Lebanese driver Joe Ghanem made a sensational debut in the Maserati Trofeo World Series at Portimao on 3 June 2012 where he firmly established himself as a contender for victory during all three races.
Portuguese fans at the second round of the 2012 season were left speechless by the stunning efforts from Ghanem, who secured three podium finishes on his debut weekend and – astonishingly – secured pole position for the opening race by posting a qualifying lap over half a second faster than his nearest rivals, despite his comparative lack of practice time.
As the inaugural winner of the Maserati Trofeo JBF RAK series, the only fully manufacturer supported motor racing series in the Middle East, Ghanem put his exemplary skill and determination to impressive use in the opening race by engaging in multi-lap wheel-to-wheel combat with eventual winner Cedric Sbirrazzuoli and the more experienced Riccardo Ragazzi. After a tenacious battle with the pair, Ghanem landed his debut podium finish at the first attempt in the Maserati Trofeo World Series by taking third.
“I really couldn’t be happier with how things have gone,” said an exuberant Ghanem. “Sure it would have been nice to get the victory but to turn up at Portimao and get a podium first time out against these more experienced guys is just fantastic. And pole too? Just over the moon!”
Even more impressive was the Lebanese driver’s resilience in race two. From the third row of the grid, Ghanem stormed into the lead at the first corner, scything past polesitter Giorgio Sernagiotto and Alan Simoni in the process. No quarter was asked and no quarter given between the trio of Maserati GranTurismo MC Concept cars around the 4.7km Portimao circuit, with hardly a car length separating them, Ghanem’s feisty drive securing him another podium finish – second this time – just one second behind race victor Sernagiotto.
In the early stages of the 50-minute final race, Ghanem found himself at the head of the 23-strong field, withstanding enormous pressure from a train of more experienced drivers behind him, led by eventual race three winner Renaud Kuppens. Solid composure during the pitstop phase and a succession of quick laps in the Maserati GranTurismo MC Concept car kept Ghanem well in the hunt for victory, and the winner of the inaugural Maserati Trofeo JBF RAK series secured a fantastic weekend by equaling his second place in race two and taking a hattrick of podiums. Ghanem’s points tally from the Portimao weekend – 43 – was unbeaten by any other driver in the field.
Alongside Ghanem, Lebanese countryman Tani Hanna was also in action at the Maserati World Series round in Portimao. After a successful year in the Maserati Trofeo JBF RAK in which he firmly established himself as a podium contender at nearly every round, Hanna dived straight into the action in Portugal, going head-to-head and wheel-to-wheel with over half a dozen more experienced drivers in a closely fought midfield.
“As ever, racing a Maserati is extraordinary and everything was organised perfectly,” said Hanna. “Portimao is a truly amazing track and for a driver like me, who doesn’t have any experience on European circuits, there were reasons to fear it. But I slowly got used to the circuit and my lap times dropped from 2’01″ to 1’57″, which is a great result for me.” Hanna completed a solid weekend by taking 14th, 12th and 13th in the weekend’s three races respectively.
All competitors were competing in the Maserati GranTurismo MC Concept, a prototype developed from the highly evocative GranTurismo S. In 2012, the GranTurismo MC has received even more upgrades to improve the superlative performance, including new technical setups, weight reduction, and aerodynamic upgrades.
The next round of the Maserati Trofeo World series will take place at the San Marino Circuit in Imola on 24 June 2012.