- F4 UAE Championship and Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East return to the racing line-up
Six championship series were contested on the 4.29 kilometre International Circuit at Dubai Autodrome during the National Race Days (NRD) Power Weekend (27-28 January).
The premiere F4 UAE Championship and renowned Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East returned to Dubai to feature alongside perennial favourites NGK Racing Series, UAE Sportbike Championship, Radical Cup Middle East and Formula Gulf Academy.
F4 UAE Championship Powered by Abarth The new formula series, certified by the FIA and supported by the ATCUAE, has added new drivers and continues to gain momentum in the local motorsport scene.
Championship leader Jonathan Aberdein of Team Motopark came to Dubai seeking to maintain his advantage over team mate Logan Sargeant and hometown hero Sean Babington of Energy Dubai F4 Racing Team. He started well, topping qualifying screens with a best lap time of 1:37.591.
Aberdein then went on to clinch two out of three races, solidifying his command of the championship. Despite a thrilling Race Three contest with Aberdein, Sargeant finished the event with just two podium finishes, while Babington managed to reach the podium once during the weekend.
Having found great pace on the Dubai Autodrome International Circuit Aberdein remarked, “I really like driving here in Dubai. It’s an awesome track and an awesome place.”
Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East Dutchman Charlie Frijns of team Frijns Structural Steel ME and Irishman Ryan Cullen were level on championship points coming to Dubai, with British driver Tom Oliphant sitting in third but also in the hunt.
Dylan Pereira of Luxembourg beat all of the top three drivers in Friday qualifying but failed to make pole position count in Race One, dropping down to fourth as Ryan Cullen jumped from second on the grid to take the lead and then held on for the win.
It was a ferocious contest that witnessed almost half of the field, seven cars, not making it to the finish line, including Frijns and Oliphant. Rookie driver Al Faisal AL Zubair survived the scuffle to snag second and Bandar Alesayi claimed third.
Charlie Frijns looked to bounce back on Saturday by starting on pole for Race Two, but he dropped to fourth on the opening lap, allowing Ryan Cullen to again take control. Frijns worked his way back up and challenged Cullen for the frontrunner position but ran out of time at the chequered flag. Cullen bagged his second win in a row, while Frijns settled for the next step down on the podium, followed by Tom Oliphant in third.
NGK Racing Series On Friday Dragon Racing’s principle Leon Price, driving a Ferrari 488 GT3, cruised home for the overall and Class Three win, 11.061 seconds ahead of the Audi R8 LMS Ultra driven by Marcel Kusin of K & K Racing. Australian Mal Nial, driving a GDL Racing Porsche GT4 Clubsport, nabbed the final spot on the podium.
Saturday’s race podium was much different, with Kusin powering home for the win and Costas Papantonis in his Mouhritsa Racing Seat Leon Super Copa trailing in for second. Dragon Racing’s Chris Frogatt claimed third in a Porsche GT4 Clubsport.
In the class standings Papantonis cleaned up in Class One, going two for two over the weekend. Spencer Vanderpal in his Honda EP3 had to settle for a pair of second place finishes.
Papantonis, the reigning Class One champ, is determined to push until the final race in March. The Greek said, “We are shooting for the championship again.”
Despite a poor qualifying session on Friday, Will Morrison was also a double race winner in Class Two Clio Cup. The mid-field contest was scrappy on both days, with Morrison and Mouhritsa Racing’s Alexandros Annivas going side by side through corners. Annivas put up a great fight but was consigned to second place in both races.
Morrison said, “As we saw today, when it’s tight racing it’s good fun. It’s good to watch and also exciting to be in the cars.”
Class Five was split over the two races, with Mal Nial of GDL Racing taking Friday’s win and Chris Frogatt of Dragon racing finding success on Saturday, both driving Porsche GT4 Clubsports.
Formula Gulf Academy Some brilliant track action ensued between the young pilots driving FG1000 formula race cars. Polish driver and championship leader Alex Karkosik has been a dominant force this season and he made his intentions clear by securing pole position in qualifying on Friday.
When racing commenced, Saudi Omar Gazzaz got the jump on Karkosik, briefly taking to the front. Alex snagged the lead back and the two drivers fought it out. With three laps remaining, Gazzaz passed Karkosik again but this time held on for victory. It was the first race win of the season for Omar Gazzaz.
Alex was quick to respond in Race Two on Saturday, taking pole position and then driving to a commanding lead, beating Gazzaz to the chequered flag by 3.929 seconds.
Gazzaz was happy to get at least one win over his respected rival, remarking, “He (Karkosik) is really good. This is a good benchmark to have.”
Radical Middle East Cup Russian ace Sergey Shalunov of Arloid Racing came to Dubai with a slender two point lead over “the Flying Finn” Jani Hjerppe of Dream Racing Dubai.
The two drivers fought it out on Friday with Hjerppe taking victory by just 1.862 seconds over Shalunov, with Konstantin Gugkaev of AUH Motorsports taking third.
Saturday started out as another brawl, but this time Hjerppe’s Radical SR3 broke free and opened up a gap on the field, winning Race Two by a comfortable 12.195 seconds over Shalunov, followed by Timur Boguslavskiy of AUH Motorsports.
UAE Sportbike Championship Top honours for the sportbikes were challenged between Mahmoud Tannir, riding a Honda CBR600RR, and Nasser Al Shaiba on his 1000cc Yamaha R1.
Al Shaiba had great starts and got the edge in both contests, winning two out of two races. Tannir will not be worried about the pair of second place finishes though, as he still tops the 600 Class, which is championship eligible.
In the 600 Rookie category, Honda CBR600RR rider Brendan Zaimaan and Yamaha R6 rider Sunit Gonsalves of NERDS Racing both traded wins over the two days.