Racing catchup for weekend 13-14 December


In this week’s racing catchup, we take a look at the final round the Gulf 12 Hours, Formula E from Uruguay and the Race of Champions

Gulf 12 Hours

A last minute safety car caused by a spin from the Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 GT3 of Jorge Lorenzo changed the face of the 2014 Gulf 12 Hours race. Michele Rugolo, driving the AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3, made the best use of the lapped traffic following the restart with just 30 minutes remaining, to take the win by 3.058 seconds after 315 laps of racing at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Second place went to the hard charging Bernd Schneider driving for the defending champions, Abu Dhabi Racing Black Falcon Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 team, with Khaled Al Qubaisi and Jeroen Bleekemolen. Schneider finished 2.683 seconds clear of third placed Kevin Estre who piloted the Von Ryan Racing McLaren 650S with Rob Bell and Alvaro Parente.

“We did our best and we were very close but the Ferrari was extremely fast this year,” the defending champion, Khaled Al Qubaisi said.

“The AF Corse guys had more speed than us, about 2/10ths of a second per lap but we tried our best and it was very close. It’s always disappointing not to win when we came to win but we will try again,” Qubaisi said.

Both Schneider and Parente were caught behind the lapped Ferrari of Cedric Sbirrazzuoli despite waved blue flags being shown to the AF Corse driver which allowed Rugolo to open up a four second gap after three laps that eventually ballooned out to 10 seconds before backing off to take a comfortable victory. “Everything went to plan, the car ran faultlessly for the full 12 hours despite some very strong competition but we’re just glad to be on the top step in Abu Dhabi,” Rugolo said.

Right from the first corner after the start at 8.49am the action began when Bleekemolen pounced from his second row grid position to steal the lead from a surprised pole sitter Bell in the McLaren who gave the 650S its world competition debut in the Gulf 12 Hours.

From there it was a game of catch up for Bell and Rugolo in the opening hours.

“I was a bit surprised by the start the Black Falcon Mercedes got, but we had a race-long strategy and did not want to be forced into a duel so early but we stayed focused and fought back over the course of the race,” Bell said.

PRO-AM’s top qualifiers, Black Falcon Racing started from fourth with Richard Muscat behind the wheel but fell back one place allowing the AF Corse Ferrari driven by Marco Cioci to lead the class in fourth outright at the conclusion of the first hour.

The team headed by Saudi Arabia’s Abdulaziz Al Faisel with Muscat and Hubert Haup regained the class lead and gave the Black Falcon Mercedes SLS AMG the PRO-AM prize in fourth outright.

Second in PRO-AM was AF Corse Ferrari with Filipe Barreiros, Piergiuseppe Perazzini and Marco Cioco while a surprised Dragon Racing from Dubai made it on to the podium after final results were confirmed with driver Jordan Grogor from Dubai, Mohammed Jawa from Saudi Arabia and Sean Walkinshaw from the UK in their Ferrari 458 GT3.

Despite his late race crash, two-time world MotoGP champion Lorenzo and his team had completed enough laps to give the Kessel Racing Ferrari victory in the Gentleman class with co-drivers Liam Talbot, Marco Zanuttini and Jacques Duyver.

Formula E – Uruguay


Sebastien Buemi clinched his first Formula E victory with a great drive in Punta del Este, holding off a charging Jean-Eric Vergne for a well-deserved win.

Vergne started from pole, but lost out to the fast-starting Nelson Piquet Jr. But as the China Racing driver sought to press home his early advantage he pushed a bit too hard and brushed the wall.

The damage was minor, but it meant that the handling of his car started to deteriorate. Vergne took the lead with a well-judged lunge into the Turn 8 hairpin and instantly pulled clear as Piquet battled with e.dams-Renault team-mates Buemi and Nico Prost, as well as an ill-handling car.

When Venturi’s Stephane Sarrazin hit a kerb hard and broke his suspension and spun, the Qualcomm Safety Car came out. Its mid-race timing was perfect and all the drivers darted into the pits. This was especially well-timed for Mahindra’s Bruno Senna, who’d tagged the wall avoiding the spinning Sarrazin. He three-wheeled back to the pits, swapped cars and continued.

The caution period came a lap after Vergne had pitted and he lost the lead to Buemi, who had finally found a way by Piquet, during the stops.

For the rest of the race Buemi had Vergne in hot pursuit. But with four laps to go, the BMW i8 was deployed again, this time after Matthew Brabham slammed his Andretti entry into the wall of the exit of the fast T15 chicane.

At the restart Vergne deployed his FanBoost, and although he closed right in, it wasn’t quite enough to make a pass. It seemed set for an epic final lap battle, only for Vergne to be denied by broken suspension. It was a cruel end to a great debut.

With Piquet too far back to attack, Buemi could relax and score an impressive win.

“I knew he was going to use his FanBoost, clearly we took it a little bit too safe in the last few laps when he started to catch me because I was still trying to save energy,” he said. “I knew he was going to be fast but I don’t know what happened to him in the end.

I’m really happy with today’s result.” After being denied in Malaysia, Piquet was naturally thrilled to score his first podium finish. For the third time in three races Lucas di Grassi scored a podium finish, extending his championship lead to 18 points in the process.

“It was a great start, immediate reaction and the car handled very well. On the first lap I attacked the chicane a little bit too hard trying to build a gap and I think I damaged my front suspension,” he said. “We got a bit lucky to get second place when Jean-Eric had a problem but we’re all happy.” Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird remains in second, level on points with Buemi, but it was a race to forget for the Putrajaya winner.

