The race in Spa is a common round of the two racing series where not only the Italian and French Porsche Cups participants met in person but also the climatic traditions of both series. There was no PCCF round without rain this season, but there was no occasion to open an umbrella during PCCI-2015 races. Who will win? French or Italian competitors? Sun or rain?
The free practices rules were definitely inclined to the PCCF participants: if the Italian competitors had to use the tires from the last race in Mugello, French and guest drivers joined the peloton for one time, had the possibility to gave a practice with almost new tires. Nevertheless, Come Ledogar rapidly was up on all his 36 competitors having demonstrated the best time. And shortly after that he departed to Hungary to start in Porsche Supercup, having disappointed his competitors in the French Championship. Thanks to the participation in free practices Come got 20 qualification points to the team PCCI collection. They'll be of use!
There were 37 drivers representing 13 countries and four racing series: 18 from PCCI, 14 from PCCF, and five guests – two from Porsche Carrera Cup Asia and three from the Scandinavian Cup. But one driver from those had to choose which qualification to participate: Oleksandr Gaidai chose PCCI series; it was logical taking into account that the French drivers don't get any qualification points in Spa at all, and the Italian Championship gave the points both for participation and for results with a free hand.
That's why Gaidai had to practice with the old tires, but in the qualification, where all the participants were using new tires, Oleksandr masterfully entered the second segment and took the 14th starting position having overrun Gianluca Giraudi who is Oleksandr's waymark of this season. But Enrico Fulgenzi appeared just in front of Gaidai and that was fearsome in itself.
But the starting grid was changed after the qualification. We remind that Fulgenzi got minus three positions for the dangerous collision with Come Ledogar in the previous race in Mugello. Nick Foster was moved from the fifth to the tenth position. But the most offensive story was the one of Joffrey De Narda who had won the pole and broken the car due to the strike against the wall. Joffrey was ready to start in the morning, but it wasn't so easy without a car... So, Matthieu Jaminet got the pole position.
And the night before the race the climatic PCCF rules of the season came into force: it started raining. Not so fatal as the shower rain in Ledenon, but a quality, long and wet one. The slicks were out of the question, it was better to consider gumboots...
Rolling start wasn't spectacular because the safety car was on the track. The drivers had the possibility to change the peloton order only after three laps. Steven Palette and Chris van der Drift were first to realize the situation. They overran Riccardo Agostini, and then Palette overran van der Drift having taken the third position. Nicholas McBride overran Robin Hansson, and Andrea Fontana began to make such mistakes that seven competitors at a time, including Oleksandr Gaidai, could leave him behind.
Mattia Drudi intended to overrun Agostini, and Hansson – Vincent Beltoise. The Swiss driver Daniele Perfetti pushed Kristof Lapierre out of the track in such a manner that the car of the latter had to be evacuated with honor waiving the yellow flag. It wasn't surprising: the cars in front of it left the cloud of the water spray, and the more distance from the leaders, the worse was the visibility. Oleksandr Gaidai confessed that at the start of the race he couldn't even see if he was on the track or on the gravel!
20 minutes after the start. The rain was getting heavier, and the French drivers became more active. Vincent Beltoise attacked Mattia Drudi, Steven Palette pressed his namesake Colombo. Both attacks were successful, and Palette intended to overrun the leader of the race, Matthieu Jaminet!
It was a really spectacular duel on the wet track, at a rattling speed, accurately and precisely, safety for himself and his competitor. It was a real pleasure to watch! But the Palette's fans were more pleased, because he managed to overrun Jaminet after the long competition and galloped forward not to disturb anyone.
Vincent Beltoise get rid of Riccardo Agostini facile and unstrained, and disappointed Jaminet began to slow down. And Chris van der Drift didn't miss the opportunity. And he managed to overrun just in the same place and same manner as Palette before: it wasn't in vain for Chris to watch the master class in real time from the first row!
Meanwhile Oleksandr Gaidai was tailgating Nick Foster: "I was close to him, and there were two moments when I could try to overrun, but I hadn't enough impertinence or luck. He blocked the wheels in the turn and drove directly, and I made the turn in smaller lap, and he didn't see me leaving the turn, we were close to collision, but everything ended well. Then we were just driving near each other, but he had more advantageous trajectory, and there was a dangerous place where it was really possible to strike the fence on the 6th gear.
In general, I didn't risk unmotivatedly and tried to wait for his mistakes. There were some, but insignificant, and I couldn't take an advantage of them."
At this Gianluca Giraudi was driving one second after Gaidai during the whole race. And Oleksandr made a mistake one lap before the finish and gave the possibility for the experienced driver to come as close as possible. But Gianluca didn't manage to breach Gaidai's defense, and Oleksandr held the 11th position in the absolute classification in his first race in Spa. And it was his forth position in PCCI qualification!
O. Gaidai: "4th position is my best result in this season. And it's my best race in the season as for driving. The guys ahead have much more experience here. For example, Colombo drove three 24-hour race here, it means that our experience is hard to compare.
I am glad that I managed to leave Giraudi and Fulgenzi behind. They were constantly ahead of me the last year, near, but ahead. And it's the first time when I'm ahead both in time and in position. I can put this race in the collecting box of my achievements and progress. I am satisfied with the result: I hadn't a lot of mistakes, the car is OK, everything's good!"
Porsche Carrera Cup France+Italia 2015, round 4, Spa-Francorchamps
Race 1 (overall)
1. PALETTE Steven (Martinet by Almeras) 15 laps
2. VAN DER DRIFT Chris (Team Carrera Cup Asia) +6.893
3. JAMINET Mathieu (Racing Technology) +10.396
...11. GAIDAI Oleksandr (Tsunami RT) +31.425
...35. PERFETTI Danielle (Martinet by Almeras) +11 laps
Race 1 (PCCI)
1. COLOMBO Stefano (LEM Racing) 15 laps
2. AGOSTINI Riccardo (Antonelli Motorsport) +2.724
3. DRUDI Mattia (Dinamic Motorsport) +8.580
4. GAIDAI Oleksandr (Tsunami RT) +15.788
...17. NEGRONI Sergio (Antonelli Motorsport) +2:41.089
The French drivers were obviously better prepared than the Italian ones. It's very interesting how the finish podium would have looked like if Come Ledogar could have started, the French driver in the Italian classification... But it will be a mistery. There should be unsolved mysteries in motor sports!...