VERNAY CLINCHES 2017 TCR INTERNATIONAL SERIES TITLE IN DUBAI
Season opener at Dubai Autodrome features two days of Motorsport action
Dubai, UAE, 19 November 2017: The 2017-2018 season officially kicked off at Dubai Autodrome on Friday and Saturday (17-18 November) with the TCR International Series Speedfest on the 3.56-kilometre National Circuit.
The final deciding round of the TCR International Series headlined the race weekend, supported by the local championships of NGK Racing Series, UAE Sportbike Championship, Radical Middle East Cup, Formula Gulf Academy and the TRD86 Cup.
TCR International Series
Jean-Karl Vernay, driving a Volkswagen Golf GTI for Leopard Racing Team, secured the 2017 Driver’s Championship after successfully holding off a determined challenge by Attila Tassi’s M1RA Honda Civic Type-R in the first of two races.
Vernay went into race one knowing that all he had to do was finish ahead of Tassi to take the championship. He qualified second on the grid and Tassi landed the tenth spot, so the French driver appeared to have an easy task ahead.
However, Vernay lagged behind after a poor start, while Tassi made a great getaway and was soon giving chase. The Hungarian knew he had to pass Vernay in order to force the title decider into race two. Meanwhile Pepe Oriola also had great start, going from fourth on the grid, diving down the main straight and into the front of the pack.
Oriola’s Seat Leon took a comfortable lead, but the last half of the race was a tense affair between the title contenders back in fourth and fifth place, with Tassi sitting right on the back bumper of Vernay, desperate to make a pass.
Vernay held off the challenges, and James Nash was able to take advantage of the scuffle, wedging his Seat Leon in front of Tassi and dashing any hopes the Hungarian might have had. Oriola won race one and Vernay’s third-place finish secured him the 2017 Driver’s Title.
The Teams Title and Model of the Year Award were still up for grabs in race two, which led to a frantic contest throughout the seventeen laps. Last year’s driver champ, Stefano Comini managed to guide his Audi RS 3 LMS out of the chaos and across the finish line to take the chequered flag 1.190 seconds ahead of the Volkswagen Golf GTI of Gianni Morbidelli.
When the final points were tallied, the Hungarian outfit of M1RA took home the 2017 Teams Title ahead of Lukoil Craft-Bamboo Racing. The Model of the Year Award went to the Volkswagen Golf GTI by a narrow margin over the Honda Civic Type-R.
UAE Sportbike Championship
An epic battle is already taking shape between defending 600cc champ Mahmoud Tannir and long-standing rival Ahmed Almuyini.
Almuyini struck first, grabbing pole position on his Kawasaki ZX6R with a best qualifying lap time of 1:33.023 on the National Circuit, a mere 0.274 seconds ahead of Tannir, riding a Honda CBR600RR.
In Race One, the margin of victory would be even closer, with the Saudi and Lebanese riders side by side for the lead. On the last lap Almuyini snuck past Tannir to take the chequered flag by a miniscule 0.015 seconds gap.
However, Almuyini’s good fortune didn’t carry over into the second race, and he dropped his bike in the opening lap, leaving Tannir in control for the comfortable class win, crossing the finish line 33.508 seconds clear of Fahad Al Gharbally.
In the 600cc Rookie Class, Federico Fratelli on his Yamaha R6 went two-for-two, taking close victories both times over Angelo Villone, riding a Kawasaki ZX6R.
In the non-championship 1000cc class, Yamaha R1 rider Nasser Al Shaiba scored two category wins, with Vafi Khan on his BMW S1000RR claiming second.
NGK Racing Series
It was a Greek party for Classes One and Two, as Hellenic drivers dominated the contest throughout. Defending champion Costas Papantonis teamed up with Alexandros Annivas to bag two class victories in their Mouhritsa Racing Sean Leon Super Copa.
Alexandros pulled a double-duty shift, changing cars during pit stops and then partnering with Constantinos Annivas in a Renault Clio Cup, also of Mouhritsa Racing, to seize a Class Two victory and two Clio Cup triumphs. Jonathan Mullan and Umair Khan of ZRT Motorsport were the only ones to challenge the Greeks, nabbing a narrow Class Two victory in race one.
The fastest cars of the series were the Dragon Racing Ferraris of Class Three. The Ferrari 458 GT3 of Jim Geddie and the Ferrari 488 GT3 of Leon Price and Rob Barff battled it for top honours, and in both races Geddie emerged victorious.
Formula Gulf Academy
Scottish driver James Scott Murphy made a perfect start to his FG1000 season campaign. He scored a motorsport hat trick, taking pole position in qualifying, and then going on to win the next two races.
Kane Shepherd of Thailand was only 0.294 seconds off the qualifying pace of Murphy’s best lap time of 1:22.669, but that was as close as he could get, and he had to settle for second-place in each of the races.
Radical Middle East Cup
Dream Racing Dubai’s Jani Hjerppe appears to be back in form and ready to defend his 2016-2017 title with a decisive double win over the weekend.
In the first 45-minute endurance race Hjerppe, the “Flying Finn”, put on a masterclass performance in his Radical SR3, trouncing the field and taking the race victory by 36.717 seconds over the AUH Motorsports duo of Richard Ardolino and Eric Zimmermann.
Race two was more of the same, with Hjerppe improving on his previous marks and sailing home for the victory, a full 40.532 seconds in front of Dragos Dumitrascu and Sam Taheri of AUH Motorsports.
Defending champion Karim Al Azhari had to retire in race one, giving his one of his rivals, Mohamed Abdul Ghaffar the chance to seize the top step of the podium in Gold Class. Al Azhari returned in full force for race two, winning comfortably over Ghaffar by 18.210 seconds.
In Silver Class, Umair Khan went two-for-two, claiming two classes victories over Michel Karam.
Article: Aaron Meriwether
Photos: Darren Rycroft & Aaron Meriwether