Vizin takes the win in special 50-minute race as newcomer Janssens makes impressive debut

Thursday 24 August 2023

Lotus Cup Europe made its second visit of the 2023 season to the legendary Spa-Francorchamps on the 14th-15th July for a special 50-minute race where the championship supported the 25 Hours Fun Cup event.

Following the success of last year’s 50-minute race with mandatory pit stop, the FIA International Series decided to break away from the usual two race format once again for one weekend this season. All drivers would need to have fully completed a 180 second pit stop, from pit in to pit out, after the 10th minute and before the 40th minute of the race. With penalties being handed out for pit stops taken outside of the authorised timeframe or lasting less than the 180 seconds, drivers and teams would need to work together to come up with a fail-proof strategy that would not only guarantee them a perfect pit stop but also help them use their time in the pits to gain an advantage over their competition.

The added pressure of the mandatory pit stop was clear to see during the free practice and qualifying sessions as drivers and teams dedicated some of their track time to trying out and practicing different strategies for their pit stops. Spectators may have wondered what was happening as drivers planning to refuel during the race timed themselves getting in and out of the car, as for safety reasons the driver must exit the car before refuelling can begin costing the teams precious seconds.

Hungary’s Tamás Vizin drove only 5 laps during the qualifying session before returning to lie in wait in the pit lane, having set a time of 2:34.941, placing him at the top of the timing screen. However, the reigning Exige Cup champion’s signature move would backfire as Luxembourg’s Paul Maréchal knocked him off the top spot in the final couple of minutes with a time of 2:34.271, meaning Vizin would not have enough time to go back out and attempt to re-claim the pole position. Four-time Lotus Cup Europe champion Bence Balogh placed himself on the 2nd row, taking pole in the GT Cup class as he reacquainted himself with the #1 Evora GT4.

Asphalte’s Jean-Pierre Genoud-Prachex took pole in the 211/Open class, securing him much needed points as he tries to catch up with current class leader and wife Nathalie Genoud-Prachex in the championship standings, the yellow and pink 2-Elevens of the Genoud-Prachexs sharing the 5th row on the grid. Production favourite Mark Yates took his class pole having set a lap time of 2:48.550, placing him on the 6th row, just behind the 2-Elevens, alongside 19-year-old Robbe Janssens who made his Lotus Cup Europe debut in the #32 car of championship stalwart Cai Cederholm.

Vizin made the most of the rolling start as the race got underway, passing poleman Maréchal and settling into an early lead, the Komo-Tec driver hoping to distance himself as much as possible from the rest of the field before the opening of the pit stop window. Reigning champion Balogh proved he hadn’t lost his touch as he moved up into second position, just ahead of Maréchal, feeling right at home back amongst the front runners and eventually setting the fastest lap of the race with a time of 2:36.620.

As the clock hit 10 minutes, signalling the opening of the pit window, the first teams began preparing for the arrival of their cars. Daniel Palma and Janssens were the first to arrive in the pits, Palma unfortunately exiting the pit lane 8 seconds short of the imposed 180 seconds while Janssens had an almost perfect time of 181 seconds, a time the Belgian driver would share with Hungary’s Vizin and Britain’s Mick Edwards.

Palma would not be the only driver to be given a penalty as Yates also found himself a couple of seconds short, the biggest penalties however would go to Production driver Kai Leymann and GT Cup’s Jason McInulty for failing to complete their pit stops within the authorised window. The fastest pit stop would go to Komo-Tec’s Rainer Börgens whose pit stop lasted exactly 3 minutes, an incredible achievement for both driver and team.

Vizin held onto his lead despite pressure from Balogh and Marechal, Vizin only dropping down momentarily to complete his pit stop during which time Maréchal found himself at the front of the pack. With David McInulty out of the picture having been forced to retire from the race after only 2 laps, JP Genoud-Prachex held onto a comfortable lead ahead of wife Nathalie. Over in the Production class there were battles aplenty, Janssens taking the lead from Yates straight off the start line, beginning a race long battle between the two drivers, Yates eventually regaining the upper hand. The Edwards family also put on quite the show as father and son, Mick and Bailey, battled it out on track up until the #63 car of M Edwards was forced to pull off and retire.

As it hit the 50-minute mark, Vizin’s #81 Exige V6 Cup R took the chequered flag ahead of Maréchal and GT Cup winner Balogh. Lotus main dealer Thierry Verhiest came in fourth position, completing the Exige Cup podium, ahead of Börgens and Nikolaj Ipsen. JP Genoud-Prachex finished first in the 211/Open class finishing ahead of Palma and N Genoud-Prachex. Newcomer Janssens finished second on track behind Yates after showing some impressive skills, however with Yates having received a penalty for his pit stop, Janssens would take the top step of the podium in his first ever  race in the championship, Bailey Edwards coming second and Yates finding himself down in third position. J McInulty, K Leymann and M Edwards completed the rankings.

Lotus Cup Europe will be back after the summer as it makes it’s annual visit to the world famous Le Mans, 22nd – 24th September, where the drivers will battle it out for three races in front of huge crowds as the championship supports the 24H Camions event.

Podium standings:

Race 1OverallExige CupGT Cup211 OpenProduction
1st T Vizin T Vizin B Balogh JP Genoud-Prachex R Janssens
2nd P Maréchal P Maréchal J McInulty N Genoud-Prachex B Edwards
3rd B Balogh T Verhiest M Yates

Driver of the weekend: Spa-Francorchamps

Robbe Janssens – Elise Cup R

Robbe took the Production class win in his debut race in the Lotus Cup Europe championship – it was also his first visit to Spa-Francorchamps.


Championship standings:

More pics can be found on: Facebook / Instagram