Team France has sealed the first gold medal of the 2022 FIA Motorsport Games after resisting pressure from pre-race favourite Team Germany in this afternoon's deciding GT contest.
The host nation was by no means an outside bet, showing its pace by finishing both qualifying races in runner-up spot, though it was the German crew that started on pole after winning both qualifiers.
The race was split into two distinct phases. This was down to driver choice, with most teams electing to run their bronze first while four selected their silver to take the start. France was among the latter group, allowing Simon Gachet to quickly pull out a commanding lead.
In the German entry, bronze-graded Valentin Pierburg fought valiantly but ultimately slipped behind all four silver-driven cars. By this point Gachet led by 15 seconds from Chinese Taipei (Ferrari), Team Ukraine (Aston Martin), and Brazil (Mercedes-AMG) before contact between the latter two dashed Ukrainian hopes.
Of course, the driver situation would be reversed for the second half of the race. Fabian Schiller took the wheel of the German car, while Eric Debard assumed the French machine from Gachet. Schiller was quickly on the pace, though with a 30-second deficit to Debard he had his work cut out.
Undeterred, Schiller pumped in a succession of fastest laps. Debard was doing a fine job out front and the stage was set for a grandstand finish, with Germany looking likely to catch France on the final lap. But this battle was never given a chance to develop, as a safety car with just five minutes left on the clock brought the contest to an early end.
The neutralisation was caused by a clash between Hong Kong China and Chinese Taipei, which left the latter short of a wheel and stranded in the middle of the circuit. A safety car was the only option and there was no time to go racing again. As such France's driver gamble had paid off and they clinched gold on home soil.
After the dominant front two, Team UK took home the bronze after an impressive performance from Ian Loggie and Sam Neary, the latter of whom was drafted in late after Chris Froggatt fell ill. Team Poland and Team Switzerland were also top-five finishers, but ultimately missed out on medals.
And so it was Debard and Gachet who recieved the very first gold medals of the 2022 FIA Motorsport Games from Felipe Massa, securing a very popular win at their home track. There will be more GT action on Sunday when the GT Sprint category runs at Circuit Paul Ricard, bringing some of the fastest GT3 drivers on the planet to compete for top spot in their national colours.