The 2017-2018 Motorsport season officially kicked off at Dubai Autodrome on Friday and Saturday (17-18 November). The packed speedfest weekend on the 3.56-kilometre National Circuit was headlined by the Season Finale of the worldwide touring car championship, TCR International Series. The weekend also included the second round of the NGK Series which had three different classes on the same grid. With the TRD86 cup, Radical Middle East Cup, and the Formula Gulf Academy making up the rest of the action, there was of course a fair share of drama.
The action packed event saw bumper to bumper racing with drivers and riders pushing to the limit. The TCR Series crowned their new Champion, the TRD 86 cup saw for its first DNF’s of the season for one of their most popular drivers. And the NGK Racing Series saw a few familar faces return to the grid.
The weekends Main Event was the TCR International series. The first race was won by Pepe Oriola , who got off to an excellent start from fourth on the grid and by turn 1 he managed to get into the lead. After that he managed to stay ahead of pole sitter Gordon Shedden who took second. Behind them Gabriele Tarquini had an excellent drive through the field after starting from the back of the grid. He made it all the way up into third, only to retire on the penultimate lap with a puncture.
The final step of the podium was claimed by Jean-Karl Vernay who secured enough points in the first race to secure the 2017 TCR Series Drivers title.
The Final Race of the Series included a number of events, Stefano Comini won the race after race leader Attila Tassi got a drive through penalty for jumping the start. Comini finished ahead of Gianni Morbidelli and Josh Files. The incident packed race had cars retiring ,cars spinning and punctured tires. Attila Tassi made a great recovery to secure second in the championship
The TRD 86 Cup had only five cars on the grid this weekend. Race One saw Current Champion Karim Al Azhari take his first DNF this season as his car suffered mechanical trouble. With him out of the picture Mohamed Abdul Ghaffar took full advantage and took the chequered flag followed by Saif Al Ameri in second. Umair Khan took the final step on the podium.
Race two saw Karim Al Azhari’ s mechanics take full advantage of the break between the two races to get the car back on to the top of the podium. Starting from the back of the grid, he was well past the field by the end of the first lap. Mohamed Abdul Ghaffar took in second followed by Saif Al Ameri in third. I am pretty sure the rest of the field will be hoping for more trouble for Karim to have any chance of preventing him from waltzing away to another championship.
The NGK series had three classes of cars in one grid..with GTs, Touring Cars and Clio Cup cars all battling it out together. Race one saw some close racing at the start. In the first Category the Leon driven by Costas Papantonis & Alexandros Annivas who had a lonely race in round one at Yas. This weekend they had three BMWs hot on their tail. But as much as they tried they couldnt upset the Spanish hothatch, this Leon is….. FAST!. The Leon took First place way ahead of Jon Simmonds/Tarek Elgammal driving the super clean BMW E30 M3. The final step of the podium was occupied by Marek Fried.
Race one for the Second category was won by the Honda Integra of ZRT Motorsport driven by Umair Khan who saw a lotta Clios to hunt down this weekend. Second place was taken by Constantinos/Alexandros Annivas who also won the Clio Cup Category ahead of Will Morrison
Race 2 of the NGK Series was a 60 minute endurance race with teams making a pitstop to refuel and an optional driver change which some teams took full advantage of. In the first Category it was alsmost a repeat of the first race. Costas Papantonis/Alexandros Anniva took the top step ahead of Jon Simmonds/Tarek Elgammal. The final step was taken by Petr/Petr SEMERAD/VALEK in their BMW.
In the Second Category the pitstops were crucial to all teams . The Clio of Constantinos Annivas & Alexandros Annivas managed to get ahead ahead of the Honda Integra early on and they manged to stay ahead even though they came under immense preasure at the closing stages to claim first place in the class and the Clio cup. The Honda Integra of ZRT Motorsport driven by Jonathan Mullian & Umair Khan had to settle for second place ahead of Will Morrison in third.
In the Final Race Category Jim Geddie continued his winning streak over the weekend winning both races ahead of Dragon Racing. We are hoping the Renaults of GP Extreme are back in the next round to spoil out the all Ferrari Party.
With the weekend full of action it turned out to be one to watch for both the fans and the drivers. With the racing season officially opening here at the Dubai Autodrome, we can hardly wait to see what’s next.