12 February 2011
It was a good day for House of Portier team in round five of the Cytech UAE GT Championship as their Corvettes powered to victory in both the GTA and GTB classes at Yas Marina Circuit today.
The pairing of Karim Al Azhari and Fabien Giroix, in the TAM Auto Engineering Corvette, started from the back of the grid. Within a lap, with Giroix at the wheel, they were up to fourth place and half a dozen laps later chasing leader Julian Griffin’s NFS Dodge Viper who only lasted seven laps before driveshaft problems caused his retirement.
Giroix controlled the race and when Al Azhari took over the cockpit he cruised to GTA Class victory, with second place going to the MSW Ginetta of Bassam Kronfli and Raed Hassan, albeit a lap down on the winners.
The win sees Al Azhari extend his championship points lead over his closest rivals.
Giroix, who also set the fastest time in the race, said afterwards, “I really enjoy a challenge and at the start I had to make my way from the back of the grid. This was interesting. The car was great and once we took the lead we could manage our tyres and basically control the race. When I handed over to Karim [Al Azhari] he drove well and this is good for us to win here at Yas Marina.”
Second overall and taking top honours in the GTB class was second House of Portier Corvette with Mohammed Al Mutawaa and Jiri Skula sharing driving duties. Second in the class, and third overall was the MSW Porsche of Phil Quaife and Jon Simmonds who also set the fastest lap in the GTB class.
Al Mutawaa was content with a job well done and taking the championship points lead, “It was a good day for our team. House of Portier and TAM Auto Engineering once again provided us with great cars and it was up to us to do the business. I was a second off the pace in practice but by the race I found the speed and despite a bad start managed to get ahead of the MSW Porsche. I built a gap and handed over the car to my co-driver and he did what was required to win.”
One of the highlights of the day was Saad Salman’s jump of joy on the podium as he celebrated, in style, his first ever win in the highly competitive Cytech UAE GT Championship GTC Class. The rookie managed to get the better of a quality field on his way to bagging maximum points, driving the AUH Motorsports prepared KTM X-Bow.
Salman had to work hard for his victory fending off the likes of Robert Cregan (Maserati GT MC), Paul Denby/Harris Irfan (ARM Porsche GT3 Cup) and Athanasios Ladas/Alexander Margaritis (KTM X-Bow) during the course of the one hour enduro style race.
Early on there was drama when Joe Ghanam had contact on the opening lap and had to park his GulfSport prepared Ginetta, as did fellow Ginetta driver Khaled Al Mudhaf who also had an excursion a few laps later.
In the end Salman did enough to take GTC class victory by three seconds from Cregan who pushed hard until the very last lap. The result sees Cregan stay in the lead of title battle but behind him there are a number of drivers battling for second place in the title chase.
Smiling broadly after the podium ceremony Salman said, “I am over the moon. It is amazing to win in this very competitive class with great drivers. I knew that we had a good car for this circuit. We were very fast through certain sections like the corkscrew and I felt if we did it right we could win. It was very tough but I managed to hold on and this is great to be winning in my first year. I am very, very happy.”
Round 6 of the Cytech UAE GT Championship takes place at Dubai Autodrome on Friday, 25th February.