Sunday in Le Castellet - Janiec and Calvet win on Day 2
19. May 2019Le Castellet - Sunday was another dreary day for the 39,900 spectators at Circuit Paul Ricard for this opening round of the Championnat de France Camions. Black clouds swept across the sky in seemingly endless procession, allowing the temperature to rise no higher than 16°C. But miraculously, it stayed dry – and there were even suggestions of sunshine on a few rare occasions.
The Lion Truck Racing mechanics had worked on Anthony Janiec’s battered MAN till well past midnight, and the truck looked as good as new when we saw it in pit lane just before the early morning warm-up. Janiec’s teammate Téo Calvet set the top time, but the defending champion appeared no less quick in this effectively inconsequential session.
In the ensuing qualifying Janiec, who’d literally shredded the lap times of his closest competitors the day earlier, initially ceded top spot to putative title rival Thomas Robineau (MAN). Calvet was third-fastest, ahead of Lionel Montagne (Renault). Another Renault pilot, Grzegorz Ostaszewski, a fixture in the top five, had all his times cancelled for multiple overspeed infringements, demoting him to the very bottom of the grid for the day’s first race.
Next on the schedule for the Top 10, however, was the Super Pole, and Janiec immediately came on strong with the first sub-1:53 lap of the weekend. On the final lap Robineau went faster in the first sector, and everyone waited with bated breath for him to cross the line. As things turned out, he went much slower in Sector 2 than Janiec, who remained standing unassailed on pole. Calvet took P3, with Lionel Montagne alongside.
Janiec took full control of the race from the start, and was headed unchallenged for victory till he came upon the first backmarkers. Robineau caught up and, though he crossed the line just eight tenths behind, Janiec’s victory was never in jeopardy.
The real exciting action, at least in the initial stages, was the fight for P3. Calvet had lost ground to Lionel Montagne on the sprint to the first corner, and then found himself in a Montagne sandwich with Yorick’s Renault glued, as it were, to his crash guard. At midrace the Montagnes came undone. Yorick was the first to fall away, struck down by technical failure. Immediately after, Lionel lost his position to Téo Calvet. In a spectacular manoeuvre in the chord that truncates the Grand Prix configuration of the circuit, the young pilot swept past the Renault in his MAN, pulling away thereafter till he was more than five seconds ahead at the flag.
Ostaszewski followed, the Pole having painstakingly picked his way through the 27-strong field. Volvo pilot Franck Conti finished in P6, followed by Patrick Chatelain (Iveco) and Patrice Lacouve (MAN), who picked up pole for the final race of the weekend.
The three top finishers and their immediate followers were worlds apart on the timesheet, and everyone was on tenterhooks at the start, for a smashup was a very real prospect. But it passed off without event – except, perhaps, that Téo Calvet, took advantage of the general cautiousness, pulling out onto the extreme left of the track and overtaking all five trucks in front of him at one go. The youngest driver in the field proceeded to put daylight between himself and his immediate pursuers, who were left to pick their way through the slower-starting trucks.
Ostaszewski presently climbed to P2 ahead of Robineau, Janiec, and Lionel Montagne. The two MANs are over a second faster on average than the Renault, but they were just not able to get ahead. Janiec finally decided to do something about it – he overtook Robineau and attached himself to the Renault’s crash guard. Just when he moved to attack, the MAN suddenly slowed, allowing Robineau to retake his position. Janiec had picked up a slow puncture, but soldiered on the finish the race a respectable P5.
Further ahead, Robineau eventually managed to overpower Ostaszewski, and was at this point seven seconds down on Calvet. But then the backmarkers loomed, and overtaking them can lose one valuable seconds. Robineau continued to bear down on Calvet till he had chopped his lead to about a second as they set off on the final lap. But 18-year-old Téo refused to be daunted and held on to win by seven tenths. Robineau was followed onto the podium by Ostaszewski, with Lionel Montagne in P4.