Since the times of ancient Greek theaters, having gone through gladiatorial battles and horse racing in Ascot, the Globus Theater and the Olympic Games, the Shurale ballet and bag-running competitions, the main rule continues to live and act: "The show must go on!"
Motorsport is a show, of course. Well, behind the scenes - on the pit lane and on the track itself - everything is very serious there. All of us, who have long the motorsport virus integrated into our DNA, live on the racing tracks and between races, this is a separate and very special bright life that we are happy to have. But for spectators, car racing is a show. And the teams are actors, make-up artists, decorators, shufflers and souffleurs, gathered in order to entertain the audience.
This pretentious introduction was, in fact, to state that the finale of the French Porsche Cup on the Paul Ricard track will be remembered, first of all, as an amazing show. And thanks to all the actors - the leaders of the troupe, the performers of supporting roles, invited stars - such a finale can be considered a real gift. From the point of view of the spectator, of course.
So, ladies and gentlemen, we present you the thrilling drama "The struggle for victory in the absence of a leader."
Julien Andlauer, leading with a significant margin, but missing the show;
Alessio Rovera, who has been the most dangerous rival for Andlauer;
Ayhancan Güven, a strong competitor.
Côme Ledogar, our long-time friend, who has raced with Tsunami RT for two years and is now our rival on the track.
Thomas Nicolle, who returned to Tsunami RT with pleasure after a nearly one-year break.
And many others.
The curtain opens over a spectacular picture of a brightly colored track. Gentle Saturday morning sounds weird with the roar of 400-hp engines: the crowd of Porsche Carrera Cup France competitors rushes into the track corners searching for the pole position.
There are a lot of participants, and there is only one pole, and it goes not to the contenders for the champion title, but to Florian Latorre. Güven has the second position, and right behind them is Rovera-Ledogar duo (by the way, they both have been Italian champions with Tsunami RT).
Alessio Rovera: "I am pretty happy because we depart from the front and we are close to the first two. The car was good, maybe missing a little bit of front tyre temperature, which if it was there we could have attacked for the pole. The setup is good though and we also have a good race setup. In the race we will see how are the conditions, we will see what the drivers from first row what they will do and there is also Côme behind who might attack me. We will see in the field".
Thomas Nicolle: "We didn't do a good work, we will better in the race. I had a spin in my third lap in sector 2. The car was good, it is me that I am not good in qualifying. My specialty is fighting in the race".
The Saturday's race — especially compared to the confusion that reigned in Imola just a week before — looked remarkably smooth and well-staged. But there were plenty of show elements: Thomas Nicolle, for example, spun twice, delighting the audience, and he was not the only one who performed this always popular trick. The sun was shining, the drivers beautifully and accurately overtook each other - Ayhancan Güven took the lead, and Côme Ledogar occupated the second position. For the rest of the time, Côme, who had already won the French championship, tried to pass ahead: he attacked from one side, from another, signalled with the headlights. But Güven pretended not to catch the hints, and rushed to the finish.
The checkered flag gave Ayhancan Güven the first place in the race, Alessio Rovera - the fourth, and Thomas Nicolle - the fifth among the gentleman-drivers.
Alessio Rovera: "It was hard because I didn't start well and then my pace was non what I expected and not at the level of the other drivers. I struggled to stay with them, I had a bit of understeering in the slower corners. For sure I believed I could be faster but in anyway we minimised the damage. I would like to have done a race in attack but we see tomorrow..."
Thomas Nicolle: "it was a hard race. I lost a bit of time at the start I came back and finished the race. I spun twice - the first when I was pushed by another driver and the second when crashed with a driver who was dangerously defending himself and pushed my in the straight".
Porsche Carrera Cup France. Paul Ricard, 6th round. Race 1
1. GÜVEN Ayhancan (Attempto Racing) 14 laps
2. LEDOGAR Côme (Martinet by Alméras) +0.324
3. LATORRE Florian (RMS) +0.624
4. ROVERA Alessio (Tsunami RT) +1.154
15. NICOLLE Thomas (Tsunami RT) +1:19.006
16. BLUGEON Christian (Martinet by Alméras) +1:47.928
1. MISSLIN Nicolas (Pierre Martinet by Alméras)
2. DUMEZ Sébastien (Team 85 Bourgoin Racing)
3. DENOUAL Stéphane (Martinet by Alméras)
5.NICOLLE Thomas (Tsunami RT)
6. BLUGEON Christian (Martinet by Alméras)
Sunday is the "last battle" for teams, and the principle "the show must go on" is still the main in the universe. For even more spectacularity, the universe has organized only the sixth starting position for Alessio Rovera. We put this result on the universe, because our driver himself could not explain what, in fact, was wrong for the qualification.
