Hunting the reigning champion and current leader of the OPEN class Ingo Gerstl (Top Speed), youngsters Rinus van Kalmthout (Mansell Motorsport, OPEN class) and Johann Ledermair (Ledermair Motorsport, FORMULA class) did a great job. At the end of race 1 on Circuit Paul Ricard in France the experienced driver made quite clear, that he wouldn’t let go his pole position of the grid.
The race started — at boiling, southern French heat — with a crash of Peter Göllner (Speed Center, FORMULA class) in round 1. During overtaking, Göllner had trouble to keep his GP 2 Dallara on the lane and crashed. The following safety car phase challenged drivers and cars due to the danger of overheating and «really didn’t suit the plans», winner Gerstl grumbled after the race. When the track was released for the grid, drivers took off and stepped on the gas. Gerstl as well as his hunters van Kalmthout and Ledermair, soon established the Top 3, who kept the following field on distance.
«Of course I’m pleased by the win. With the expection of some details we had a great race», Ingo Gerstl was happy about his win with a best lap time of 1:48,420 min. «The duel with Rinus (van Kalmthout) on position 2 was interesting. I wasn’t too sure about a direct, close battle with him on the track. It’s not yet too easy, to estimate his experience. I mean — he his just 16 years old. He showed a great performance and made it a really good race; guess how he will drive with a couple more years of experience. So actually we can look forward to further races with and against him», Gerstl was pleased.
By Gerstl much praised, Rinus van Kalmthout himself was not only happy about making it to P2 with a best lap time of 1:50,847 min, but also with his personal fast growing learning curve: «It was a good race. First round was pretty close with Ingo (Gerstl), so I could stayed with him. Then we had the safety car phase; it was something to learn from — warming the tyres, warming the brakes. So that’s why actually I was happy about this experience. The race felt really good, even if driving between Ingo Gerstl with one second gap in front and Johann Ledermair with one second gap behind was just like a little bit driving alone. I learned a lot about tyre management during that race, since the driving with Pirelli is a totally new experience for me.» In particular the final stage of the race pleased van Kalmthout: «It’s nice to see that at last lap I was quicker than Ingo (Gerstl). That really gives me a confidence boost.» Goal of the 16 years old Dutch for race 2 at Paul Ricard on Sunday?: «Getting closer to Ingo (Gerstl)». So quite a nice challenge waits for van Kalmthout, since Gerstls target for Sundays race is «to drive some really fast laps at the second race, after being five seconds slowler at race 1 than at Qualifying».
Sharply following the two fastest OPEN class drivers was once more FORMULA class driver Johann Ledermair with his best lap in 1:51,967 min. His team had won the race against time already before the actual race started. After dropping out at the Qualifying due to a technical problem (fatigue fracture), Ledermairs team had worked non-stop and finally fixed the car by five minutes left until race start. «Huge thanks and appreciation to my team for fixing the problem», Ledermair was more than pleased with the performance of his technical crew. «The car felt well. But actually there were some slight vibrations by the front tyres and I had some trouble with understeering», he summed up his race. «All in all the race went well, I made the most out of it. Now we will work on getting everything fixed again until tomorrows race. The motto is, to fully attack at the second race again and getting the car faster anyway.»
The podium of the OPEN class was completed by Wolfgang Jaksch, who raced onto overall position 7 with his Super Aguri SA06 (best lap: 1:58,177 min). «Second race this season, second podium. I’m absolutely happy about this result», Jaksch smiled widely after the podium ceremony. Especially, since «it was a really difficult race. The grip level was totally different from the grid level during Qualifying. So the car was quite unstable and it was hard work, to bring my car home and take it to the finish. Lap times could have been better; despite of course I’m very happy with the P3, but not, how the race went.» Jaksch was self-critical as well: «I have to work on myself, to get along better with such difficult race conditions.» For second race on sunday «we will work on the setup and will do some finetuning. Making it again to the podium would be great». Jaksch sets position 4 of the overall OPEN class ranking with 40 points, behind Ingo Gerstl on position 1 (75 points), Rinus van Kalmthout (47) and Phil Stratford (44).
Podium of the FORMULA class was completed by Florian Schnitzenbaumer (Top Speed) with a best lap time of 1:55,823 min, finishing on position 4 and Mahaveer Raghunathan (PS Racing by Coloni Motorsport), finishing on position 5 with a best lap time of 1:57,226 min. While Raghunathan keeps the overall position 2 at the FORMULA class with now 104 gained points, behind Johann Ledermair with a total of 122 points, Schnitzenbaumer and Salvatore De Plano (MM International Motorsport) follow on third rank (both 90 points),
A great catch up on the track of Paul Ricard showed David Moretti (Griffith’s). Starting from position 10 at his first BOSS GP race at season 2017, he made it to position 6, overtaking couple of drivers with his GP 2 Dallara. Definitely less satisfied was Veroninka Cicha (H&A Racing). After a great performance at Qualifying in the morning, her car showed technical problems sharply before finishing the race, during lap 9.
After recurring technical problems, as well during practice as at Qualifying, Karl-Heinz Becker retired from the race already after dropping out of the Qualifying, just racing one single round.
Complete results of race 1 at Paul Ricard: