round produced plenty of drama, beginning with qualifying which saw the pole-winner for both races, Julien Briché, relegated to last place on the grid for having run with an illegal ride-height.
This decision played into the hands of Grégory Guilvert who recuperated pole-position and profited from it to lead Saturday's race from flag to flag and collect his second win of the season. After a lightning start which saw him tuck in immediately behind Guilvert, Marcel Sciabbarrassi was soon passed by Julien Beltoise, Simon Moulton and Gaël Castelli, the latter pair continuing their scrap all the way to the finish.
Beltoise finished second behind his team-mate Grégory Guilvert to ensure Team Lompech's first one-two success of the year. Sunday's race seemed to be heading for a similar result, with Guilvert, Beltoise and Moulton again running together when the safety car allowed the pack to bunch up in their wake following Dagonneau's off. Having fought his way back up from last to fourth place, Briché profited from the opportunity to catch and pass his three rivals after the re-start and clinch a resounding victory, his third of the season.
Having led early on, Julien Beltoise had a big moment when he crashed heavily into a wall with the chequered flag in sight. The car was totally destroyed in the accident, while the French driver suffered a fractured fibula and is unsure of being able to continue the championship. Second place for Grégory Guilvert puts him on top of the provisional championship standings, equal with Simon Moulton who inherited third place following the disqualification Gaël Castelli for overtaking under yellow flags.
Alexandre Rambure and Frédéric Bry were fourth and fifth.
Former French national goalkeeper Fabien Barthez was Peugeot's guest star at Spa and he thoroughly enjoyed the experience of driving Spider THP Peugeot which he had previously sampled at Pau. As motivated as ever, the 1998 Soccer World Cup winner completed the two races in 14th and 9th places respectively. Finishing inside the top-ten on one's debut at Spa is not a claim that many drivers can make!
Gregory Guilvert: "It was a very positive weekend for me. I started both races from pole, won one of them and finished the other one in second place. On top of that, I now share the championship lead with Simon. We're only halfway into the season. There are still four meetings to come and nothing is by any means over, but I have no intention of letting myself get carried away. The downside to the weekend was of course the accident of my team-mate Julien Beltoise. We were having a great dice and I am very disappointed for him."
Simon Moulton: "It's getting nail-bitingly close at the sharp end of this year's championship, but I really need to start winning races! Finishing on the podium is great, but coming first is even better!"
Fabien Barthez: "I had a really enjoyable weekend. Spa is a very impressive circuit. I had a bit of trouble finding my marks to begin with, but I got a better idea of where to brake and turn in with every lap! Sunday's race was a dream and I finished ninth. I have learnt so much over the past three days. It was a terrific experience. After my weekend in Pau, Peugeot Sport gave me a fantastic chance to race at Spa which is a legendary and unique circuit."
THP SPIDER CUP / SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS – FINAL RESULTS:
Race 1: 1, G. Guilvert (10 laps in 26m 39.515s). 2, J. Beltoise (+1.648s). 3, S. Moulton (+24.029s). 4, G. Castelli (+24.967s). 5, M. Sciabbarrasi (+35.995s). 6, A. Rambure (+39.127s). 7, O. Freymuth (+1m 4.575s). 8, G. Demoustier (+1m 7.969s). 9, P. Gruau (1m 8.549s). 10, F. Bry (1m 9.629s). Etc. Fastest race lap: J. Beltoise (2m 38.676s). Pole-position: G. Guilvert (2m 37.278s).
Race 2: 1, J. Briché (10 laps in 31m 41.030s). 2, G. Guilvert (+0.571s). 3, S. Moulton (+8.564s). 4, A. Rambure (+9.322s). 5, F. Bry (+35.226s). 6, G. Demoustier (+35.741s). 7, M. Broggi (+39.393s). 8, C. Ebong (+44.129s). 9, F. Barthez (+47.946s). 10, G. Castelli (+48.110s). Etc. Fastest race lap: J. Briché (2m 38.149s). Pole position: G. Guilvert (2m 37.175s).
THP Spider Cup standings: 1, S. Moulton and G. Guilvert (121 points). 3, J. Beltoise (106). 4, J. Briché (83). 5, A. Rambure (67). 6, G. Castelli (58). 7, M. Sciabbarrasi (56). 8, F. Bry (36). 9, M. Broggi (35). 10, A. Albouy (34); etc.
Next round: Nürburgring (Le Mans Series meeting): August 15-17, 2008
- Cécile Estenave - also photo