UAE: Tannir returns to his winning ways in UAE Sportbikes and Simonnet scores maiden win in NGK Racing Series
14 February 2014-The first day of the Dubai Motorsport Festival on Friday (13 February) saw a mix of new faces and the ‘usual suspects’ on the top step of the Dubai Autodrome podium during a day of close racing which included races for the NGK Racing Series, UAE Sportbikes, Porsche GT3 Cup Middle East, Radical Middle East Cup and Formula Gulf 1000.
Guillaume Simonnet, driving a SEAT, scored his maiden victory in Class 1 of the NGK Racing Series, his win made easier by the fact that pace setter and championship leader, Gulf Petrochem SEAT driver, Costas Papatonis failed to make it on to the grid due to illness.
Nevertheless Simonnet did not put a foot wrong on his way to a comfortable victory, his first at Dubai Autodrome, with BMW pair Petr Valek second and Marcel Kusin third on the Grand Prix circuit configuration.
Simonnet said, “This is my first win here at Autodrome and it feels good. It was an interesting and a good race. I was a bit alone because there was someone missing [Papantonis] and the BMW does not have the pace of the SEAT. I hope tomorrow another SEAT [Papantonis] will be back to make the race even more interesting.”
Rupesh Channake won the Class 2 battle, from fellow Honda driver Jonathan Mullan with Alexandros Annivas taking third in the Renault, which was good enough for maximum points in the race-within-a-race Clio Cup, where Simon Dennis and Peter England finished second and third respectively.
Annivas said, “It was a nice race. We were playing around with the setup. We knew already that we could not catch the Class 2 cars. But it worked well because I was able to make a gap in the beginning and extended it during the race. I am keeping focused and just racing. This one goes to my sponsors Gulf Petrochem.”
In the UAE Sportbikes Championship reigning champion Mahmoud Tannir finally broke Abdulaziz Binladen’s stranglehold on the 600 Class, by taking top spot on the podium aboard his Triumph and banking maximum points in the process.
Tannir said of his return to the top step of the podium, “Really it started this morning, we have had a good pace right from the morning session. I was comfortable and even in qualifying and I could have gone faster but I was happy with P2 on the grid. The focus was to have a good start and stay ahead of Abdulaziz. We managed to do this early on in the race. I had no idea he had problems, as I was keeping to my rhythm. I am very, vey happy. Thanks to my crew and of course my sponsors.”
Binladen in contrast struggled early on, eventually succumbed to engine problems and coasted to a halt after three laps. Ducati rider Joe Oxley finished second in the 600 Class, with Michael Collins taking third place on his Yamaha which was enough to also claim the Rookie Cup win. Nasir Hussain riding a Yamaha was second in the Rookie Cup, ahead of third placed Darryl Pais on a Honda.
Nasser Al Shaiba won the non-championship 1000 Class on his BMW, with Daimen van Blerk on a Ducati taking second place.
Collins said, “I made an average start but went off track on the first lap, but managed to recover and made some good moves stick. Very happy to have ended up on the big boys’ podium and take the Rookie Cup win as well. Very happy with the progress, will rest up tonight and go for the same thing tomorrow.”
Saudi Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal won a nail-biting Porsche GT3 Cup Middle East race, after a 10 laps battle with Emirati ace Saeed Al Mehairi in the Sky Dive Dubai car, with Fahad Al Gosaibi finishing third.
Saeed Bintouq took top spot in the Formula Gulf 1000 race, with Abdullah Kabbani second and third place going to Joel Young.
In the Radical Middle East Cup, Scot Balsdon and Oliver Smith teamed up to take top honours from Aschkan Abdul Malek and Romain Lutter crossing the line second and ahead of Salman Al Khater in third.
On day two of the Dubai Motorsport Festival, on Saturday (14 February) there will again be a race each for UAE Sportbikes and the NGK Racing Series, along with Porsche GT3 Cup Middle East, Radical Middle cup East and Formula Gulf 1000.