Turns out you should always read the fine print. Blowing the half-time whistle during an endurance race is not a concept I’m familiar with. The first 6Hr race is now run, with the second due to kick off after, essentially, a 90-minute pit stop. Seems the Gulf ‘12Hr’ is suffering an identity crisis.
Saying that, this gives crankandpiston the opportunity to wander pit road and get up to speed with the leaders. Competition is tight across all four classes, and this hiatus mid-game – in which laps lost are maintained but time deficits are not – effectively hits the reset button. We spoke with a lead driver from each category to get their thoughts on the first rac…er, the first six hours.
#3 AF Corse (Ferrari 458 Italia) GT3
“So far it’s been fantastic. Our car has run really, really well. Couple of tiny little issues we’ve managed to get past and we’ve been the quickest all race long, more or less leading throughout.
“But we’ve still got to go 100 per cent. It’s a quality field. You think maybe with a small field, a top team like AF Corse with a good driver line-up like ours would be able to coast, but every lap is an absolute qualifying lap! We’ve just finished race one with 1m 20s lead. We lose that advantage going into the next race, so we’re just doing our job the way we do our job and trying to win both races.
“Coming here to the Yas Marina Circuit is just fantastic. Just brilliant. Okay, the track may not be Spa or the Nurburgring, but the place makes up for it. And it has been a really busy two days. Yesterday we arrived at 7am and didn’t leave until 9pm, and today’s a twelve hour race. So it’s been really, really hectic and I’m looking forward to a few days off. Hopefully with a trophy!”
Saeed Al Mehairi
#6 Team Yas Marina Circuit (Aston Martin V8 Vantage) GT4
“We’ve had a good race. We had a few problems at the start, plus some strategy changes, but yeah, we’re doing our best. Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of spare parts, so race two’s going to be more challenging for us. This track is very hard on the tyres and the brakes, and we really have to be very smooth. And maybe slow down, just to be on the safe side.
“But top ten is very possible. We were running in the top ten earlier on until we had some technical problems, and we had to stop for about half an hour to change some parts. We’re now twelfth, but still first in class. There’s a big chance we can finish higher.
“Last week I had the Dubai 24Hrs, and my team finished second overall. My stints were for two hours, non-stop. I did three or four. Today it’s only one hour stints but it’s still not easy. You have to be fit, physically and mentally. I also have another race next weekend in America, the Daytona 24hr. So three endurance races in a row. I never sleep!”
#45 Avelon Bellarosa (Wolf GB 08) FIA CN2
“For us, the most important thing is to win the whole race. I got pole position yesterday and the fastest lap today, so that’s a good start! We even had a little more in reserve yesterday. We know our power and we know how good the car is after racing in Europe last year. Our cars won the last six races. So we would have been disappointed if we hadn’t got pole position.
“We’ve finished the first race at the top, but now we have received a penalty because our car is too fast! It keeps the field tight. It’s a 45s penalty which applies to each pit stop, and we’ll have six of them. It’s very expensive!
“We lost a lot of time early on with some problems but a podium is still very possible. It’s a long race and the GT3s are very fast. They have 500hp, we have 200hp. So on the straight…wow! The difference is unbelievable! So far no problems and tyres and brakes are holding well. I think we’re okay.”
#8 Bonaldi Motorsports (Lamborghini Gallardo) Cup
“It’s my first time at this circuit and also the first time in the Lamborghini. In my life I’ve driven some real pieces of…I’d better not say! But the Lamborghini is fantastic! I raced in Italy in Porsches and raced other guys in Lamborghinis who were really fast. Now I know why!
“We don’t have any problems. Maybe a couple of technical things but nothing much. In our class, the other guys are quite quick, but I think we are faster. I was really surprised by the strength of the field. The cars are so good that the gentlemen drivers can close up to the professionals, and it’s not often that happens.
“We had some brake problems yesterday, so we’ve worked hard to find a good balance for the long distances. We’re going to change the brake discs in between races, just to be on the safe side. But I’m not too worried about the second race. Even at night. The lighting is perfect, and in some places it’s better than during the day!”
A claxon has just sounded by my right ear. With their manager’s words of wisdom still ringing in their ears and half-time oranges taken care of, the players make their way back down the tunnel. A couple of yellows and the referee’s stepped in a few times, but fair play so far. They think it’s all over? Nope, not yet.
Shots courtesy of Gulf12hours