He crashed out early on at T2, causing the first of the three Qualcomm safety car periods. Jarno Trulli scored his first Formula E points after a feisty drive to fourth. The Italian enjoyed race-long battles with the likes of Brabham and Sarrazin.

“It’s a reasonable result for us,” he said. “It’s a good result for the team, but I seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time a lot!” Jaime Alguersuari was fifth for Virgin Racing, Senna took sixth, Prost seventh after being penalised for using too much power.

Dragon Racing team-mate Jerome d’Ambrosio and Oriol Servia took eighth and ninth, while Nick Heidfeld finally scored his first point in 10th. The Venturi driver actually came out in the lead during the pitstop, but was penalised for exceeding the minimum time. He was punished again for using too much power, but on the last lap his used his FanBoost to overtake Antonio Garcia and score a point.

Daniel Abt picked up two bonus points for the fastest lap, but it was not a happy race for the German. His Audi Sport Abt car kept switching itself off, which meant he finally finished 15th, three laps down.

Race of Champions


Team Nordic’s Tom Kristensen and Petter Solberg are celebrating after they took a stunning victory in the 2014 ROC Nations Cup at Bushy Park Barbados.

On a hot afternoon in the Caribbean, legends from many of the world’s biggest motor sport series teamed up in pairs to battle for national and regional pride. They raced a mix of cars – including the Ariel Atom Cup, Audi R8 LMS, Stadium Super Truck, VW Polo RX, KTM X-Bow, ROC Car and Euro NASCAR – on a purpose-built parallel track at Bushy Park Barbados.

Before the racing the drivers unfurled a banner in conjunction with the institute for advanced research into brain and spinal cord injuries ICM in honour of ROC’s absent friend Michael Schumacher as he continues his recovery from his skiing accident. Michael and fellow countryman Sebastian Vettel had won a record six consecutive ROC Nations Cup titles prior to today’s action.

But what an afternoon of action it was – as Le Mans legend Kristensen and FIA World Rallycross Champion Solberg prevailed in the final against Team Scotland. First Kristensen defeated Williams F1 official test driver Susie Wolff, then 13-time F1 grand prix winner David Coulthard won out against Solberg to take it to the decider. But Kristensen came out on top in the end, winning the final heat after Coulthard spun off at the final corner.
Host nation Team Barbados (Dane Skeete and Rhett Watson) delighted the home fans with a magnificent ROC Nations Cup debut, making it through to the semi-final before they were beaten by Team Scotland. Skeete kept the crowd on the edge of their seats by defeating Wolff but Coulthard came out on top in the end with two wins.

Even more success lay ahead for Team Barbados as they went on to win the inaugural ROC Caribbean, beating Team Jamaica in the final after seeing off Team Guyana and Team Trinidad & Tobago in the group stages.

In the other ROC Nations Cup semi-final Team Nordic beat Team France pair Romain Grosjean and Esteban Ocon by two heats to one. Kristensen and Grosjean both won their original heats but the Dane avenged his defeat in the 2012 individual Race Of Champions final to take his team through.

Earlier in the afternoon, Team Nordic (four wins) and Team France (three wins) both progressed through the round-robin Group A to reach the semi-finals. Team Young Stars were only eliminated on countback of fastest lap time after they joined Team France on three group wins – two for Mercedes F1 reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein and one for GP2 Champion Jolyon Palmer.

Team Americas were also knocked out despite seven-time off-road champion Robby Gordon’s two wins. But World Touring Car Champion José-Maria ‘Pechito’ López did give the crowd some memorable early entertainment as he rolled one of team-mate Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks.

Team Scotland topped Group B with five wins out of six – three for Coulthard and two for Wolff. Team Barbados joined them in the semi-finals, knocking out Team USA on fastest lap time after both finished on three wins. 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay took two wins and NASCAR champion Kurt Busch one win but it was not enough. Team Australia’s five-time MotoGP world champion Mick Doohan and six-time V8 Supercar champion Jamie Whincup also went out despite Whincup’s late consolation victory.

Multiple Formula 1 grand prix winner David Coulthard put in a stunning performance to eclipse 15 fellow stars of motor sport and win the Race Of Champions on a thrilling afternoon of action and entertainment at Bushy Park Barbados.

Following Team Nordic’s triumph in Saturday’s ROC Nations Cup, today’s Race Of Champions pitted many of motor sport’s biggest names against each other in identical cars on a purpose-built parallel track.

On another hot afternoon in Barbados, the best-of-three Grand Final boiled down to a battle of Formula 1 drivers young and old. But in the end Coulthard saw off Mercedes F1 official reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein to become Champion of Champions for the very first time.

Coulthard had been in the Race Of Champions Grand Final once before, when he lost out by the narrowest margin to rally legend Sébastien Loeb at Wembley in 2008. This time he prevailed over his young German challenger, who can nonetheless be proud of his run to the Grand Final at the first attempt.

Coulthard said: “We’ve had a fantastic week, never mind a fantastic race weekend. So huge thanks to all the wonderful people of Barbados for coming out – and of course to Fredrik Johnsson and his team at ROC. I’m retired so it’s lovely to get another trophy. But I think everyone can see that in Pascal we have a star for the future. He’s already signed up with Mercedes in Formula 1 as a reserve driver and winning races in the DTM so motor sport’s in good health with great young drivers like this.

“But yes, I’m pleasantly very surprised and I’m slightly embarrassed because there’s such great talent out there. Maybe not racing for two years is the secret! Of course I don’t race any more – but at this event I had the advantage because being 23 years older than Pascal I’m used to changing gear whereas he was looking for the semi-automatic shift! It’s been a good weekend so thank you to the Race Of Champions, thank you to Barbados and I think a small rum punch is in order…”