NGK Racing Series. Round 8, Autodrome. Adversaries


With Alexandros Annivas and Ramzi Moutran though, the battle was on to the finish. Identical pace meant, try as he could, Annivas couldn’t find a way past and could only watch as Moutran took race one victory and the standings lead. Race two however would be the nail-biter. A blinding start from Jonathan Mullan in the Honda Integra – who despite fuel rail, alternator, manifold and suspension failures throughout the season was ready to go for broke in the season finale – saw him waltz past race one winner Rupesh Channake on the run down to turn one. The Irishman would retain the lead for two laps before the Lap57 Racing Honda Integra slipstreamed its way into the lead. That would ultimately make it two for two from Channake after a solid weekend.

Now battling to keep second position, Mullan had Moutran’s Duel Racing Clio clambering all over him through the corners, the grunt of the Honda engine just keeping the Integra in front on the straights. Annivas, having lost time after a tap from newboy Mario Diaz saw pushed him wide in the opening few circuits, was pushing to close the gap. Running half a tenth faster than the battling duo up front, he began to close them down.


Further back, the second Moutran brother, Sami, was battling with the remaining Clio of Will Morrison (who was looking to make up for a disappointing race one that ended on pitroad and without power), the returning Thomas Sorenson (who’d already taken a strong sixth place in race one in the Renault Clio), and the Lap57 Dubai 24Hrs A2-Category winning Honda Integra, this time with Diaz at the wheel. The Indian was already in hot water with race officials after a jumpstart, yet – inexplicably – decided against serving his drive-through penalty. Though keen to aid brother Ramzi’s title offense, Sami (incensed with Diaz’s refusal to serve his penalty) would go no further than lap 12 in the #56 Clio, a sticking throttle putting paid to a superb effort. Third in class (fifth overall) in race one was still a solid result, while third in the Clio class in race two was a similarly apt reward for Morrison’s efforts.


By lap ten, Mullan was starting to struggle. Fears that the Honda would begin understeering as the race entered its closing stages were starting to prove valid, and several times a wide exit from turn 16 left Ramzi Moutran agonisingly close to snatching second place away. By lap 11, the gap from Mullan to Moutran was just 0.25s, and the gap further back to Annivas was just over 2.2s. We’ve seen many times at the Dubai Autodrome this season that races are won or lost on the final lap, and as the trio took the white flag for the final lap of the season, nobody dared predict who would take the final corner in the lead. All three touring cars disappeared from view down the main straight, leaving only the ever-more exited words of Phil Anson on commentary to keep us updated.


Rolling through the fast sweeping turn 15 for the final time, a cigarette paper could not separate the trio. But a wide moment for Mullan through turn 16 gave both Moutran and Annivas their opportunity, and both pounced. Neck-to-neck-to-neck went the sprint to the finishing line, Annivas trying one final late lunge around the outside of the corner and poor Mullan pressing his accelerator through the floor to finish off what had been an outstanding effort thus far. But both would be pipped by Moutran, a superb exit from the final turn powering him into second place overall, first place in the Clio Cup category, and to the top of the standings. On the last corner of the final race of the season, Ramzi Moutran had secured the 2012/2013 Clio Cup title in the most dramatic finish the series had produced all year.


Back in the paddock, the Moutran family was quick to swamp Ramzi’s Clio, the man punching the air victoriously shortly after. A few minutes later, Alexandros Annivas entered the fray to give the new Champion a big hug, which was returned with equal affection. It had been a tightly fought contest all season-long, with the outcome still unsure with less than 50 yards of the final race to run.

It may have lacked entry numbers, but the 2012/2013 NGK Racing Series had produced the goods when it really needed to. And so too had its new Champion.

– FULL GALLERY OF IMAGES AVAILABLE HERE – Shots courtesy of David Benson

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