GT: Victory at Spa-Francorchamps secures GT Championship title for Kuwait teenager Haytham Qarajouli in the Ligier European Series
Sept 27th 2022
The penultimate round of the Ligier European Series season, held at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium on 23-24 September offered a monumental boost for the young driver Haytham Qarajouli as he returned to the top step of the podium to secure the 2022 Championship title, with one round still remaining on the calendar.
With a commanding performance, during a wet weekend of racing in round five of the series, the Kuwait teenager demonstrated raw talent as he set a blistering pace in the tricky wet conditions.
Qarajouli, who only stepped onto the international stage this year, has shown incredible expertise on the European circuits, accruing five race victories, a second place podium finish, six pole positions and four fastest laps, he now has achieved an unassailable 55-points lead over nearest rival MRacing’s Laurent Millara, with the final season-ending Portimao Heat remaining.
In Qualifying, title contender Qarajouli went on to top the Q2 times with a 2m32s to nab pole for race two.
The dry, warm and sunny conditions that dominated on Friday were replaced by drizzle for Race 1 on Saturday morning, but, while grip was at a premium, Qarajouli found his feet quickly and was second by the end of the first sector.
Qarajouli was chasing down the class-leading #11 TM Evolution car when the Safety Car was deployed on lap three, but the field spread apart as conditions became trickier after the restart and it was status quo until the compulsory pit stops at mid-distance in the 1hr race.
However, there was drama when the heavy rain started to fall, with Qarajouli still on slick tyres, the class-leading #11 machine ended up in the gravel on its out-lap from the pits, then Qarajouli also slid into the gravel at Curve Paul Frère, with the Safety Car on-track for a second time and thus ending race one early for Qarajouli.
The weather improved for race two later in the afternoon and Qarajouli stayed on a slick tyre option with a drying track he duly led away from pole position, although he had his attempts to gap the field thwarted by another Safety Car.
The 18-year-old headed a four-car fight for the lead at the resumption of racing, but, unable to build an advantage between Safety Cars, the mandated longer minimum pit stop time for Silver-graded drivers ensured he dropped to third.
Unperturbed, he set purple and green sectors to return to the sharp end of the JS2 R pack, where he drove a controlled race holding back the attempts of car #69 Millara who could not see a way past.
Qarajouli sealed his fifth victory of the 2022 season and, with it, the Ligier European Series JS2 R Championship title, bringing home the first ever European Championship title for his country of Kuwait.
Qarajouli will be officially crowned Ligier European Champion at Autodromo Internacional do Algarve on 16 October.
Haytham Qarajouli, Ligier European Champion commented “First and foremost, I’d like to thank my team at HQ Racing for creating this opportunity for me, and my family and sponsors and supporters back home in Kuwait for their continued support, as without them none of this would be possible” said Qarajouli.
“It has been a great year in the Ligier European Series and I’m so happy to have contested my first season of International racing with the Ligier JS2 R, it’s a brilliant calendar racing alongside the European Le Mans Series and includes some epic circuits such as support race for iconic 24H of Le Mans.”
“Also I can’t thank RLR MSport enough, as the team ran a really great car all year and deserved to win the Teams title. I couldn’t be happier to be Ligier European Series Champion 2022 and I’m looking forward to celebrating the title win in Portimao, with friends and family, as well as RLR MSport.”
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