Bahrain GT Festival - Qualifying Report
Who Is Bahrain’s Sexiest GT Driver?

First Qualifying Session
The GT cars were finally released onto the circuit for the first time at 9:45am this morning (Thursday) for a one hour qualifying session (yes, straight into qualifying). A few final scrutineering hiccups were solved in time for all 48 cars to come out to play.

The first car through was the #35 JMB Ferrari with Belloc at the wheel, closely followed by Patrick Long in the #34 Farnbacher Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

And it was Long who was first to show real pace, a 2:11 followed by a 2:09, before being bettered by Belloc’s 2:07

Splitting these two early on was the #10 Porsche 935 of Richard Chamberlain with the #66 GT3 Porsche of Cyril Helias and Frank Colas popping up in fourth. Patrick Long then turned up the wick once again and a 2:05 was good enough to put the 911RSR back on top.

The GT1 front runners had yet to emerge: that soon changed as David Brabham howled out of the pitlane in the #8 Coopers Ales Ferrari 550: provisional pole looked likely and the Aussie / Italian combo didn’t disappoint, a 2:03 on its first flying lap would set the standard.

Nigel Greensall was next to improve, the #14 Speedworx Stealth grabbing third with a 2:05, just ahead of the DDO Saleen, Dominic Dupuy getting up to speed with a 2:06.

The drivers were learning the circuit fast and lap times were tumbling. Ian Flux in the #9 Porsche 935 was pushing on, with Martin Short in the Rollcentre Mosler in close attendance, the pair (and a couple of others) going four wide along the start finish straight, kicking up a veritable dust storm as the big GT cars moved off the racing line. “I didn’t realise it was Fluxie,” said Short later, “but he was being very sensible.”

Larbre Competition’s #12 Viper was the next of the GT1 cars to shine, up to second, but it was almost immediately demoted by Wolfgang Kaufmann in the Wieth Racing Ferrari 550. With the competition heating up almost as quickly as the track surface in the ever hotter desert sun, the proceedings were interrupted by a red flag, not in response to an on track incident but rather a result of a timing system problem: eight minutes would pass before the final 20 minutes of the session could be run.

When the session was green flagged once again the two 550s were amongst the first cars back out on track, split by the DDO Saleen.

It looked likely that provisional pole would come from this period and sure enough the times came down immediately, Kaufmann setting the fastest time of all for just a few seconds before Dupuy bettered his mark immediately, with Allan Simonsen (now behind the wheel of the #8 Ferrari) storming by just a couple of tenths slower than the Saleen.

Dupuy improved again next time around, now down into the 1:59s (a 1:59.590) with Simonsen still in close attendance. The Saleen pitted (together with the Wieth 550) with 10 minutes of the session to run, just as the #38 Oliver Baron Porsche crept down the pitlane with front end damage - that closely matched the rear end hole that had appeared in the #37 Harrier LR9C.

Simonsen’s final hurrah for the session was a lap that took the #8 into the 1:59s, just 38 thousandths back from the Saleen.

In GT2 Long’s earlier time was not to be beaten, but Belloc came close, just four tenths behind, this pair finishing the session fifth and seventh overall. The Short / Balfe Mosler was next up, tenth overall but two seconds off the Porsche / Ferrari battle. “But we haven’t used new tyres yet,” said an enthusiastic Martin Short.

GT3’s story was one of distinctly different cars, Christophe Bouchut in the RSG Lamborghini Diablo finishing the session in an excellent ninth position overall ahead of the US Carworld Viper, the two big bangers some four seconds faster than the best of the GT3 Porsches.

The session was finally brought to an end with three minutes left to run after the Ian Flux’s #9 Porsche 935 lost a wheel, stranding the car on the track. This gave the race organisers an opportunity to recover both the Bintec Prosport (loss of oil pressure) and the Stealth, which had ground to a halt with Terry Pudwell at the wheel with a broken driveshaft.

“We’ll be OK, I think the shaft has caused a bit of further damage but we’ll be fine for the race later. “ The team had suffered some last minute scrutineering problems but had been helped out by the Grand-Am Technical Director Rob Ellen.

“He was fantastic, we got the fax from him at about midnight Florida time to show the changes that had been made to the rollcage on this car had been properly sanctioned.”

Nick Adcock in the Eurotech Porsche was thoroughly enjoying himself:

“The car is perfect and the circuit is superb – what a place to have your first GT drive.”

Phil Hindley was satisfied with the Tech 9 team’s progress, despite a clutch problem for Philip Keen in the #73 GT3 car. The team boss was “happy enough with that – the Michelin tyres are going to be better than our Dunlops in the sprint races, but we’ll come right back at them in the final.”

Keith Ahlers was beaming too, the Morgan Aero 8 sounding glorious past the pits: “The car is storming along, the most surprising thing so far is that I can carry quite a lot of speed into some of the slower corners.”

Qualifying Session 2
The second session began with most of the teams taking the opportunity to get further track time, with very few quick times being set. There was no sign of the Stealth or the Prosport (both cars having repairs still underway) or of the Porsche 935s (of which more later, the #9 car emerging for a single lap before pitting).

First to show a considerable improvement was the Force One Viper, up to fourth from eighth, with Patrick Long then getting up to speed in the GT2 leading Farnbacher Porsche. He would grab fourth slot back from the Viper with a 2:03 as, with the session clock ticking down, the major players started to up the pace.

Dominic Dupuy was first to make the move, a pair of quick laps giving the #1 Saleen a 1.9 second advantage over the chasing, red and yellow, Ferrari 550s.

In GT2 the Mosler was improving too: with ten minutes to go the Rollcentre car was up to second place in GT2 and the gap to the Farnbacher Porsche was narrowing.

The GT1 battle was still well alight, the Force One Viper bettering Wolfgang Kaufmann’s efforts to grab third - and David Brabham by now was out on track and charging. His first real effort saw the gap to the Saleen drop to just 0.6 seconds and his second, with Dupuy now handing over the Saleen to Fiat, was good enough for pole, a 1:57.514.

GT2 would see Pat Long retain a well deserved class pole, with Short’s Mosler just 0.6 seconds behind, a tenth ahead of Belloc’s JMB Ferrari.

In tenth overall was an excellent effort from Bas Leinders in the Gillet Vertigo, a banzai lap from the Belgian F1 test driver bettering the car’s previous best by three seconds when it mattered.

GT3 pole was grabbed at the very end of the session from Christophe Bouchut by the US Carworld Viper, this pair of entries highly creditable 11the and 12th overall, with the #66 Pilotage Passion Porsche third in class.

Both Tech 9 cars improved dramatically, the GT2 version up to seventh in class before a pair of failed in-tank fuel pumps stopped their run – it will also keep the #44 car out of the sprint race later today. The GT3 car of Lesnieweski and Keen was fifth in class.

The Team Tiger Marcos is struggling to find the pace British GT fans are used to, but the team members can content themselves with the fact that Chris Beighton has been awarded the title of “Bahrain’s Sexiest GT Driver.” It’s an impressive title, slightly undermined later though by Keith Ahler’s observation that “He wouldn’t let us enter - or anyone else for that matter!”


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