Bahrain GT Festival - Qualifying Report
Who Is Bahrain’s Sexiest GT Driver?
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.”
#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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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!”