Dubai, UAE, 23 January 2019: Even a ten-second time penalty could not stop Willie Morrison from making series history on Friday (18 January), becoming the first Renault Clio Cup driver to win an overall race in the NGK UAE Touring Car Championship (NGK UAE TCC).
The 2.298-kilometre North Corkscrew Circuit at Yas Marina is a tight twisting configuration with minimal straights, which is ideal for the Clio Cup race car to thrive.
Ricky Coomber of ZRT Motorsport had the speed early on in qualifying, pushing his Honda Integra to the top of the field full of Class 2 and Clio Cup machinery, clocking in a best lap time of 1:04.566 to take pole. Morrison was .311 seconds off the pace to take P2.
Coomber immediately gave away his pole position advantage by missing the pit lane open period, which relegated the #48 Honda to starting the race from the pit lane.
That left Morrison to get away clean and take control of the first race. Desperate to regain the frontrunner spot, Coomber ploughed up the field, setting the fastest lap of the race (1:04.625) in pursuit.
Morrison was tagged with an Exceeding Track Limits infringement that gifted 10 seconds in favour of Coomber, but the Scottish driver managed to hold on to an eleven second gap at the chequered flag and take the win.
Ricky Coomber had to settle for second-place in the first race, with Peter England piloting a Clio to claim third.
The reverse start grid presented Coomber with even more problems in race two, while Morrison made the most of it and sliced his way through the pack, this time to battle with two other Clio Cups, driven by Rahil Taneja and Peter England.
Morrison took control and nabbed his second victory of the day, leaving Taneja of AUH Motorsports to pick up the scraps of second-place and England again to take third, making it a Clio Cup one-two-three for the NGK winner’s podium.
Rahil Taneja may have just missed out on the overall win, but his efforts were duly rewarded after the contest when he was awarded the Airlink International Driver of the Day, which included a AED 1,000 prize
Ali Kamyab seized a Class 2 triumph in the second race, despite getting tagged with a drive-through penalty following a false start.
Two overall victories guaranteed that Willie Morrison also topped the Renault Clio Cup Class powered by Renault Middle East. The Scottish driver has a total of 200 championship points and has put a significant gap on Peter England, who is currently in second-place with 141 points.
With 90 championship points, Ali Kamyab has closed the gap on ZRT Motorsport in Class 2, but he’ll have much work to do to overhaul the 140 points amassed by ZRT.
Report: Aaron Meriwether
Photos: Dominic Simon