Recently crankandpiston asked me to write a few words about my year competing in the Qatar National Road Racing Championship Open Class in a 1973 911S. This year there’s been a lot of excitement, but it’s also been hard. Very hard!
As some of you may know, my 911S is a full-on, International Motorsports Association (IMSA) GTU specified race car, converted from a 1973 model. One minute it’s trundling around green lanes in the USA, the next it’s a fire breathing monster. Quite literally! Although to be fair, very little on the 1973 car remains! I bought her here in Qatar from the guy who did the conversion and the first two years of ownership were testing to say the least, due to electrical gremlins. But with a lot of money, effort and support from the wizards at Need For Speed, she finally burst into life; yeehah! I now understand the phrase “open a can of whoop-ass!”
2011 and early 2012 saw her testing during track days where she was found to be very, very capable (if only the driver was!), and soon we were ready for the first round of the season. Practice went well, qualifying high on the grid. Raceday: lights off and away we go. The competition in my class in this race was a 2007 GT3 Cup car driven by the reigning-Champion Rob Frijns. No worries there then!
Since most of the Open Class either did not attend the first race, the main entertainment was going to be with the Production Class, which were mainly Mitsubishi Evos and which had similar pace to me. All went well, second into the first corner, then third. I held third for 14 of the corners and then, bam! I spun out. I recall looking in my mirrors, seeing four Evos fan out trying to avoid me, thinking to myself, no way, Jose! A DNF in my first race. What a humbling experience that was!
That DNF was still at the front of my mind at the second round at the Losail International Circuit. I remember shouting at myself, “to finish first, first you have to finish”. This was a much better result: fourth in overall and third in class. We had some major gear selection issues but despite this, the times were getting better and more importantly, we were consistent.
The third round saw the introduction of a new Open Class car; a fire breathing Evo 10 built by NFS. It was “OMG” fast! This would be interesting. And to add to the stress, I misjudged the opening of pitlane and so had to start from the back of the grid. We found a solution to our gear change issues using part of a Red Bull can (couldn’t help seeing if it worked for the car also!!), and managed to finish fourth overall and fourth in class. I was very pleased with that, given that I’d started from the back. This time I even beat the GT3 Cup, although in fairness he had a blow-out mid race! This race supported the Maserati Trofeo JBF RAK and these guys were a show and a half. And the sound was just awesome!
At the fourth round we supported the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, and as you might imagine, I was a very happy person! The down side was that three of the local racers who were competing in the Challenge also raced their cars in our Open Class; a 2012 GT3 Cup, a 2011 GT3 Cup and a 2010 GT3 Cup. Yep, this was going to be tough! I finally got the livery for my sponsor on the car and what a lift it gave to the look. She looked even more gorgeous than before, so a big thank you to RMD Kwikform.
Ten exciting laps later, I crossed the line in fifth, having been lapped by the leading GT3 Cup. Great to be overtaken by such a fast car and what an amazing sight. He probably took some paint of mine with him! My race was mainly with the production boys and this was a lot of fun. The racing was so close!
Round five was very eventful. We started with high hopes as my new race gear linkage had arrived and we were hoping to dispel our gearbox problems. The four GT3 Cup cars were out along with two very quick Evos and the production boys. At the first corner on the first lap, one of the Open Class Evos spun and hit one of the Production Evos, causing me and the rest of the chasing pack to take evasive action. I was unable to catch the pack ahead after that, and as I crossed the line, disaster!
Clouds of white smoke erupted from under the bonnet. I was credited with fifth in class but the engine had let go. Later inspection revealed a cracked case. It was terminal.
It was a bitter sweet way to end a good season. But the engine is currently being repaired and next year I hope come back bigger and better to take on the Qatar National Road Racing Championship once again. Hope to see you all trackside next season!
- Tim Stevens