#5 Phoenix-Audi wins qualifying race 1, stunning recovery drive from #36 CMR-Alpine
1 December 2018
A busy day for GT4 International Cup began with a thrilling first qualifying race this morning. The #5 Phoenix Racing crew of Milan Dontje and Nicolaj Møller Madsen converted pole into victory at the Bahrain International Circuit, but the story of the race was a remarkable recovery drive from the #36 CMR Alpine A110.
Silver Cup runner Dontje led the cars around to the start in pole position, but the Dutch ace made an uncharacteristically poor getaway and was immediately under pressure.
Fabien Michal (#42 Sainteloc Audi R8 LMS, Pro-Am) and Finlay Hutchinson (#10 Academy Motorsport McLaren 570S, Silver Cup) seized the opportunity to take first and second places respectively, with Dontje slipping to P3 overall.
The Phoenix-Audi driver quickly set about returning to the top of the order. His first target was Hutchinson, but the Scottish teenager had no intention of making life easy for the Dutchman.
Dontje made a pass, only for Hutchinson to fight back and retake P2. Dontje was able to get another run on his rival, after which the pair went wheel-to-wheel for several corners.
Eventually Dontje made a move stick, though Hutchinson remained in contact with the Audi as it took off in pursuit of Michal. The charging Dontje did not take long to pass the Sainteloc-Audi, while Hutchinson followed him through soon after.
While this was happening, a remarkable story was developing further down the order. Having shown very strongly in free practice, the #36 CMR-Alpine of Pierre Sancinena and Pierre Alexandre-Jean suffered a puncture in qualifying that placed it 20th on the grid.
But it would not remain there for long. Sancinena delivered a masterful opening stint, moving up seven places on the first lap alone. He was fifth within 10 minutes of the race getting underway and handed over to Jean in fourth spot.
The #36 Alpine moved into third during the driver change and Jean completed a superb job by passing Matt Nichol Jones – who had taken over the #10 McLaren from Hutchinson – for second spot.
Jean was even able to reduce the gap to the leader, edging towards Møller Madsen during the closing stint. The Danish driver held on to take the opening qualifying race win in the #5 Phoenix-Audi, with the #36 CMR-Alpine following him across the line and the #10 Academy-McLaren completing the podium.
Fourth overall and first among the Pro-Am runners was the #41 Sainteloc-Audi, with Steven Palette at the wheel. The French squad took a one-two class result, with the #42 machine coming home fifth overall.
The Am category saw a remarkable finish. The #222 Porsche and #51 Ginetta battled for much of the second stint, though as the race reached its conclusion it seemed that the latter would seal victory.
But a final corner pass by Niki Leutwiler in the #222 machine sealed a dramatic class win for the French squad, which came home 10th overall.
The second qualifying race for the GT4 International Cup will take place at 14.45 local time, with the result combined with the opening race to form the gird for this evening’s main race (17.45). All of the action will be streamed live on the official GT4 European Series and Championnat de France - FFSA GT4 France websites and Facebook pages.