Dubai, UAE, 15 November 2020: The second season of NGK UAE ProCar Championship rolled into action on Friday (13 November) in support of the Gulf Radical Cup race weekend.
Dragon Racing brought out of all their big guns to pack up the Ferrari Challenge Class and led the way the for the rest of the field to follow. Dragon’s Roman Ziemian (#28) spearheaded the Ferrari battalion, pushing the red and white 488 Challenge Evo to the top of the timing screens with a best lap time of 1:25.628 on the 3.56-kilometre National Circuit at Dubai Autodrome, well clear of teammate Tanni Hanna (#157) by 1.136 seconds.
Alexandros Annivas of Mouhritsa Racing returned with his familiar #9, this time swapping out the Seat Leon Cup Racer for the TCR Cupra Leon. The Greek driver clocked in a best lap time of 1:30.599, the fastest set of wheels for anything without a Prancing Horse badge on it.
The margins were tight in the Renault Clio Cup field, and it was Rahil Taneja (#10) of AUH Motorsports who scraped ahead, finishing with best lap time of 1:40.021, just two tenths of second better than fellow AUH driver Sultan Al Suwaidi (#91).
With a top time of 1:43.674, Salem Alketbi (#11) of PP-PERFORMANCE lined up as the fastest Toyota GT86 to start the first of two races.
Overall & Ferrari Challenge
Roman Ziemian picked up from his stellar performance in qualifying and kept up the momentum in what would turn out to be a perfect day for the Polish driver. Hanna got the jump on Ziemian to start the show, but the polesitter managed to take back the lead and then extend it, coasting past the chequered flag with 19.530 seconds to spare over the Lebanese driver.
Tanni tried to exact revenge in the white Ferrari, getting another great getaway in the second race, only to have Roman storm back again. The duelling Dragons kept it closer in chapter two, but the story ended much the same with Ziemian taking control and winning out, leaving Hanna with another second-place finish.
After a full season off, Ricky Coomber (#99) of ZRT Motorsport was back on the grid to challenge the TCR class with a striking Audi RS3 LMS, but veteran TCR driver Alexandros Annivas of Mouhritsa Racing fiercely defended the top podium position he inherited from champion Costas Papantonis.
Annivas went two-for-two in the gifted TCR Cupra Leon, finishing P4 overall in both races, winning a pair of class battles comfortably and leaving no doubt that the path the to the TCR crown will have to go through him.
As it was the season before, the scrappiest part of the field was among those driving Renault Clio Cups. AUH Motorsports driver Rahil Taneja and Saeed Bintowq (#20) of Cooper VIP Car brawled for the lead in the first race, with Tanja getting the upper hand and beating Bintowq to the line by 4.702 seconds for the class win. Ahmad Al Moosa (#77) of Rent2Race chased the leaders in to claim P3 in the Clio Cup category.
Bintowq failed to start the second race, which should have gifted Taneja another class triumph, but instead it was Al Moosa who made the most of it. After a hard-fought scuffle with Sultan Al Suwaidi (#91) of AUH Motorsports, Emirati driver Al Moosa managed to sneak across the finish line 0.580 seconds ahead of his rival Suwaidi, leaving Taneja to take third in class.
Salem Alketbi of PP-PERFORMANCE made good use of his qualifying position to nab a class win in the first race, holding on to beat Scott Dimeler (#55) by less than seven tenths of a second, but a DNF in race two side-lined the Emirati and allowed the American to come back and claim the second AE86 trophy of the day.
Report: Aaron Meriwether
Photos: Aaron Meriwether & Arthur Rosales