WGA Chevrolet Supercars kicks off Round 2
Thurs 20th Jan 2011, Riyadh: It was with apprehension that the WGA Chevrolet Supercars ME Championship kicked off its second round with two practice sessions and a qualifying round at Reem International Circuit. The rain lashed track and overcast sky did not bode well for the series, but the driver line up found blue skies and sun upon their arrival at the desert based circuit. Headlining the second installation of Speed Weekend, taking place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the WGA Chevrolet Supercars is competing alongside the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge. The regional cast of competitors had to deal with the effects of two days of downpour, resulting in a track covered in a patchwork of wet and dry sections, playing havoc on their tire set-up. 13 drivers pulled up to the starting line, and even though several mechanical issues hindered several teams, all were able to make full use of the practice sessions and compete during the qualifying round to gain their place on the starting grid.
Round 2, Race 1: Raed clinches victory as newcomer Al Muheiri impresses on track
The rolling start saw Raed Raffii set a furious pace in pole position, quickly followed by Saeed Al Moori’s red Chevrolet and Faisal Raffii. Newcomer Saeed Al Muheiri found himself squeezed out of his 2nd place start, loosing three positions as the pack entered turn 1, dropping down to 6th. Inches separated the leading drivers within the first series of turns, and while most of the competitors maintained their cool, Abdulaziz Al Yaeesh lost control of his vehicle and collided with Faisal’s rear bumper on the 4th corner. With sparks flying and half his bumper hanging on by a handful of fibers, it was with relief that the Alba Racing Team realized that their driver would not be called in with a technical flag as it detached itself completely.
Al Moori began putting the pressure on Raed as the pair entered the second lap, but as he sped down the main straight his hood unlocked, sending the metal bonnet flying into the windscreen, obstructing the view and sending a web of serious cracks over the shatter proof glass. With the Al Zaid Racing Team driver out of the race, Raed continued to extend his lead and blistered ahead of the competition.
The running order on lap 5 was Raed, Faisal, Al Yaeesh, Tarek Elgammal, Al Muheiri, Talal Al Gaith, Mohammed Mattar and Thaeb Al Qahtani bringing up the rear of the SC09 class. Not far behind, Ezra Idfar led the SC06 category, followed up Alqassim Hamidaddin and finally Ali Dadi.
While Raed’s experience on the track allowed him to execute turn after flawless turn, Al Yaeesh continued to push Faisal hard in an attempt to break through to 2nd place. Elgammal had to turn his attention away from trying to sneak past rival Al Yaeesh, as the blue colors of Al Muheiri suddenly appeared in his rear view mirror. Meanwhile, Al Khan’s Chevrolet suffered several technical issues, resulting in the Alba Team Driver finding himself amongst the SC06 class!
In a real team effort, Elgammal waves past his Lap 57 teammate, a faster Al Muheiri, who quickly turned his attention to Al Yaeesh and made short work of the Al Zaid Racing Team driver to clinch 3rd, leaving Elgammal to deal with the flustered Saudi driver.
Al Muheiri’s onslaught continued as he quickly closed the gap with Faisal, but with just a handful of laps remaining and one of the most skilled drivers of the championship in-front of him, the newcomer definitely had his work cut out for him. Ultimately, Faisal maintained a cool head and managed to keep the Lap 57 driver in check.
As the pack blazed under the checkered flag, the running order saw Raed claim victory, followed by Faisal in second and a determined Al Muheiri having to settle for third as the time ran out on his race one bid.
Round 2, Race 2: Al Yaeesh snatches victory in-front of a home crowd!
It was under ominous clouds that the second race of the day got underway. With low visibility and yet another down-pour of rain being a very real threat, the WGA Chevrolet drivers were anxious to get race 2 started. Sayed Al Moori, following an unexplained incident during race 1 where his hood came unlatched, should have found himself 2nd on the starting grid, but instead was garage bound along with his damaged vehicle. The rest of the competitors pulled up to the starting line for yet another rolling start, each driver determined to make the most of the coming 18 laps.
