CG Racing Pro drivers David Terrien, Rami Azzam, Alban Varutti, and Piers Pakenham-Walsh were crowned champions for the 2016 Endurance Championship Driven By MINI, after 24 hours and a gruelling 1,132 laps at Dubai Kartdrome on Friday (16 December).
The fourth and final round of the championship developed into a titanic battle between two karting heavyweights, CG Racing Pro and Batelco-Drag 965 Racing.
Batelco-Drag 965 Racing came into the contest seeking to win an unprecedented fifth Pro category championship while the Choueiri Group (CG) was hoping to make history of its own by repeating its 2013 achievement of winning all three categories: Pro, Corporate and the Nations Cup.
Batelco-Drag 965 Racing signalled its intent in qualifying by burning up the timing screens with a best lap time of 1:10.797, which would stand as the fastest lap of the weekend. Overall qualifying was so close that the next 16 teams recorded times stood within a second of the leader.
Kicking off at midday on Friday, racing commenced with the drivers sprinting to the karts, arranged Le Mans style with CG Pro Racing getting the jump on Batelco-Drag 965 in the opening lap. Over the next hour, however, both teams would trade places in the frontrunner position, with Bin Drai Karting Team chasing in third.
As the race progressed into the night Batelco-Drag 965 Racing started to pull away from the pack and take a comfortable lead. At that point the crew members of CG Racing Pro knew they had to alter their plans.
With each team required to take at least 24 pit stops and each stop trading in for a new kart, managing time in the pit lane was critical.
CG Racing Pro Team Captain David Terrien said, “We really didn’t have the pace so we decided to try a different strategy which dropped us a bit lower in the rankings with some early pit stops, but then we managed to get into a good rhythm.”
By midnight those tactics started to pay off; CG Racing Pro leapfrogged Batelco-Drag 965 and then slowly built up a gap to the rest of the field. The Batelco squad made a push of its own but by morning it was unable to chase down the race leader.
After 24 hours, CG Racing Pro was first to the chequered flag, earning the team a top place trophy for the race and also for the 2016 Pro Championship with 175 points. Batelco-Drag 965 had to settle for second place silverware in the race while the Belgian outfit of Karting Eupen KCE Misanino took third for the day.
Defending 2015 champions Dubai Falcon Racing Team crossed the line in sixth, meriting it just enough points at 122 to secure third place in the Pro championship. Mach1 was seventh on the day and also earned 122 points for the season, however, Dubai Falcon Racing Team won the tie-breaker by collected more podium finishes over the four rounds.
The fighting was extremely close in the Corporate class. Veteran team Fly Emirates 1 avenged a bitter loss from 2015 when it missed out on the title by finishing 10 seconds behind CG Racing 2 in the final race.
On Saturday, the tables were turned and it was Fly Emirates 1 taking the class victory for Round Four and securing the 2016 Corporate Championship with 170 points.
CG Racing finished just two points down on 168 while its partner team, CG Academy, nabbed third place in the Corporate class with 141 points.
Fly Emirates 1 was down to CG Racing by almost two laps but the team never gave up hope. Emirates Team Manager Redza Jamil recalled, “I told the guys just keep on pushing. You never know what’s going to happen and when an opportunity might show itself—and it did. I’m very proud of the guys. It’s been an amazing season.”
Another perennial team, LD, finally chased down a title as well. The all-Russian outfit made the long flight from Chelyabinsk to Dubai for one more attempt at the Nations Cup, and the day certainly presented challenges for the visitors.
LD Captain Dmitry Levin commented, “It is winter in Russia now, so for two months we didn’t practice. Here in Dubai is it very hot and we are very tired!”
The heat and the competition couldn’t stop the Russian drivers though, and LD placed eighth in Round Four, which gave them 175 points and victory in the 2016 Nations Cup over the Indian team of ENOC-NH 8 on 152 points. All-Lebanese CG Racing netted third place on 146.
LD Team Manager Kirill Chebanov said, “We travelled almost 4,000 kilometres here to win. We knew we must win.”
He’d barely set foot out of the cockpit after his team had claimed victory, but Michael Broniszewski is already setting his sights on a hat-trick of Gulf 12 Hours titles next year.
Pole Broniszewski and his Kessel Racing team claimed back to back titles at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit Saturday night, steering to a comfortable win ahead of UAE-backed duo Dragon Racing in second and GP Extreme in third.
