Kessel Racing reigned victorious by taking their third win at the Gulf 12 Hours, after 302 laps around the 5.555 kilometre long famous Yas Marina Circuit. The #11 Ferrari 488 GT3 of Michael Broniszewski, Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina dominated the Gulf endurance event after starting on pole for the 12-hour battle in Abu Dhabi last weekend.
With 26 cars taking the start and 86 drivers competing in this year’s race, the seventh edition of the Gulf 12 Hours was set to be the largest yet. Qualifying made it clear that the 12-hours would be packed with action between the GT and LMP3 classes and the race certainly delivered.
The most glamourous endurance race in the UAE has seen the Kessel crew be the first across the line in 2015, 2016 and now 2017, with their overall and GT Pro class win. For Pro driver Rigon, it was his fourth victory at the Gulf 12 Hours, the first being with AF Corse in 2014.
Rinaldi Racing made it a Ferrari 1-2, as Rinat Salikhov, Marco Seefried and Norbert Siedler finished less than a minute behind Kessel in their #33 488 GT3 stallion. Giving Rinaldi their first Gulf 12 Hours podium with second overall and second in the GT Pro class.
After a solid showing throughout the endurance event, Matthieu Lahaye, Jean-Baptiste Lahaye and François Hériau brought the #17 Ultimate Ligier JS P3 LMP3 home in third overall and first in the LMP3 ProAm class.
Not being content with the win alone, the ‘Ferrari show’ was well and truly rounded off by the #77 sister Kessel car of Claudio Schiavoni, Andrea Piccini and Sergio Pianezzola, who won the GT ProAm class. Kessel team mates Piti Bhirombhakdi, Morris Chen, Nicholas Foster and Giorgio Roda completed the GT ProAm podium in their #39 TP12 HubAuto entry.
After a series of hard-fought battles throughout the 12 hours, #88 Dragon Racing added to this group of successes for the Italian marque, as they came away with a triumph in the GT Gentleman class with John Hartshorne, Ollie Hancock, David Perel and Greg Caton at the wheel.
Attempto Racing rounded off the GT ProAm podium in their #99 Lamborghini Huracan GT3, peddled by Ali Capan, Clemens Schmid and Issac Tutumlu.
A bitter sweet end for Oman Racing Team and its drivers Ahmed Alharthy, Tom Jackson and Euan McKay, as despite leading the race, and by some margin, in both parts of the 12-hour battle, a spike in gearbox temperature forced the crew from TF Sport to box the car for repairs. Despite only being 90 laps away from the checkered flag dropping, the #97 car was sent back out in time to fight it’s way up to second in the GT ProAm category.
Only one lap down on the Ultimate crew, United Autosports enjoyed success with both #22 raced by Johnny Mowlem, Bonamy Grimes and Tony Wells who finished second in LMP3 ProAm, and #24 of Guy Cosmo, Patrick Byrne, Michael Benham and prototype debut maker, Salih Yoluc, one position behind the sister Ligier.
United Autosports accomplishments didn’t end there, as their third entry, the #23 Ligier JS P3 of Jim McGuire, Shaun Lynn and Richard Meins, claimed the LMP3 Am winners title.
GTX was dominated all week by the #46 Target Racing Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo. Sarun Sereethoranakul, Karim Al Azhari and Jan Lammers took to the top step of GTX1. The GTX2 victory went to the #14 MRS GT-Racing Porsche of Norberto Fontana, Esteban Gini and Lucas Colombo Russell.
The GTX overall classification, introduced by Gulf 12 Hours, was awarded to the #44 Generation AMR SuperRacing team of James Holder, Matthew George and Steve Tandy, who also took to the top step in GTX3.
Davide Rigon – Kessel Racing #11: “It was fantastic to win again. Thank you to Ferrari for their durability and Kessel Racing for letting us have an unproblematic race. We found good balance in the car when the sun went down and the temperature dropped, so we were really competitive. To lead the grid of 26 cars from this morning’s race was great. I had a nice battle with the Rinaldi Ferrari in part two and performing the overtake for the lead made me very happy. I really want to come back to make it win number five!”
Miguel Molina – Kessel Racing #11: “It was my first time here in Abu Dhabi. I had a bit of pressure with Davide as my teammate! It was a great week for us and we work really well together and also with Michael who did a fantastic job. It was our day. It is great to get another win for Ferrari and its very special to win the overall Gulf 12 Hour race.”
Rinat Salikhov – Rinaldi Racing #33: “This was our first time here and we are really happy and proud. It was a tough race for us because we were fighting with the LMP mainly and Kessel’s #11. Congratulations to them, because they were really strong.”
Marco Seefried – Rinaldi Racing #33: “We tried really hard and we had an issue at the very beginning – it was in my stint. We ran over some debris and I had a puncture, which cost us 15 seconds. Kessel have been better today, but we clearly fought them hard. Anyway, it was a good weekend. It was the first time for us here in Abu Dhabi and the Kessel team knows the track, they know the game here. But if we return, we know a little bit more now and fight back stronger.”
Norbert Siedler – Rinaldi Racing #33: “We can be quite happy with the result we had at the end. We fought hard against Kessel, but in the end it was not enough and as Marco said I hope we fight back next year. I have to thank my team and I hope to be back in 2017.”
Francois Herieau – Ultimate #17: “The challenge today was to be as competitive as the GT car in front with their Pro drivers. It was very difficult to follow them and to try to catch them in every stint, but we gave everything we had in the battle. But for our first race here we are very happy to be on the overall podium. Now that we won the LMP3 class we will come back.”
Matthieu Lahaye – Ultimate #17: “We had great fun. It was a pleasure racing here and the track is very cool. We finished overall 3rd and 1st in our class, that is amazing.