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 Nikolas Mayr-Melnhof with four laps of the one-hour Qualifying Racing 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 pit stop 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.
"We were still in contact with him after the pit stops." said Loeb, who is focusing on racing this year as he winds down his rally career. "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 tires 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 pit stops propelled the car from outside the top 10 into third position.
Buhk, champion in last year's FIA GT3 European Championship, was more than 13 seconds behind Loeb after the pit stops 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 by Enzo Ide and Anthony Kumpen and Cesar Campanico and Carlos Vieira, respectively.
Sixth place went to the Seyffarth Motorsport Mercedes driven by Jan Seyffarth and GT debutant Karun Chandhok, who lost time with a slow pit stop.
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
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