Gulf 12 Hours Part One

The international sportscar season rests for no man or airborne virus. It’s the Gulf 12 Hour Race live from the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.

The race consists of two 6 hour parts, separated by a three hour break. No I don’t understand why either.

The #1 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 took pole position but it was a disappointing qualifying for their rival #99 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS.

The 2021 Gulf 12 Hours Bahrain winning team were consistent in their approach to the three qualifying sessions, with Ben Barnicoat’s third quickest time of the final session enough to take top spot in the overall average times.

Ahead of qualifying, the earlier weekend test and practice sessions had indicated that the #99 Audi would be the Mercedes’ strongest opposition. But the Attempto squad’s tactic of fielding Pro driver Dries Vanthoor in the first qualifying session almost backfired.

All three of Vanthoor’s quick laps were removed for exceeding track limits, and when a red flag appeared with less than two minutes remaining of the session, his chance of setting a legal hot lap had gone leaving the Audi bottom of the timesheet.

The #1 Mercedes took advantage, as Martin Kodri?’s best time of 1m51.813s was enough to put the car top of the pile. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 ProAm car impressed in second position with the #33 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 top of the Am class.

The #15 Century Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage taking the early lead in the GT4 class.

The #51 Ferrari and #66 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes were the stars of Qualifying 2. Eddie Cheever III, drafted into the Ferrari at the last minute to replace Rino Mastronardi, excelled despite not driving a single lap of the track prior to his stint.

Cheever topped the ProAm class and threatened to place the car on the front row of the grid, while Casper Stevenson, in his first GT car race, impressively set a quicker time than Kodri?’s Q1 effort.

“I only came here to coach the Kessel drivers,” said Cheever. “I was on a run and received a call from the team manager at the last minute. I’ve not been to the track before, and didn’t get a chance to drive a lap before my stint. I think I pushed too much and used the tyres up.”

In GT4, Pro driver Oliver Webb elevated the #23 Greystone GT McLaren 650S to the top of the class standings, with by far the quickest time of the session.

With Isa Al Khalifa keeping the #1 Mercedes within close reach of the #75 SPS Automotive Mercedes-AMG GT3 Pro car of Mikael Grenier, it was left to Barnicoat to post a good enough time to ensure the car would trump its Mercedes sister to pole position.

It was a struggle for many of the field as a host of cars lost their opening lap time to track limits once again, this time at the final corner.

Barnicoat quickly did what he needed to do, setting a best of 1m51.556s, which was only narrowly beaten by Maro Engel. But the job had been done.

The #46 VR46 Ferrari 488 GT3 ended the session quickest as David Fumanelli took fourth place overall behind the #51 AF Corse Ferrari.

The #61 AF Corse sister Ferrari 488 scored pole position in the GT3 Am class, with the #15 Century Aston Martin Vantage coming out on top in its battle with the Greystone GT McLaren for GT4 pole.

There was further drama to come after the session. Following a protest by the Attempto Racing team, the quickest lap set by Dries Vanthoor in the first qualifying session was reinstated. It elevated the car from 11th to eighth position on the grid.