Bahrain GT Festival – Race 2
A Cracker

A cracker of a 35 minute race on Friday morning began with 43 cars on the grid. The parts for the Stealth and Tech 9 GT2 car were unfortunately not delivered in time for either car to take the start but both would be ready to go for Race 3. The Wieth Ferrari was back in rude health, Hubert Haupt lining up in 43rd place on the grid. Interesting…

Sadly absent was the Team Tiger Marcos, the car suffering a broken rear wishbone after contact at the start of race one – with no spare available it’s the end of the meeting for Beighton and Finnemore.

Also starting from the back of the grid with the yellow 550 was the Team Jaz Porsche of Paul Mace, the car having been successfully refettled after serious suspension damage yesterday.

As for the race itself, it turned into a titanic battle at the front between David Brabham in the #8 Coopers Ferrari 550 and Dominic Dupuy in the#1 DDO Saleen. Brabs would lead the race for all but three corners, but his lead only once stretched to more than a full second and was more often just a couple of tenths.

From the start there were several cars looking to make rapid progress. Shaun Balfe powered up the inside to gain a couple of slots at the front of the pack in the Mosler, but the most spectacular gains were being made by Hubert Haupt, up to 11th place after the first lap! Renaud Kuppens was also moving up, the Gillet Vertigo up to eighth place from 12th after lap one.

Thierry Stepec was an early retirement, a blown engine looking likely to finish the #38 Olivier Baron Porsche’s meeting.

Lap two and the Wieth Ferrari was now up to sixth place, just behind another excellent battle between the #12 Viper of Frederic Dedours and the #35 JMB Ferrari 360 of Sergey Zlobin, the Russian having another excellent run.

In GT2 the Toyota Supra was going superbly, up to tenth overall in the hands of Jean- Christophe Ravier, the Supra’s 550bhp three litre bi-turbo straight six proving very handy on the long straights of the Bahrain International Circuit. It’s fine run was sadly ended by a stub axle failure, but it would be fixed for Race 3.

In GT3 there was another fine battle developing, the US Carworld Viper of Roger Growels crossing swords with Phillippe Charriol in the #68 Diablo. A race long three way tussle was won, finally, by the evergreen Fabien Giroix in the #58 First Racing Porsche.

At the front meanwhile Haupt’s mercurial progress continued, with the yellow and green Wieth 550 grabbing third place out of turn two at the start of lap 4.

The GT2 scrap was immediately behind this battle, with Zlobin leading Lars Erik Nielsen’s Farnbacher Racing Porsche and the Rollcentre Mosler. Shaun Balfe was closing on the 911 and soon powered by, easily pulling away in a solid seventh place.

Further back down the order Aaron Scott was having a fine old time in the Morgan, up to 20th overall and closing fast on a gaggle of GT3 and GT2 cars ahead: he would later pass four on a single lap, the Morgan performing magnificently in his hands, climbing as high as 14th overall before tyre troubles interrupted his charge (Dominic Lesniewski had been his next target).

The Leclerc / Zlobin battle was now fully engaged, the Russian finding opportunities to harry the Viper at almost every corner, even passing the big GT1 car on a couple of occasions, only to suffer the frustration of seeing the Viper howl by on raw power as soon as a reasonable straight appeared.

With the clock counting down it was a waiting game for Dupuy, to see whether the Australian ahead would make an error. Brabham though doesn’t make too many and it looked like being a fruitless pursuit. But Dupuy is a wily old fox and even as the last lap unwound he was still there in the Ferrari’s mirrors, looking for an opportunity.

Astonishingly it presented itself at Turn 12, Brabham caught out by a backmarker (Nick Adcock) getting through the corner more slowly than he had anticipated.

Dupuy pounced and took the Saleen around the outside into Turn 13, the Ferrari trailing for the first time in the race. It wasn’t over yet though. As the battling pair howled down to the final turn the #46 JMB Ferrari of Massimo Mantovani spun in front of the Saleen, Dupuy lifted off and it was nose to tail once more.

It wasn’t quite enough though for Brabham, the pair sprinting past the flag with Dupuy just 0.2 seconds to the good.

There was still action behind too, Zlobin grabbing fifth from Leclerc through Turn 13 and holding the Viper along the following straights (with the help of some spirited weaving), a fine performance again from the Russian, topped off by a lurid spin at the end of the pit straight on the slowing down lap. He was just as entertaining at the Spa 24 Hours, but in different ways.

A cracking race.


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