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 race too.

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 Dinar!

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 could.”

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 following lap).

Sergey Zlobin’s 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 car.

“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.”

Simonsen by 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 Racing Porsche

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.
GG

 

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