Alessio Rovera: "It was a bad qualifying and I don't know why... The car is good, there is nothing better we can do with it. In my third lap I did a mistake in the last corner so I skipped it and I didn't have time for another one. Of course, nothing has finished..."
But Thomas Nicolle showed the 4th result in Division B and was happy about it.
Thomas Nicolle: "Qualifying has been a good but complicated because in my first lap another driver came from the pit lane and his didn't move from the line, so I lost a lot of time. I did two more flying laps - good ones - so let's go for the race".
And here comes the start of the final race in the French Porsche Cup. At this point, Alessio Rovera and Ayhancan Güven score equal points, but Rovera is 5 positions behind at the start. Is everything decided? Not at all!
After the start, Florian Latorre takes the lead. He has nothing to lose (and there is nothing to win, except for the cup in one race), so he just enjoys driving. Güven won't attack - only Rovera is dangerous for him... well, and his own mistakes, of course.
And Alessio Rovera delights the audience with his brilliant overtakings. Now he is the fourth... At this point, Güven is overtaken by Côme Ledogar (the last also drives just for his own and spectators' pleasure), so the Turkish driver founds himself right ahead of Rovera.
Well, it's just said "right ahead", but in fact they are separated by about 4 seconds, that Alessio has to catch up. And at this moment...
At this moment the show continues! And it's neither a spin, nor a simple flight into the fence, but a real turn through the roof, that, to the delight of the audience, is performed by Nicolas Misslin. Then, of course, a tow truck and a safety car go together to the track. It is impossible to overtake - but one can get closer to his rival at an attack distance... and experienced fans understand what a crazy battle for the title will unfold as soon as this boring safety car gets off the track.
12 minutes to the finish - restart! The atmosphere contains 95% adrenaline, 1% gasoline vapors, 4% complex emotions. 12 amazing minutes, almost dying and forgetting to breathe, the fans admire the best show of the season - the fight for the PCCF title! A few minutes before the finish Alessio Rovera goes all-in: a crazy attempt to overtake, the wheels of two cars touch, both Porsches jump on the curb, forgetting about the correct trajectory...
But only Ayhancan Güven's car comes out intact from this maneuver. And Rovera's steering bar is broken! The last lap! The last!! Lap!!! In dark clouds of smoke from the tires, Alessio Rovera manages to cross the finish line!
And the cameras switch to Ayhancan Güven's car, which has already finished. The Turkish driver gets out of the car and, instead of waving to numerous reporters, turns away from them and cries from happiness and immense fatigue. For the sake of this show, both Alessio Rovera and his rival went all out, to the last limit. This finale will be remembered for years!
But that will happen after the prize podium, where Thomas Nicolle, completely happy, is awarded with a "silver" cup in Division B!
Thomas Nicolle: "I am so happy to be in P2. Of course there has been an accident that permitted my to climb in the race classification but even my driving was better today".
Porsche Carrera Cup France. Paul Ricard, 6th round. Race 2
1. LATORRE Florian (RMS) 13 laps
2. LEDOGAR Côme (Martinet by Alméras) +0.758
3. GÜVEN Ayhancan (Attempto Racing) +8.515
12. ROVERA Alessio (Tsunami RT) +51.066
13. NICOLLE Thomas (Tsunami RT) +59.795
16. BLUGEON Christian (Martinet by Alméras) +1:47.928
1. DENOUAL Stéphane (Martinet by Alméras)
2.NICOLLE Thomas (Tsunami RT)
3. BLUGEON Christian (Martinet by Alméras)
This weekend gave us a great show. As well as the "bronze" in Porsche Carrera Cup France 2018 for Tsunami RT - in the team standings, and for Alessio Rovera - in the driver's overall standings. But the main thing is our joy to see that races, to be here, to act as a part of this circus, that makes both audience and participants laugh and cry, take their breath and cry out with happiness.
And we will be back in spring, in the new season. Because the show... Well, you know.
By: Irina Boyarskaya
Photo: Akis Temperidis