Three of four race series contested on the GP Circuit at Dubai Autodrome
Dubai, UAE, 8 December 2017: The acclaimed formula series from India, MRF Challenge, returned to Dubai Autodrome on Friday to headline a full weekend of racing, which also features the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, the UAE Sportbike Championship and the NGK 3HR Enduro.
MRF Challenge 2017
17 year-old Dutch driver Rinus van Kalmthout won race two at the Dubai Autodrome to close in on leader Felipe Drugovich in the championship standings. Drugovich now has a two-point lead over van Kalmthout.
Leading up to the first two rounds of racing, Mr. Arun Mammen, Managing Director of MRF Tyres, commented, “It gives us immense pleasure to return to Dubai with the MRF Challenge. We have some of the best young drivers from across the world who are keen to drive at this exciting circuit. We have had three different winners from the first four races so the championship is definitely shaping up well. The Dubai Autodrome is challenging so it is a circuit where all our drivers look forward to racing at.”
The 5.39-kilometre Grand Prix Circuit at Dubai Autodrome and one of the most challenging circuits in the region. It has a good combination of high-speed straights and technical corners. This created a big headache for MRF race engineers who had to find the right set up to favour both these areas.
In qualifying it was a two-way battle between Presley Martono and Felipe Drugovich, with Drugovich setting a time of 1:55.867 with three minutes to go on the clock. Martono struck back and set a 1:55.861 to go 0.006 secs faster. He further improved his time to confirm his pole position.
The polesitter had a slugglish start, allowing Drugovich to charge ahead and lead comfortably into the first corner. Karkosik slotted into second place ahead of van Kalmthout and Julien Falchero, while Martono dropped down to sixth. Drugovich was unchallenged as he coasted to his third win of the season. Van Kalmthout set the fastest lap of the race and closed in on Karkosik but was unable to pass the Polish driver and had to settle for third-place.
In the reverse grid of race two, Louis Gachot led from start but soon had a quick van Kalmthout right behind him. Van Kalmthout moved into second-place from fourth on the grid and wasted no time hunting down Gachot. He passed Gachot into turn 12 on lap three and pulled away at the front. Drugovich impressed the most starting from sixth on the grid. He first passed Karkosik and Martono on lap four, before getting past Falchero on lap six. He soon passed Gachot as well, but race leader van Kalmthout was too far ahead to catch.
The Dutch driver crossed the finish line in first-place but there was drama behind him. Drugovich slowed as he entered the last corner, blcoking a stream of cars all battling to finish on the podium. Gachot managed to hold on to second-place, finishing 0.074 seconds ahead of Falchero. Drugovich limped across the line in ninth place.
Championship leader Felipe Drugovich, commented, “I was having a great race having passed four cars until I suffered an electric problem on the final corner. It is a shame as we lost valuable points. I am happy that we managed to win race one. Leading the championship is good and I hope we can do well tomorrow.”
After a tough qualifying, Rinus van Kalmthout was happy to finish the day with a double podium. He said, “I did not get my lap together in qualifying and that put me on the backfoot. The car was great and I managed to finish third in the first race. In race two I knew I had the pace and once I passed Gachot; it was just a matter of maintaining my pace.”
Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East
Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair claimed an outstanding victory in the first of two races at Dubai Autodrome this weekend. From pole position the Omani teenager secured victory with an accomplished and assured performance, for his second win in his series career.
The result means Al Zubair (67pts) is now second in the drivers’ standings and has narrowed the gap to only four points behind Tom Oliphant (71pts) of Great Britain going into Saturday’s race which marks the 100th race in the history of the prestigious series.
Today Al Zubair was followed over the line by current championship leader, Oliphant, who finished second. Germany’s Wolfgang Triller completed the podium places in a career best third.
Speaking after the win, Al Faisal Al Zubair said: “It’s been a great day for me today, we set some really quick times to secure pole position in qualifying, and had a great start in the race which allowed me to pull a gap ahead of Tom Oliphant and Charlie Frijns. Charlie managed to overtake me on the second corner but I took the position back immediately and then pulled away again. The result helps me to build on my hopes of winning the championship this season and is a huge step for me once again.”
UAE Sportbike Championship
It couldn’t have been a better day for Ahmed Almuyini in his bid to overthrow defending 600cc champion Mahmoud Tannir. The Saudi rider topped qualifying screens early on with a best lap time of 2:11.188 and then went on to take the next two races.
Almuyini, riding a Kawasaki ZX6R, came out on top of a chaotic race one, nabbing the class victory by a full 5.884 seconds ahead of Tannir. Race two was much closer, but Almuyini still managed to keep ahead of the Honda CBR600RR of Tannir, crossing the finish line just 0.247 seconds in front.
Italian riders dominated the Rookie 600cc class, with Federico Fratelli on a Yamaha R6 and the Kawasaki ZX6R of Angelo Villone each taking top honours. Fratelli nabbed race one over Villone by 0.243 seconds, but then Villone hit back with a class win in race two, a full 4.672 seconds ahead of Fratelli.
In the non-championship 1000cc class, Nasser Al Shaiba riding a Yamaha R1, was unstoppable. The Emirati was second overall in qualifying, and he then went on for two class wins.
Saturday, 9 December 2017 will feature another action packed day of racing, with MRF Challenge, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East and the NGK 3HR Enduro.
Editor: Aaron Meriwether
Photos: Darren Rycroft & Aaron Meriwether