Pierre-Alexandre Jean and Pierre Sancinena produced a remarkable comeback performance to clinch victory in the inaugural GT4 International Cup, steering their #36 CMR Alpine A110 to top spot in the main race despite starting 18th on the grid.
The duo began the event in perfect style when Sancinena topped Friday’s opening practice at the Bahrain International Circuit, but it seemed that their hopes had disappeared when a puncture prevented them from setting a representative qualifying time.
This placed the #36 Alpine at the back of the grid for both qualifying races, leaving the Championnat de France FFSA GT – GT4 France regulars at a serious disadvantage. They looked to be back in the fight after a superb run to second in the opening qualifying race, only to be disqualified for a technical infringement.
A fourth-place finish in the second qualifying race kept the French squad’s hopes alive, but starting from 18th in Saturday evening’s main event meant they still had significant ground to make up. The clear favourites for the win were Milan Dontje and Nicolaj Moller-Madsen, who started from pole position in their #5 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS after taking both qualifying race victories.
Dontje faced competition into turn one from Matt Nichol-Jones (#10 Academy Motorsport McLaren 570S) and the #39 3Y Technology BMW of Gilles Vannelet. The Audi held the lead and Dontje edged away during the opening stint, while the #36 Alpine moved into third spot with Jean at the wheel after quickly rising up the order during the opening stages.
Jean was some nine seconds shy of the lead as the 20-minute mark approached, but the CMR squad were brought back into contention when the safety car was deployed to remove the stricken #38 SportsCarBoutique Porsche Caymen.
This bunched up the field and when racing resumed the Alpine was quickly on the attack. It took second spot when the #10 McLaren stopped for its driver change and was right on the tail of the #5 Audi when Dontje pitted to hand over to Moller-Madsen.
The extra time on track proved crucial for Jean, who stopped soon after to hand over to Sancinena. The Frenchman exited the pits narrowly ahead of a charging Moller-Madsen, who locked up into turn one as he tried to overhaul the Alpine.
This gave Sancinena a chance to stretch his legs and the #36 machine began to build an advantage over the #5 Audi. The hard work had been done and the CMR crew celebrated a tremendous comeback win as Sancinena crossed the line 5.677s clear of Moller-Madsen.
The reigning GT4 European Series champions took runner-up spot, narrowly missing out on their second major honour of 2018. Third place overall and victory in the Pro-Am class went to the #39 BMW of Gilles Vannelet and Enzo Guibbert, who delivered an excellent showing to finish only 9.337s shy of the victorious #36 Alpine.
Am victory went to the #250 RHC Jorgensen/Strom by MarcCars entry of Daren E. Jorgensen and Brett Strom, who emerged from a highly competitive class to snatch top honours in Bahrain. Jorgensen handled the first stint and handed over to Strom, who completed the job for the American outfit with an advantage of some 16 seconds at the chequered flag.
The winning drivers celebrated their achievements under the lights on the podium, bringing the inaugural GT4 International Cup to a successful conclusion. It also closed a landmark GT4 campaign in fitting style and hinted and bigger things to come in 2019.
Pierre-Alexandre Jean, #36 CMR Alpine A110: “We have had a lot going on this weekend! I started the race from 18th and gave the car to my teammate in first place, so my stint was very good. I really enjoyed the overtaking and coming back in this way; for a driver, it is the best. The team did a perfect job and so did my teammate. He made no mistakes and was very quick. I really think that this was our race.”
Daren E. Jorgensen, #250 RHC Jorgensen/Strom by MarcCars BMW M4: “We came to Bahrain not expecting to win; we just wanted to race hard and go for it and it turned out really well. We have an Australian team that supports us and they did a great job as usual. Going hard in practice isn’t always the best thing to do; the main race is where it counts. Our strategy paid off and we couldn’t be happier.”