Bahrain GT Festival – Pre Race and Race 1
Short but Sweet (No he isn't!)
There was a
catalogue of woes before the Thursday ‘evening’ race,
with six (more) cars failing to make the grid.
For two of them the week
is already over – Ian Stinton’s Harrier and Barry Murphy’s
Prosport suffering terminal engine problems. Both have vowed to
be back in 2005 – Stinton still has ambitions to campaign
the Harrier in GT2 in the British GT Championship and Murphy is
looking to get better luck in a new car in the Cup Class next season.
A Marcos Mantis may be on his Christmas Shopping list.
There were troubles too
for the Tech 9 GT2 Porsche and Stealth squads, both cars requiring
parts to be freighted overnight (Porsche fuel pump and Stealth diff.
parts) and an unsmiling Wolfgang Kaufmann told the story of a broken
crown wheel and pinion on the Wieth Ferrari 550 - again the repairs
should be made by Friday morning, but the car would be unable to
capitalise on its fifth place in qualifying.
The Team Obermann BMW
M3GTR was to be another non-starter, the team trying to sort out
whether a broken sensor could be repaired. The #76 Team Ruffier
Porsche and #45 MMC Lamborghini would register a DNS for the first
Team Tiger’s Marcos
had been in trouble in qualifying, Chris Beighton (Bahrain’s
Sexiest Driver 2004) explaining that the V8 had dropped 8 rockers
on one bank, giving the spotless orange Mantis around 50% of its
usual power. But the crew had given the engine a wipe with their
magic oily rag and the car would start….
The Porsche 935s would
be starting too, a problem of failing wheels being sidestepped by
the sourcing of a supply of Speedlines. It had been a hectic morning
for the team with the wheel failure for John Griffiths (Not Fluxie
as we reported earlier) in the #9 car and a broken stub axle for
Richard Chamberlain in the #10 Porsche. This was solved by a local
supplier machining a new part from scratch at their Manama machine
shop in time for the afternoon’s race - for just 25 Bahraini
40 cars then to start
and with the race meeting running late (by over an hour), there
was another problem looming. The sun was setting fast. The cars
already had their headlamps blazing as the grid formed up and it
was obvious that the race would now be run in darkness. Bahrain
was about to get an unexpected bonus – a GT night race!
On pole was the #8 Coopers
Ales Ferrari 550, Allan Simonsen starting this race, alongside Francois
Fiat in the DDO Saleen, Dominic Dupuy opting to start races two
and three tomorrow: “This is our first time with Dunlops on
the car after running all year in the FFSA championship on Pirellis.”
The race was flagged
away at 16:52 with the sun now fully set and, as the cars pressed
the fast forward button it was Simonsen who made the decisive move
ahead of….Patrick Long, the American ace haring up the inside
of both Vipers and the Saleen to put the #34 Porsche into second
place. “I had no power steering on the warm-up lap and was
a little worried about some of the gentleman drivers too. It seemed
the right thing to do to get as much of a jump on the field as I
He did just that and,
with Simonsen powering away up front the Porsche was clear of the
tussling GT1 trio behind.
Also on the move was
Richard Chamberlain in the orange #10 935, tearing through the pack,
up from 18th to 7h after lap one (he would be up to sixth on the
JMB Ferrari 360 had an excellent first half lap, the Russian briefly
claiming fourth (from eighth on the grid) before being forced wide
by the Saleen, the #35 Ferrari throwing up clouds of sand and dust
as it powered back onto the track, now back in ninth, just behind
Martin Short’s Mosler.
Short had had a frustrating
first circuit: “I floored it at the same moment as Pat Long
but he just disappeared, while I sat there scratching my arse. I
think the Porsche and Ferrari have a little bit of a power advantage,
perhaps 50-70 bhp!”
Ahead of the Mosler was
the GT3 lead battle, Rene Wijnen’s Viper leading Christophe
Bouchut’s Diablo in the early stages.
An early casualty was
the #60 Jaz Porsche, Craig Rapp crawling back to the pits with a
blown rear tyre and damaged suspension, the result of “a smack
up the backside from a yellow car.” Race over for the Porsche
and a crew left scouring the paddock for the required parts.
Both Vipers were now
making progress, the Larbre car catching Long at the end of the
second lap and Lacroix’s Force One car drawing ever closer
to Fiat’s S7R
Another casualty was
the Team Tiger Marcos, the car seen briefly on circuit TV on the
exit of Turn 4 looking as if the rear suspension had taken some
damage, while Ian Flux sensibly retired the #9 Porsche after discovering
the car was distinctly lacking in the brake department.
Fiat meanwhile had lost
third place to Frederic Makowiecki in the #12 Larbre Viper whilst
both Short and Zlobin had found their way past Bouchut’s Lamborghini.
With Zlobin continuing
on past the US Carworld Viper, it left a fabulous Mosler, Viper,
Diablo tussle behind, Short playing a waiting game to pass the Dutch-run
“I waited until
he made a mistake or cooked his tyres and eventually he did, Bouchut
though got by me again and he drove beautifully.”
now was a clear 10 seconds in front with the Viper struggling (and
failing) to hold the gap. On just one lap the gap closed, traffic
in the darkness costing the Dane a handful of seconds, but next
time around Makowiecki hit the same problem and lost out even more
– the lead gap stretched still further.
The #2 Viper meanwhile
was now in trouble, a moment out on the circuit (now under the cover
of total darkness) dropped the car down to seventh and into the
clutches of the Bouchut / Short battle.
Cars making progress
included the rapid #66 Pilotage Passion Porsche (up into 11th) and,
Dominic Lesniewski in the #73 Tech 9 Porsche (up to 15th) and Albert
von Thurn und Taxis, the German prince up into 18th from 30th on
the grid in the #65 Lamborghini.
With several battles
developing and the race at just over half distance, the combination
of bad (ie zero) light and a number of cars stranded out on the
circuit left the Race Director with only one sensible decision to
make. The red flag was shown and the race brought to an end with
the leading (and now winning) #8 Ferrari having completed nine laps.
A great result for Simonsen
and the Coopers Ales team, ahead of the Larbre Viper and DDO Saleen
(Francois Fiat having driven throughout with barely any front lights),
and a richly deserved GT2 class win for Patrick Long in the Farnbacher
Richard Chamberlain and
his crew were justifiably elated with their fifth place after a
very trying week so far. “I can’t really believe it,
our headlamps might just as well have been a couple of candles sellotaped
to the front of the car.”
Sergey Zlobin posted
an excellent sixth place, ahead of the Force One Viper, Bouchut’s
GT3 winning #68 Lambo and Martin Short’s Mosler.
Further down the order
the #73 Tech 9 Porsche suffered a broken clutch, Dominic Lesniewski
gamely taking the rap. Luckily for the youngster his tumble down
through the order happened just as the race was stopped and on countback
his finishing position didn’t suffer too badly.
That though was bad luck
for Keith Ahlers who was making fine progress through the order
in the Team Aero Morgan, picking off a pack of GT3 Porsches with
ease but losing out on his most profitable lap, the Morgan climbing
into the top 20 overall just as the race was stopped.
A short but action packed
introduction to GT racing for the respectably sized crowd. There
will be far more tomorrow - with two more 35 minute races ahead
of an hour-long final event.