Abu Dhabi, December 14, 2014 – Abu Dhabi Racing by Black Falcon fell agonizingly short of defending their Gulf 12 Hours title at the iconic Yas Marina Grand Prix Circuit on Saturday, missing out on the victory by 3.058 seconds to the eventual winners.
Abu Dhabi Racing’s Khaled Al Qubaisi, who is fresh from securing a third overall team championship in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), and team-mates Jeroen Bleekemolen and Bernd Schneider were hoping to keep the trophy in the UAE capital for a second successive year, and this appeared to be on course following the first six hours where the team went into the break second overall.
Bleekemolen gave the Black Falcon a storming start, gunning his Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 into the lead from third position on the grid by edging out the Ferrari 458 and the McLaren 650S.
The defending champions had a good first six hours, oscillating between first and second before the cars drove into the pits at 15:00 for a three-hour service break ahead of the final six hours from 18:00.
Following his stint in the first half of the race, Al Qubaisi said: “The track temperatures were rising fast and also the brakes were not functioning properly so I decided to take it a bit easy. However, when we neared the end of the first six hours, I decided to push hard and we managed to bring home the car for the three-hour service break in second overall.”
Al Qubaisi added: “Overall it was OK, the car is good but there was a lot of traffic and other cars don’t make it easy to pass. I had a slight incident with the Ferrari, but luckily nothing happened.”
And Bleekemolen said: “The plan was obviously to try to take the lead, the start was great. In the beginning the McLaren was pushing me a little bit but I kept ahead. But then the Ferrari passed us, they are quick. For sure it will be tough, but we will try.”
And third driver Schneider added: “It was good, better than yesterday. The Ferrari though was fast and passed me; I tried to catch up but it is hard because they are very fast.”
As it turned out, the Ferraris were indeed fast but the defending champions were not in the mood to throw in the towel and Bleekemolen began the second six-hour session in the same fashion as the first – surging into the lead the moment the lights went out.
For the majority part of the second half of the race, Black Falcon dominated, not conceding ground and instead leading right up to nearly the five-hour mark.
Team-mates Al Qubaisi and Schneider too did an excellent job of protecting the lead, but during the dying stages of the race the Ferrari of 3 AF Corse managed to edge ahead during Black Falcon’s pit stop.
Al Qubaisi later said: “They had more speed than us, they were very fast and it was very tough to catch up with them once we lost the lead. The race was very close, we tried our best but they were taking two tenths of a second per lap from us. We came here to win, so we are naturally disappointed. But we will try and make up for this at the 24 Hours of Dubai in January.”
Bleekemolen, who gave Black Falcon the lead on both sides of the service break, said he too was disappointed they were unable to defend their title. “You can’t win all the time,” Bleekemolen said, “we now look to compete in the 24 Hours of Dubai.”
Schneider who did the last stint for the team said he had tried his best to snatch the lead again, “but the Ferrari was really fast and the car (SLS AMG) started vibrating and I was worried about the tyres. So I decided to defend our P2 position instead.”
The 24 Hours of Dubai will be held from January 8-10, 2015 at the Dubai Autodrome.
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