The Alpine Elf Europa Cup made its way to Catalunya for the season finale where 19 avid drivers concluded the year in style behind the wheel of their Alpine A110 Cups.
Following free-practice run in dry conditions, the track was wet for qualifying. On his last attempt, Nicolas Milan edged Marc Guillot (Milan Compétition) and Jean-Baptiste Méla (Autosport GP) for the pole.
At the start, Nicolas Milan stayed on the inside at turn one to maintain the lead, but Marc Guillot moved ahead at the next corner only to see the pole winner immediately re-take the position. Behind them, Jean-Baptiste Méla dropped down the order and Sylvain Noël (Racing Technology), Laurent Hurgon (Autosport GP) and Julien Neveu (Autosport GP) took advantage to close right up to the leading duo.
The safety car was called out on lap two to allow for the removal of the Alpine A110 Cup of Pierre Macchi (Autosport GP) from the gravel trap. When the race resumed, Nicolas Milan contained Marc Guillot, while Laurent Hurgon slipped past Sylvain Noël for third place. A little bit further back, Vincent Beltoise (CMR) saw his slim title hopes vanish when he was forced to retire.
The chase group was led by Gaël Castelli (Milan Compétition), Pierre Sancinéna and Julien Neveu. For several laps, the three put on a splendid battle for fifth place. Laurent Hurgon dropped out with three laps remaining and Gaël Castelli went on to overtake Sylvain Noël for third place.
Marc Guillot tried to find an opening on race leader Nicolas Milan, but the veteran held on to score his maiden victory in the Alpine Elf Europa Cup by a narrow 0.142s. Gaël Castelli completed the all Milan Compétition podium, which is the first sweep of the top three in the history of the category.
Fourth place went to Julien Neveu ahead of Sylvain Noël, who clinched the Gentleman category title. Sixth place finisher Pierre Sancinéna was followed by Junior driver Marc De Fulgencio (Team VRT), who was ineligible to score points. Mathieu Blaise (Racing Technology), Jean-Baptiste Méla and Thomas Padovani (Milan Compétition) completed the top ten.
On Sunday morning, three drivers were still in contention for the title: Pierre Sancinéna (128 points), Nicolas Milan (117 points) and Sylvain Noël (113 points).
In qualifying, Laurent Hurgon edged out Marc Guillot for the pole by just 0.01s. Among the contenders, Nicolas Milan was fourth, just ahead of Pierre Sancinéna, who had set the best time only for it to be disallowed for not respecting the track limits. Tenth on the grid, Sylvain Noël knew he would now need a miracle in the race to win the championship.
At the start, Laurent Hurgon was immediately overtaken by Nicolas Milan, Marc Guillot and Gaël Castelli. Pierre Sancinéna remained in fifth place, which would not be good enough for the title if Nicolas Milan won the race!
On lap three, the retirement of Pierre Combot (Autosport GP) brought out the safety car. When the race went green, the order remained intact, but the group of leaders was tightly bunched at the mid-way point of the race with six seconds covering the top 12. Julien Neveu moved up to sixth place after contact between Vincent Beltoise and Sylvain Noël.
The last laps were full of twists and turns. First, Pierre Sancinéna re-took control of his fate by surprising Laurent Hurgon, but Julien Neveu got around straight after. Meanwhile, Gaël Castelli dropped out and lost any hope of third place.
Nicolas Milan went on for his second win of the weekend ahead of Marc Guillot. Julien Neveu was third, ahead of Pierre Sancinéna, who won the title for just one point. Fifth place was taken by Junior class winner Jean-Baptiste Méla, while sixth place overall Sylvain Noël took top honours among the Gentleman. Thomas Padovani, Marc De Fulgencio, Laurent Hurgon and Matthieu Blaise rounded out the top ten.
Pierre Sancinéna (Winner of the 2018 Alpine Elf Europa Cup)
“I am at a loss for words…It was both hard and fantastic, but the conclusion is simply amazing. When Alpine announced the creation of this competition, I didn’t hesitate for a second due to my past history with the brand. I have family in Dieppe and my first engineering apprenticeship took place at the factory in Dieppe. I have a lot of affection for Alpine and thus I am tremendously proud to become the first Alpine Elf Europa Cup champion with the flash on my chest. I knew the finale was going to be stressful and that I had to avoid taking the slightest risk. I was aware that fifth place wouldn’t be enough on Sunday, but I was never in doubt. The last two laps were very long… This title is the reward for a magnificent season. I really want to thank everyone who contributed to this victory: my family, my sponsors, the CMR team and of course Alpine!”
Nicolas Milan (2nd in the general classification, winner races 1 and 2)
“I am very happy to have won my first two races in the Alpine Elf Europa Cup. I wasn’t fast enough at the start of the year, and then wasn’t very lucky and these wins have come a little too late, but there was very little in it for the title. Second place is still a very satisfying result, in as much as it was far from a given because I was fourth coming into this weekend. Fortunately, I could count on the performances of my team mate Marc Guillot. We did a good job preparing the settings for this meeting and it paid off. This is encouraging for next year and we can never under-estimate our rivals. In any case, it has been a fine season and I’ve had a lot of fun driving this car.”
Sylvain Noël (3rd in the general classification, Gentlemen category champion)
“I was here three weeks ago in the French FFSA GT Championship and I thought that would be enough. We may have underestimated this meeting, because we couldn’t make up the deficit to our rivals who were better prepared. We did though reach our start of the season objective of wining the Gentleman category, but I am sure we could have aimed higher had we put in a little more resources and if we had a little more luck at certain times. After a six-year break, I am nevertheless very satisfied with my return to competition!”