Dubai, UAE, 9 December 2018: The GP Extreme Renault RS1 duo of Fred Fatien and Jordan Grogor scored a comeback victory after falling to the back of the grid from pole position in the opening race of Round 2 of the Gulf Sportscar Championship at Dubai Autodrome (7 December).
Having taken a blistering pole position in the earlier qualifying session, Fatien took the wheel of the #24 machine for the start of the race, but was soon surrounded by other cars making a better getaway as the lights went green from the rolling start.
With the grid going four abreast over the line, the rush for positions into Turn 1 was hectic, with the Renault RS1 relegated to the back of the field, as the #88 Dragon Racing Ferrari 488 Challenge car shared by Leon Price and son Josh took the lead ahead of first the #48 Dragon Racing Mercedes AMG GT4 of Saeed Al Mehairi, and shortly after the #7 GDL Racing Porsche 991 GT3 Cup car of local UAE driver Mohammed Hussain.
As the #88 Ferrari began to pull clear, the biggest battle came in the middle of the field, between the #40 Dragon Racing Mercedes AMG GT4 or Rob Barff, and Fatien’s resurgent Renault both challenged the second Dragon Mercedes of Al Mehairi for third spot.
Their efforts were rewarded soon after, as the second placed GDL Porsche spun out of Turn 16 with gearbox issues, glancing the barrier before slowly returning to action but at the back of the grid.
With the pit window open halfway through the race, the #48 Mercedes was first to switch drivers with Al Mehairi making way for team-mate Faisal Binladen. The rest of the grid followed suit, except the lead Ferrari which waited until the final few seconds as Leon switched for Josh Price.
With Grogor now at the wheel of the Renault RS1, the car flew out of the pits, with a resulting advantage of over 20 seconds when all pit stops were complete.
The battles were not over though, with the #88 Ferrari and #48 Mercedes entwined in an intra-team battle for second place, with the Ferrari prevailing.
The debut of the Knight Connection JS P4 lasted all but 11 minutes of the 50-minute race, Gilles Petit forced into retirement, while the GDL Porsche concluded its race prematurely shortly after.
It left Grogor to take the chequered flag ahead of Price’s Ferrari, with Binladen narrowly heading Barff for third and best of the Mercedes AMG cars.
Fred Fatien (#24 GP Extreme Renault RS1 GT3):
“It was a poor start and I did not believe it when there were so many cars around me when the lights went out, but I needed to recover well. I needed as much time and racing experience in a car as possible.”
Jordan Grogor (#24 GP Extreme Renault RS1 GT3):
“The car is fantastic and the team is great. GP Extreme have been running the car for two years and there’s been a lot of development. It’s like a familiar glove to me. This is the retirement race for the Renault, and as of next week, there’ll be a new steed for the Gulf 12 Hours race.”
Josh Price (#88 Ferrari 488 Challenge):
“It was a good start but I didn’t expect it. I loved it, just kept pounding round. I got into a good rhythm and then had my driver coach, Rob Barff’s voice in my head just repeating what I needed to do.”
Leon Price (#88 Ferrari 488 Challenge):
“Josh did all the hard work! I just had to make sure I didn’t make a mistake. I had a very quick first two laps and a very quick last two laps, just to show them that I can do it! What was fantastic was seeing Josh leading the race and never giving it up, especially after I told him to let the Renault go because it would be much quicker. It was absolutely amazing, and his times were blistering. I’m very proud of him!”
Saeed Al Mehairi (#48 Dragon Racing Mercedes AMG GT4):
“I had a great start and the Renault struggled so managed to pass three cars into second place. Myself and the Porsche kept swapping positions early in the race until the Porsche spun out. Then the Renault came back at us and I could not keep up with it. It was really fun, especially at the start of the race keeping up with them, so it was great to battle with the big boys. I was trying to manage the tyres at the same time though, so I could pass the car over to Faisal in a good shape for the second half of the race. Faisal did fantastically, especially considering that both of us had never raced the Mercedes AMG GT4 before.”
Faisal Binladen (#48 Dragon Racing Mercedes AMG GT4):
“I was hoping for a clear race, and Saeed did a lot of the battling for me. It’s been a while since I raced at the Autodrome and in a faster car. The last time I raced was in a Citroen C1 at Spa-Francorhamps! The Mercedes is a quick car and has all the gadgets to keep you looking in the right direction. My first podium driving a Mercedes race car, so I’m a very happy driver today.”
Mohammed Hussain (#7 GDL Racing Porsche 991 GT3):
“I had a good race and I was in second for a few laps, then I had a spin at the exit of Turn 16. Then I started having some gearbox issues and I decided to retire the car. I felt that the more I drove, the more noise I could hear and I wanted to avoid damage. And we have the Gulf 12 Hours coming up next week, so I did not want to destroy the car.”
Report: Driving Force Events Limited
Photos: Aaron Meriwether and Arthur Rosales