Kessel dominated proceedings right from the start in the capital Saturday morning, with Giacomo Piccini leading the No11 Ferrari 488 GT3 car across the finish line just before midnight after an exhausting 303 laps of racing.
Piccini and Kessel finished 1minute 19.570seconds ahead of Dragon’s Matt Griffin.
“It’s been an amazing season, I won everything and now ended it with a win here,” said Broniszewski.
“We always want to come here and win. It’s twice now so it would be special to make it three of course, but it’s such a high level. We hope we will be back on the podium and win again. Abu Dhabi is a special place for me.”
The amateur driver praised more illustrious colleagues Davide Rigon and Piccini, although he felt his stint in the car in the middle part of the race was the key.
“I think [Dragon] expected to recover some time because I would be slower and being an amateur, but we gained another 20 seconds,” he said. “They were strong and I don’t think they made any mistakes either, I think we were just stronger. We controlled the last two hours, we didn’t even push because the gap was so big.
“Luck helped us a little bit as we had no technical problems, made no mistakes or didn’t collide with anyone. We were lucky from the beginning so there was no stress. We were strong enough to keep our position and we were never really under pressure.”
The race was held in two six-hour stints, with Kessel dominating the second part of the around-the-clock enduro, leading for 160 of the 161 laps. Dragon only led on lap 241, when the Kessel car made a pit stop.
Far from being disappointed with a runners-up finish, Dragon driver Rob Barff said the team was “over the moon” having pushed Kessel so close.
“The car’s brand new, Kessel have had their car all year and ran it successfully in Europe. To compete with them and finish on the same lap is pretty impressive,” said the Englishman.
“Twelve hours is an awfully long time. We had a good run, no problems, no mistakes, which is very rare. It was just a case of they had the pace on us.”
Kessel’s victory marked the fifth win for Ferrari in six editions of the Gulf 12 Hours.
Frenchman Philippe Chiappe clinched his third successive UIM F1 H2O World Championship title after a thrilling climax to the season at the Grand Prix of Sharjah on Khaled Lagoon on Friday.
Needing to finish inside the top 10, regardless of whether arch rival Shaun Torrente of the Victory Team won the race outright, Chiappe made a superb start and stormed passed pole sitter Jonas Andersson on the first lap.
He eventually ceded the race win to Torrente and cruised to the finish in second place to claim a third title for the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team. In the last F4-S race of the season, Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Mehairbi qualified second behind Jeremy Brisset and shadowed the Frenchman and Finland’s Kalle Viippo to the end of a processional 22-lap finale to the championship to confirm sixth in the points’ standings.
Brisset duly won his second race of the weekend by 2.06 seconds, but missed out on the runner-up spot in the series to Dutchman Ferdinand Zandbergen. Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qamzi had won the title last weekend in Abu Dhabi.
It was Victory Team’s first Grand Prix win in only their second season in the championship, with Torrente clinching a much-deserved runners-up slot in the driver’s championship and Victory taking second place behind CTIC F1 Shenzhen China in the Team championship.
Chiappe made a blistering start to jump pole-sitter Jonas Andersson, with Torrente matching the move and pressing the race leader as the two title rivals then edged away from the chasing pack of Jonas Andersson, Erik Stark, Bartek Marszalek and Alex Carella.
On lap 14 of 45 the yellow flag was raised when Chiappe’s teammate Xiong Ziwei barrel-rolled out of the race. The boats were held for five laps and then released with Torrente making an immediate move to pass Chiappe.
Sami Selio joined the chase and passed Carella on lap 20, the Italian taking back the place a lap later, then on lap 23 Stark faltered and lost ground, slipping to fifth, with Carella now leading the chase to try to overhaul Chiappe and Andersson, with Selio pressing frantically and trying everything to pass Carella.
Out front Torrente continued to stretch his lead, going on to take the chequered flag and his maiden win for Victory Team by 25.77 seconds. Despite the intense pressure Chiappe delivered a true champions’ drive and held his nerve and held off the challenge of the duo behind him to take his sixth podium of the year and become only the third driver in the 33-year history of the sport to win a hat-trick of world titles.
Carella looked set for third place when on lap 42 he suddenly retired to compound a bad afternoon for Team Abu Dhabi, teammates Thani Al Qamzi going out on lap 31 and debutant Rashed Al Qamzi on lap 11.