Raed Raffii once again found himself in pole position, with an empty slot to his right, followed by Faisal Raffii, Sayed Al Muheiri, Abdulaziz Al Yaeesh, Tarek Elgammal, Talal Al Gaith, Mustafa Al Khan, Thaeb Al Qahtani and Mohammed Mattar. In the SC06 class Alqassim Hamidaddin led from the front, with Ezra Idfar in 2nd and newcomer Ali Dadi bringing up the rear.
Faisal was quick to slot himself behind Raed within seconds of the start of the race, with Al Yaeesh cutting on the inside of turn 1 and moving up to 3rd. The Lap 57 pair of Al Muheiri and Elgammal were neck and neck, while Mattar was a force to be reckoned with within the opening lap, passing three drivers to clinch 6th. Al Khan faded quickly down the line-up and for the second time this round, found himself threatened by the SC06 drivers.
Oil Spills, Yellow flags and Controversy
As Idfar entered turn 1 on the second lap, his Chevrolet skidded violently off track as his engine exploded, sending oil all over the tarmac and a yellow flag was quickly issued, but It wasn’t long before the SC09 category came speeding around once again. While Raed made it through unscathed, Faisal quickly lost control as his car failed to find grip on the track, and he found himself going wide into the run off area. In a controversial decision, Al Muheiri and Al Yaeesh sped by Faisal to fill the 3rd and 2nd slots, much to the outrage of the Alba Racing Team who made their feelings felt in the pits.
Further back in 6th, Al Gaith suddenly found his rear tire rim grinding into the tarmac as the outer rubber casing dislocated, forcing the Speeding Saddles Team driver to retire early. Not even ten seconds later, Al Khan experienced the same fate, but his positioning allowed him to pull into the pits in a cloud of sparks and rubber fragments to attempt repairs.
Tarek Elgammal, Man of the Moment
With not even 5 laps completed, the running order had changed several times. While Raed increased his lead with Al Yaeesh in tow in 2nd, Elgammal sped past Faisal with ease, even though his signature yellow Chevrolet was severely hampered by gearbox and transmission issues. Then in a blur of acceleration Al Khan rejoined the fray!
Everyone’s attention was firmly focused on the battle for 4th between Elgammal and Faisal at the beginning of lap 8. While Faisal’s superior engine set-up allowed him to take advantage of Elgammal’s underperforming car on the straight sections, the Australian racer made use of every trick in the book in a breathtaking display of driving ability that kept the Alba Racing Driver firmly behind him. For four laps the Lap 57 driver managed to stay ahead even with a semi working Chevrolet, but it was with a sense of inevitability that Faisal finally passed with a burst of speed on the main straight.
The Power of Al Yaeesh
At this point in the race, the pack was spread over the whole length of the track, and it wasn’t long before the blistering duo of Raed and Al Yaeesh found their path blocked by Al Khan’s blue Chevrolet. As the two split, the Batelco driver taking the inside and Al Yaeesh attempting the outer section, Al Khan found himself within inches of a collision on either side of him. A slight adjustment resulted in Al Khan and Raed colliding, and it was with baited-breath that the crowd watched Raed’s vehicle pull violently towards the racing barrier. Al Yaeesh also found himself in trouble as he veered into the gravel and brutally bouncing several times, loosing half his front bumper in the process. But it was the Al Zaid Racing Team driver that managed to wrestle his damaged Chevrolet back onto the tarmac, while a frustrated Raed could do little more than slip in behind.
With only several laps remaining, Al Yaeesh determinedly held on, crossing the finish line in 1st with a time of 28:02.164. Raed clinched 2nd in 28:03.047, and Al Muheiri added to his race 1 podium finish with another 3rd place in 28:05.236. They were followed by Faisal, Elgammal, Mattar, Hamidaddin and Dadi. Al Qahtani and Al Khan had to settle for 9th and 10th behind the SC06 drivers.
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