After a summer break, the penultimate round of the Lotus Cup Europe season saw a return to France and the popular Dijon-Prenois circuit, scene of the French (and Swiss) Grand Prix in the late 70s and early 80s. Jonathan Walker has performed well at the circuit in the past, as have the Rasse brothers and Christophe Lisandre. Meanwhile Xavier Georges drove well on his series debut last year and is another expected to challenge this weekend.
Walker was quickest in the Friday morning Practice session by three tenths from Jean-Pierre Genoud Prachex, the 2-Elevens ahead of the Exiges of Jean-Baptiste Meusnier and John Rasse.
Half a day later and qualifying was run in hot conditions, with Georges taking pole position from Gregory Rasse by half a second around the classic Grand Prix circuit. Meusnier was a further six tenths in arrears but led the Exige class, with Jon Walker, Lisandre and J-P Genoud Prachex between him and John Rasse in seventh place. Markus Nikowitsch took eighth in his Exige, with Jeremy Lourenco and Thierry Verheist completing the top ten.
Open was claimed by Christophe Calley in twelfth place, whilst Nigel Ayres was fastest of the Production runners, from Jose Vaslin and Matt Bartlett.
Meusnier took full advantage of the rolling start to rocket into the lead at the first corner, while Greg Rasse’s launch wasn’t as good and he found himself fighting off Lisandre, Jon Walker and John Rasse, as Georges claimed second place.
Lisandre took an early third place but couldn’t hold on and first Walker’s 2-Eleven, then the Evora were past. John Rasse held back a little as the cars ahead squabbled for position, whilst J-P Genoud-Prachex led the rest of the pack.
The leading Evora then demoted Walker for the final podium place and set off after the leaders, who had settled into their own battle in the early laps. Meanwhile John Rasse had also made up a place on Lisandre. As the fight for the lead became a three-way affair, the Exige would lose out as first Georges headed the field, then the Evora powered through.
Walker turned his attentions to Meusnier, leaving Greg to concentrate on wresting the lead of the race. As the Evora passed for position, Walker barged his way onto the podium at the first corner. Lisandre could only watch as John Rasse caught up with his class rival and despite threatening to take the class victory at the end, only just lost out to the early race leader.
Genoud-Prachex kept his seventh position, with Nikowitsch taking eighth from Verheist and Guillaume Bouche. Meanwhile Open class honours were claimed by Calley, whilst in the Production battle, Ayres held off Vaslin and Bartlett for the duration of the race, the trio never running more than a few lengths apart.
Both Georges and Greg Rasse made much better starts from the line this time around but whilst the 2-Eleven led around the first lap, the Evora would take over within a few moments and build up an unassailable advantage over the entire field.
Behind, Lisandre, Jon Walker, Meusnier, Lourenco and John Rasse were all involved in an intense fight, in which J-P Genoud-Prachex and Nikowitsch would also become embroiled. Before long, Lisandre and Walker would clear the pack, also demoting Georges, but Meusnier’s attempts to stay ahead of the rest bunched up his immediate pursuers and inevitably something had to give. The leading Exige and the polesitter’s 2-Eleven would drop out of the battle for fourth place, which, if anything, increased in its intensity.
Lorenco, Genoud-Prachex and Nikowitsch would fight with John Rasse for lap after lap in the late stages and whilst Gregory Rasse and Jon Walker pulled ever further clear, the 2-Eleven of Lisandre became ever more vulnerable. Indeed as the rounded the Corbe de Pourbas for the final time, the unfortunate Christophe came upon a backmarker at exactly the wrong time and Lourenco was past, for a very enthusiastically-received podium position.
John Rasse took fifth place behind Lisandre, with Genoud-Prachex and Nikowitsch next up. Meusnier ended up in eighth, from Philippe Loup and Verheist. Georges was disqualified for ignoring a penalty shown to him for jumping the start, whilst problems for Calley meant that Motitz Hannappel won the Open Class.
Behind, an equally fierce Production class fight saw Ayres and Vaslin swap positions several times, with Bartlett also benefitting from a temporary second place in the category. Eventually, however the leading pair pulled clear for the final laps and Ayres just crossed the line to take a second Production win of the weekend.
From braking issues on the opening day, Greg Rasse put all of his worries aside and grabbed the races by the scruff of the neck to take two well-deserved victories, with his performance improving throughout the meeting. Jon Walker ensured that the result had been hard-fought, whilst behind the pair there were many great performances. Lourenco, Georges, Meusnier, Nikowitsch and the ever-present John Rasse ensured their place, whilst birthday boy Prachex showed well.
The final round of the 2012 Lotus Cup season will take place in Zolder, Belgium in just a couple of weeks’ time. Both Rasse brothers will want to end a strong season on a high as they race on home ground but on the evidence of Dijon it won’t be easy for them.