Bahrain GT Festival – The Final – Race Report
60 minutes of
racing around the Bahrain International Circuit brought the 2004
GT festival to a close, with 40 cars taking the start.
From the off it was Simonsen
into the lead in the #8 Coopers Racing Ferrari 550, the Ferrari’s
sprint start bettering Dedours’ Larbre Viper’s. Haring
up to third was Wolfgang Kaufmann, from eighth on the grid - the
Wieth Ferrari driver then defending his hard-fought position vigorously
from the close attention of Lacroix-Wasover in the Force One Viper
in a door banging moment through turn three. Very Grand Am.
In GT2 it was Belloc’s
Ferrari that was first to show, Lars Erik Nielsen hanging on gamely
against the pro.
Francois Fiat meanwhile
was right in the thick of things in the DDO Saleen, the gentleman
driver looking to keep the gap to the leader as narrow as possible,
before handing over to Dominic Dupuy later.
There was contact further
down the field between the Rollcentre Mosler and the #33 Laurent
Nef Porsche. Both would continue but later retire, the Mosler with
a broken left front wishbone, the Porsche with various componentry
strewn around the infield.
Adam Sharpe had a fantastic
first three quarters of a lap, up to sixth overall in the #44 Tech
9 GT2 Porsche, but a spin on the outside of Turn 12 would drop the
car right down to the back of the field. Contact? The trailing rear
bodywork seemed to indicate that it was a not entirely solo effort.
Kaufmann meanwhile had made his way past the second Viper and up
into second spot (best ever performance by the German 550, great
to see) and was now haring off in pursuit of Simonsen, with Fiat
up to fourth, having got by the Force One Viper. But it was a short
lived moment of glory for the Wieth 550, the car pitting into retirement
at the end of lap three after losing a cylinder, Kaufmann bitterly
disappointed at such an early end to a very promising run. He had
had the Coopers car in his gunsight!
Further down the order
the Morgan was charging, Aaron Scott powering the Aero 8 up to 12th
overall in the early stages. Also storming along was the #66 Porsche
of Colas, up from 43rd on the grid to an incredible eleventh place,
after 10 minutes.
Francois Fiat was having
a fine run, up to second place having demoted both Vipers. Simonsen
though was now almost 20 seconds ahead - but not for long.
With 14 minutes
of the race run the Safety Car appeared, reason unknown, but cynics
were to speculate that there were several cars that would struggle
to make the 60 minute race at racing speed on their available fuel
load. No matter, the field closed up, the Lexus initially failing
to pick up the leader, but Simonsen slowing to allow the correct
order behind the SC.
Three laps under
the full course yellow were deemed to be enough and we were off
once again, Simonsen haring away with a lap in the 1:59s, good enough
to open an immediate 6.5 second gap.
Belloc and Lecroix meanwhile
were having a spirited tussle over fourth place, with the Viper
grabbing the slot, losing it again and then diving up the inside
of the Ferrari: there was contact, the Viper spun out and Belloc
continued, untroubled, his place intact.
Dedours was now monstering
Fiat for second place, but with the pitstop window (23 to 37 minutes)
now open, both of these and Lars Erik Nielsen, opted to pit immediately.
Terry Pudwell pitted
early on too, to hand over the #14 Stealth to Nigel Greensall, the
Stealth well up the order in the first part of the race, but a slow
pit stop costing time and places.
A retirement amidst a fierce GT3 battle was the #60 Jaz Porsche,
a rear blowout happening just as Craig Rapp passed the pits: to
continue round would have damaged the car beyond the scope of available
parts – game over.
Simonsen was next of
the front runners to head pitwards, to hand over the #8 Ferrari
to David Brabham, his lead now 21 seconds - but as he did so the
Safety Car appeared once again, this time for the recovery of the
#33 Porsche, damaged in the earlier incident with the Rollcentre
The US Carworld Viper
then briefly led the race, the major GT1 and GT2 players all having
by now pitted, but when the big Dutch-run car followed suit it was
the #66 Porsche (from the back of the grid) which inherited the
class lead. The Morgan meanwhile briefly held ninth place, before
being swallowed up by a gaggle of recovering GT2s.
With 20 minutes to go
the gap was now 5.2 seconds from Brabham to Dedours in the #12 Larbre
Viper, with Dupuy closing in fast. Brabham was easing away and Dupuy
looked eager to keep in touch: the Saleen was right on the tail
of the Viper and the two Frenchmen staged their very own drag race,
the Viper proving that the years have not dulled its edge in this
respect, Dupuy giving best at the first attempt to the Chrysler
but making the very same move stick next time around - the gap to
Brabham ahead now 6.5 seconds.
Greensall in the Stealth
had made rapid progress and now lay in fifth position, with the
50 minute mark fast approaching.
The GT2 battle
was suddenly reshuffled as Sergey Zlobin, aboard the #35 Ferrari,
suffered a major front right blowout: the Russian continued towards
the pitlane at considerable pace, the front corner of the Ferrari
disintegrating rapidly with large chunks of bodywork flailing! Racing
with gusto, Russian style.
The inevitable retirement
of the JMB car elevated the #44 Tech 9 Porsche into third position
in GT2, with 10 minutes left to run.
The gap at the front
of the race was also changing: the #70 Ruffier Porsche spun in front
of Brabham and the required avoidance cost the Australian more than
half of his advantage over the Saleen, the deficit now 2.8 seconds
with six minutes remaining.
Brabham though responded
immediately, posting the fastest lap of the race, a 1:59.201, to
draw further clear, five seconds the advantage once again. From
then on a win for the Coopers Racing car was assured, the advantage
at the chequered flag a full 16 seconds… but not from the
The Larbre Viper of Makowiecki
and Dedours inherited second place on the very last lap, after the
DDO Saleen of Dupuy and Fiat suffered a severe engine problem in
the closing stages and was forced to crawl home. It was a sad result
for the DDO squad after a spirited display.
Nigel Greensall and Terry
Pudwell scored an excellent fourth place finish in the GTS classed
Stealth B6, ahead of the GT2 winning Farnbacher Porsche RSR of Patrick
Long and Lars Erik Nielsen, the Porsche outpacing the plucky Gillet
Vertigo of Renaud Kuppens and Bas Leinders for class honours, with
Adam Sharpe and Rob Croydon scoring an excellent third in class
for Tech 9.
In GT3 it was initially
a French Porsche 1, 2, 3 before the third placed First Racing car
was disqualified for overtaking the Safety Car. A very happy Larbre
Competition team principal Jack Leconte was the class winner with
Roland Berville, just ahead of a short of fuel #66 Pilotage passion
911 of Helias and Colas.
Third place in GT3 went
to the Team Aero Morgan Aero 8, after an excellent run from Aaron
Scott and Keith Ahlers.
Brabham: “Job done but in the final we were lucky
with the safety car as we were tight on fuel, but Allan did a fine
job pulling out the gap from the start.”
Long: “It was a really challenging format, no free
practice before timed qualifying on a new and unfamiliar circuit,
but I enjoyed the meeting enormously.”
Erik Nielsen: “We have had a great season with the
Porsche RSR, apart from one incident where we damaged the rear end
we’ve had no damage at all – we have however wrecked
several hire cars on the way to and from circuits!”
Leconte: “I am delighted with the win. I have not
driven competitively (for a long time) and before that I fought
for four years in the Carrera Cup with Roland Berville. It’s
good to join up and win together.”
All in all an excellent
event at a quite stunning facility. Seldom if ever has GT racing
been made more welcome, and 40 plus cars made for a spectacular
event. With thanks to those who made our excursion here possible
– you know who you are.
Where to next year?