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    Reports from the Paul Ricard paddock

    Le Castellet 18 maggio 2022

    Moving from Portugal to France, the thirtieth edition of the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli Europe held its second round of the season, with debuts, confirmations and attempted comebacks. The Paul Ricard weekend featured another piece of Prancing Horse one-make series history, the F355 Challenge in yellow livery driven by Costantino Bertuzzi, who led the group of new 488 Challenge Evos before the weekend’s races.

    From ups and downs to the plateau. This complicated circuit on the flat surface of Le Castellet is very different from the undulating terrain of the Algarve. Long straights interspersed with technical turns test the drivers’ physical capabilities, demanding careful handling of the car and tyres. Of the more than 160 possible track configurations, the one chosen for the Ferrari championship features 15 turns. Hanno Laskowski recorded the highest speed on both days, peaking at 258.4 km/h in Race-2.

    The champion’s debut. The 2021 Coppa Shell champion and world champion Ernst Kirchmayr did not participate in the first round at Portimão. The Austrian driver was keen to enter the fray, and after a friendly greeting in the paddock with last season’s rival, James Weiland, and a polite introduction to Franz Engstler on his 2022 one-make series debut, he plunged into the contest. Despite many years of experience, the Paul Ricard circuit was new to him: “I’ve never raced here”, he told us after the first tests: “It is a high-speed and technical track that I like a lot. A bit like Le Mans, one of my favourites”. He claimed a fifth and a fourth place, with the podium now in his sights for Budapest. 

    A question of chemistry. Two people were, for different reasons, in the spotlight in the Trofeo Pirelli at Le Castellet. Both Adrian Sutil and Max Mugelli were making their season debut. The ex-Formula 1 driver, moving steadily closer to the Ferrari family, claimed a first and a second place, with a bit of luck and a lot of automotive experience, even though he was not yet fully acquainted with the 488 Challenge Evo. On the other hand, the Tuscan driver on his return to the Prancing Horse one-make series after 20 years, sought to quickly acclimatise to the car that he first tested only on Friday. His French weekend ended with two fifth places and he heads to Budapest in search of improvement.

    Inseparable. Frederik Paulsen, star of some brilliant seasons in the Prancing Horse one-make series, winner of the Trofeo Pirelli Am 2020, and a great friend of Christian Brunsborg, was often in the paddock. Between races, the two Danes blew off some steam with chats, music and the occasional kick around. When interviewed, Paulsen stressed the championship’s great competitiveness with so many drivers at the start, especially in the Coppa Shell and Coppa Shell Am (thirty cars lined up at the Paul Ricard). In contrast, Brunsborg had a mixed weekend in the Trofeo Pirelli Am on the French circuit where, in the 2020 official season tests, the spark was ignited with the Ferrari Challenge. The 2021 World Champion in the class finished Race-1 in third place, while a bump at the start took him out of the running in the second race, distancing him from the head of the standings, which was led by Ange Barde. 

    Bitter-sweet in France. Racing at home can be a stimulus or too much of a burden. The Paul Ricard had very different experiences in store for the three French Ferrari Challenge drivers. Ange Barde displayed no emotion and, on the strength of his racing experience, enjoyed some clear rounds on his home circuit, one of his favourites: Two poles, two fastest laps and, of course, two wins. However, after her successes in Portimão, young Doriane Pin paid the price with a bit of bad luck: A tyre problem ruled her out of the fight for the top spot in Race-1. Then, traffic forced her to start from the rear in Race-2. She made a remarkable recovery to third place.
Alex Fox has experience to spare, telling the cameras pre-race about his love for the Ferrari world. A testimonial that turned into a seventh place in Race-2.