2013/2014 Formula Gulf 1000. Round 2. New contenders

Formula Gulf 1000 hits the Yas Marina Circuit for round two of the 2013/2014 season, Saeed Bintouq and newboy Tom Bale sharing the spoils.

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One thousandth of a second. That at one point was the difference in laptimes between the lead pair during round two of the 2013/2014 Formula Gulf 1000 season at Yas Marina (only the second ever FGulf 1000 event not to include 2012/2013 Gulfsport Trophy winner Natasha Seatter). Complications during the first race had led to a runaway winner, but a more controlled start meant race two was mano y mano, toe to toe, with Saeed Bintouq schooling series newboy Tom Bale.

An outstanding effort saw Bale grab pole position for his first ever car race, five minutes before the end of qualifying and by just 0.4s. A good getaway from pole at the start of race one proved the Achilles heel for the Welsh youngster’s rivals, Bale braking earlier than expected for the first corner and the resultant domino effect causing Saudi Arabian Abdullah Kabbani to plough into the back of Bintouq’s #2 entry. The Emirati, now with electronics damage to his Ralph Firman-designed single seater, was able to continue and even took the lead through the turn two/three chicane. It wasn’t long though before Bale was on his heels down the main straight, lining up an attack on the inside line into turn one, and nabbing the lead. There was little to stop Bale thereafter on his way to his first FGulf victory at his first attempt, Bintouq nursing his car – now down on power – home to take second a little under six seconds behind.

Come race two however, matters were decidedly different. Opening lap carnage had mercifully been avoided, and a brave move around the outside of poleman Bale into turn one netted Bintouq the lead. The Emirati, his race one car now shot, seemed untroubled by the last minute swap to the #21 ‘Gulf car’ originally slated for Ameer Hassan. Though on the entry list, the Lebanese rookie declined to compete in either race at Yas owing to a lack of pace. A question mark remains whether Hassan – who also missed round one – will make his overdue debut next time out at the Dubai Autodrome.

A rabbit from the traps, leader Bintouq threw down the marker early with a string of 1m 01s laptimes around the Yas Marina south circuit. In another stellar performance, these were matched and on occasion beaten by second-placed Bale, and as the race entered its closing stages, it was time for the FGulf ‘veteran’ to teach the Welsh nipper a little lesson. Fastest lap after fastest lap kept the time screens purple, the gap back to Bale’s #15 entry extending from just under half a second to a little over 1.5 seconds with only a few laps left. A useful margin, one put to good use by Bintouq (who, it was recently announced, will compete in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship with Abu Dhabi Racing and Citroen Racing) to preserve both tyres and the spare car during the final two laps. The gap may have fallen to just 0.3s at the flag, but Bintouq had done enough to secure his first FGulf victory since February. Still, the 2013/2014 Formula Gulf 1000 championship favourite would do well to keep a close eye on the 15-year old newcomer in the #15 car.

Behind the two-horse race, an equally engaging battle was unfolding for third between the series’ two Abdullahs. Having lost his nosecone and five minutes on pitroad as a result of his accident in turn one earlier in the day, Abdullah Kabbani would have his work cut out from the very back of the grid in race two. A good start meant he’d already nailed fourth place on the rundown to turn one, and the #77 machine was quickly hunting down Abdullah Elkhereiji for third. A quiet run to the final step of the podium in race one was going to be a tough result to replicate for Elkhereiji, the Saudi countrymen circulating line-astern with Kabbani taking several looks on the main straight but wisely exercising caution. Having brought the one second gap down, soon just 0.3s separated the #28 in third from the #77 champing at the bit behind, Kabbani making his move on lap eleven. Half closing the door wasn’t quite enough (though showed good sportsmanship) and from then on could Elkhereiji only watch the rear wing of the #77 machine disappear three seconds up the road. Once again the Abdullah duo shared the podium spoils, both taking a third place finish across the two races. Both were similarly hopeful that further seat time would improve their pace during the remainder of the season.

A disgruntled Adnan Bahrami felt likewise, his time buried in the 1m 08s early on meaning his challenge for a top spot was always going to be tough. Two good clean races however at least ensured the Kuwaiti driver stayed out of trouble, and the tyre barriers. By the end of the weekend, Bahrami’s best time of 1m 06.065s was almost 1.5 seconds faster than his qualifying time, a big positive to take away from only his second Formula Gulf 1000 outing.


Round 2 Race 1
1 – Tom Bale (UK) #15 22 Laps
2 – Saeed Bintouq (UAE) #02 +5.772s
3 – Abdullah Al Khereji (KSA) #28 +37.936
4 – Adnan Bahrami (KUW) #67 +1 LAP
5 – Abdullah Kabbani (KSA) #77 +4 LAPS

Round 2 Race 2
1 – Saeed Bintouq (UAE) #02 22 Laps
2 – Tom Bale (UK) #15 +0.329s
3 – Abdullah Kabbani (KSA) #77 +34.603s
4 – Abdullah Al Khereji (KSA) #28 +37.175s
5 –  Adnan Bahrami (KUW) #67 +1 LAP

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