Nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb made a winning start to his racing career by claiming victory in the opening race of the FIA GT Series at Nogaro.
The Frenchman, who shared his Sebastien Loeb Racing McLaren MP4-12C with Alvaro Parente, overtook the WRT Audi of Nikolaus Mayr-Melnhof with four laps of the one-hour qualifying race to go.
Parente had run nose to tail with Mayr-Melnhof's team-mate, poleman Rene Rast, through the opening stint, before the Loeb car lost a couple of seconds during the pitstop sequence.
Loeb needed only three laps to close down the deficit to the Audi R8 LMS ultra but a further nine laps to find a way past amateur driver Mayr-Melnhof into Turn 7 at the end of the long back straight.
Loeb, who is focusing on racing this year as he winds down his rally career, said: "We were still in contact with him after the pitstops. I struggled with him a little bit, but in the end I was able to find a little opportunity."
Mayr-Melnhof, who claimed the Pro-Am class with Rast, said: "The tyres were going off a little bit; I was struggling a bit with grip onto the long straight."
Third place and second in the Pro class was taken by the HTP Gravity Charouz Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG driven by Alon Day and Maximilian Buhk.
A quick turnaround during the mandatory pitstops propelled the car from outside the top 10 into third position.
Buhk, champion in European GT3 last year, was more than 13 seconds behind Loeb after the pitstops but was able to close on the battling leaders to finish just over a tenth behind Mayr-Melnhof at the finish.
Audi took fourth and fifth positions with the solo R8s entered by the Phoenix Racing and Novadriver squads, which were driven respectively by Enzo Ide and Anthony Kumpen and Cesar Campanico and Carlos Vieira.
Sixth place went to the Seyffarth Motorsport Mercedes driven by Jan Seyffarth and GT debutant Karun Chandhok, who lost time with a slow pitstop.
Former Manchester United and France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez won the Gentlemen Trophy class for all-amateur line-ups in the Auto Sport Promotion Ferrari 458 Italia he shared with Gerard Tonelli.
Qualifying Race - 39 laps: Pos Class Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Pro Loeb/Parente Loeb McLaren 1h00m20.554s 2. Pro-Am Rast/Mayr-Melnhof WRT Audi + 5.323s 3. Pro Buhk/Day Gravity Mercedes + 5.511s 4. Pro Ide/Kumpen Phoenix Audi + 25.257s 5. Pro-Am Campanico/Vieira Novadriver Audi + 25.928s 6. Pro Chandhok/Seyffarth Seyffarth Mercedes + 41.088s 7. Pro Bueno/Khodair Brazil BMW + 47.646s 8. Pro Zonta/Jimenez Brazil BMW + 49.278s 9. Pro-Am Stumpf/Ricci Rodrive Ford + 58.852s 10. Pro Zuber/Parisy Loeb McLaren + 59.938s 11. Pro-Am Ebrahim/Jousse India BMW + 1m04.496s 12. Pro-Am Proczyk/Baumann Grasser Lamborghini + 1m07.981s 13. Pro-Am Afanasiev/Simonsen Gravity Mercedes + 1m09.067s 14. Pro-Am Schulzhitskiy/Reip RJN Nissan + 1m19.144s 15. Gent Barthez/Tonelli SOFREV Ferrari + 1 laps 16. Pro Ortelli/Vanthoor WRT Audi + 1 laps 17. Gent Mascarello/Tozzo Rodrive Ford + 2 laps 18. Gent Stovicek/Charouz Gravity Mercedes + 2 laps 19. Pro-Am Buncombe/Ordonez RJN Nissan + 3 laps Retirements: Pro Kentenich/Keilwitz Doer McLaren 18 laps Pro Stippler/Sandstrom WRT Audi 17 laps Pro-Am Ayari/Beaubelique SOFREV Ferrari 1 lap Did not start: Pro-Am Salaquarda/Onidi AF Ferrari
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