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Mark H

Lotus Cup Europe Report: Spa 6-7/7

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Introduction

After two visits to Germany and a round in France, the fourth meeting of 2012 saw a move to Belgium and the majestic Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes Forest. A popular destination in the series, the drivers’ favourite looked to favour the local contingent with John Rasse enjoying another strong season. However his brother Gregory has been improving in the Evora, whilst Christophe Lisandre and Xavier Georges head up the 2-Eleven contingent with UK Production frontrunner Ken Savage an intriguing prospect as he makes his class debut.

 

Practice and Qualifying

Georges led the field in the first session, run in the damp after overnight and morning rain. Jean-Baptiste Meusnier and John Rasse headed the Exiges, whilst Savage impressed first time out, just behind Lisandre and Greg Rasse.

The Evora moved up to the top of the timesheet in qualifying, the V6 powering Greg Rasse onto pole for the first time. His margin was three-quarters of a second over practice pace-setter Georges, with Meusnier’s Exige making for a very open pair of races. Proving the advantage of a powerful engine on the long straights of Spa, Thierry Verhiest took an excellent fourth place from the Jack Goff/Phill Capstick Exige, leaving John Rasse just third in class.

Lisandre took seventh place, heading a quintet of 2-Elevens, with Jeremy Lorenco, Guillaime Bouche, Ken Savage and Marcus Jewell behind. David Harvey took the Open pole in 18th place, two spots ahead of Production leader Craig Denman, who had Sven Petterson’s 2-Eleven between him and the rest, led by Markus Nikowitsch and Alain Corbiau.

 

Race One

The Evora’s V6 grunt looked likely to give Greg Rasse a good chance of making a clean getaway from the rolling start and sure enough, as the cars rounded La Source, he was clear. Only just, however, as the usual scrabble for grip at the hairpin meant that it was anyone’s guess as to the order in which the cars ran down the hill into Eau Rouge.

As it turned out, Lisandre would prove to be the leader’s primary chaser, with Meusnier in third, from Georges, John Rasse and Thierry Verheist. However as the race wore on, the Evora runners would benefit from the extra power as the others fought to hold on. As Greg began to ease way from Lisandre, so Verheist would provide an irresistible challenge to his two nearest rivals.

Meanwhile, whilst Lisandre drove hard to keep Greg in his sights, Meusnier drew closer to the 2-Eleven leader and began to make a real fight of the final podium positions. As the Evora gradually disappeared from view, Lisandre’s attention shifted from the car in front to that in his mirrors and although the minutes soon ticked away, it was not enough to keep the Exige behind and so, whilst the podium was shared between three classes, it was the 2-Eleven that lost out to the Evora and Exige.

With a very similar battle behind settled in the order Verheist-J Rasse-Georges, it was a lonely Marcus Jewell that finished in seventh place, ahead of Denis van den Savel, Bouche and Jean-Pierre Genoud Prachex. Not faring so well after promising starts were Phill Capstick and Savage, the latter retiring with engine troubles.

Whilst Harvey was unchallenged in the Open category, Denman also enjoyed a dominant performance, with Nikowitsch and Corbiau holding station to complete the Production class podium.

 

Race Two

The 2-Eleven and Exige’s lighter weight relative to the Evora helped Georges and Meusnier make a better start off the line in the second race and it was the former who led the field into La Source. However Meusnier was able to pass the 2-Eleven around the lap and crossed the line first into lap two. Behind the top three, Lisandre led a small group consisting of John Rasse, Lourenco and Goff.

Soon enough, Greg was able to reassert himself into the lead, with Meusnier dropping to third. The leader’s brother felt similarly inspired and fought his way up into third, but just as he was poised to attack the leading two, his engine cried enough and the race was over by the mid-stage.

Lourenco’s race didn’t last much longer, leaving Lisandre to fight off Verheist. However the focus was further ahead because Georges wasn’t letting Greg get away from him. Indeed, when they crossed the line after half an hour of racing, the gap between the two was barely two seconds.

Meusnier had dropped off the pace towards the end but was still some way clear of Lisandre and Verheist, whilst Goff and Prachex were in close company at the flag. Bouche and van den Savel had also paired off during the proceedings, whilst Chatterway completed the top ten, heading a trio of runners that consisted of Jewell, Open class winner Harvey and Herbert Metzker.

Craig Denman completed a perfect weekend to match Greg’s, and with the early retirement of Corbiau, Nikowitsch and Dave Carr took second and third places in the Production class.

Conclusion

Greg Rasse’s double represented the first privateer victory for the Evora, for whilst a V6-powered Lotus won here last year, it was very much a factory effort with Lotus Racing’s Gavan Kershaw at the wheel. It also came as the culmination of much work from the Belgian, who has been knocking on the door of a win for some time. That it should come at his home circuit is richly deserved.

Meanwhile Georges and Meusnier continue to impress, whilst Lisandre and John Rasse remain as competitive as ever. Denman’s wild card entry for the weekend paid off handsomely but Nikowitsch was able to provide some strong competition from the regulars.

Lotus Cup Europe takes a summer break and will return in two months at the Dijon-Prenois circuit in France, another popular venue that last time saw strong performances from both Rasse brothers.

 

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