As we get close to the end of the year, Dubai is a bee hive of activities in as far was motoring is concerned. Being the number one world transit point, there is plenty of on track action and excitement at the Dubai Autodrome for the Dubai Motorsport Festival over the weekend. One of the highlights of the Autodrome’s racing calendar, saw racing in the UAE GT Championship, UAE Touring Car Championship and UAE Sports-car Championship.
In the GT race, reigning champion Karim Al Azhari and guest driver Diego Alessi won the GTA class and took the overall win in their Corvette, after their rivals slipped up. Hopes had been high for a challenge to the Corvette from the Ginetta of Raad Hassan and Bassam Kronfli and the Dodge Viper of Julian Griffin. But the Ginetta was once again plagued by technical trouble and had to retire, while the Viper suffered brake failure, although it did briefly take the lead from the Corvette.
Rob Barff secured second overall and first in the GTC class in his Lotus Evora, Class GTB saw Al Azhari’s young House of Portier team mate Mohammed Al Mutawaa take an impressive win on his debut in another Corvette, although he too saw the Emirati’s rivals fail to perform. Three cars in the class retired and the remaining challengers – John Sinders and Cabell Fisher in a Ferrari F430 – finished two laps down. The GTC class saw some great driving from British racer Rob Barff in a Lotus Evora and the Porsche GT3 of Harris Irfan and Paul Denby. Both cars finished ahead of the more powerful GTB field to take second and third overall behind Al Azhari, while Barff took the GTC class win.
Robert Cregan, who won the first race of the season in GTC in his Maserati, was involved in a first corner incident that took out the Lotus of Frederic Gaillard. The crash eliminated the Lotus and caused a Code 60 safety period, where the field circulates at 60kph. Cregan later retired as a result of the crash. Khalid Bin Hadher (left) leads the field at the start of the UAE Touring Car race.
The UAE Touring Car Championship saw double wins for Khalid Bin Hadher in Class 1 and Spencer Vanderpal in Class 2. Bin Hadher started his SEAT Leon Supercopa from pole position in race 1 and initially saw his mirrors filled by the SEATs of Andre Ramdhanny and Nader Zuhour. But Ramdhanny suffered fuel pump issues that dropped him down the field and Bin Hadher was able to pull out a gap on Zuhour to take the win.
Vanderpal started from the back in his a2b Honda Civic after missing qualifying, but the Honda’s straight-line speed was enough for the Brit to carve his way through the field and snatch the lead from the Lap 57 Honda Civic of Umair Khan. The three-way battle for third place in Class 2 eventually ended in carnage as Sheikh Salman Bin Rashid Al Khalifa, Zlatko Mulabegovic and Jason O’Keefe collided, leaving all three out of the race. Al Khalifa’s Renault Clio and Mulabegovic’s Honda Integra were two damaged to compete in race two, but the a2b mechanics managed to fix O’Keefe’s Honda Civic. Jassim Al Shamsi leads Jordan Grogor in the UAE Sportscar race.
Race two saw Vanderpal win comfortably from Khan, with O’Keefe in third. In the Sportscars, young Emirati Jassim Al Shamsi took a double win, staying ahead of AUH Motorsports’ Jordan Grogor in both races. Race one, in which Grogor started at the back, saw Tony George secure third place, while race two saw Bassam Kronfli’s NFS Racing Juno recover from a spin in race one to take third.