Reigning Dubai Kartdrome Endurance Champions, Batelco claimed the top prize in world endurance leisure karting when they powered to victory in the SWS Grand Finals 12 Hours race at the Circuit du RKC in Paris.
With regular team manager Ali Abbas absent, strategy duties fell to Ramez Azzam who was also doing driving stints along with Alban Varutti and Mohamed Mattar. The trio signaled their intent early on by claiming pole position in qualifying.
A total of 33 teams were entered, and a mere one second separated the top 22 times. It was clear that the difference in pace was marginal between the top leisure endurance teams from around the globe who descended on the picturesque circuit to battle for top honours. All teams qualified to participate in the SWS Grand Finals through the SWS series’ held in their respective countries.
Teams which excelled in the 2012 edition of the Dubai Kartdrome Endurance Championship qualified for this year’s Grand Finals, and these were: Batelco, Dubai Falcons, CG Racing 1 and CG Racing 2.
Conditions varied during the course of the 12 hours of racing, after the race was flagged off at 21.30 pm on Friday night, with temperatures as low as 8 degrees, and at dawn a rain shower added to the challenge for competitors.
With an hour to run, Varutti was sent out for Batelco’s penultimate stint with a 20 seconds lead over their closest rivals and proceeded to edge away. With five minutes to go Varutti handed the Batelco kart to Mattar who crossed the line to take a famous victory for the Bahraini squad, with a full lap advantage over second place Time Attack and third place CER Racing – both French teams who count the RKC venue as their home track
Azzam said afterwards, “The race went like clock-work. We made few mistakes and kept up a very strong and consistent pace. The rain benefitted our rivals, as we had pitstops in hand and when it came down our rivals took advantage of the slower laps to make their mandatory stops. It was close, but we had done our homework. It is great to win here in France against top quality opposition. Big thanks to Batelco for their support and of course the guys for their huge effort.”
Dubai Falcons qualified fifth but a series of misfortunes and penalties hampered their progress. They crossed the line in seventh.
Saeed Al Mehairi reflected after the race, “It was a tough one this time. Our kart seemed to lose speed after a few hours and we were down half a second per lap on our optimum time. And also we made some mistakes and were penalized. But that’s racing.
Racing in the Grand Finals for the first time were CG Racing with two teams, one led by Rami Azzam and the other made up of Choueiri Group staff. Conditions were opposite to what they had previously experienced and the exercise was very much a steep learning curve for the outfit. CG Racing 1 finished 20th and CG Racing 2 were 26th.
Kartdrome manager Ryan Trutch, who accompanied the UAE contingent to Paris, summed up the sentiment, “It is a great win for Batelco which sends out a signal that the series in Dubai is right up there with the best in the world. Congratulations to them for a great effort. Dubai Falcons were good for a podium in my opinion but luck was not on their side. It was great to see CG Racing out in force and I have no doubts they will be all out to again next year with their target the podium. All in all a great result for not only Dubai but also the region. We can be proud that our leisure karting is of a very high level.”
The second round of the 2013 Dubai Kartdrome Endurance Championship takes place next weekend on Friday and Saturday, 17 and 18 May.
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