We took our race truck, our team of six experienced personnel plus four highly prepared racing cars to Round 5 of the UAE GT Championship recently.
Over a period of three days we were to test, qualify and race these cars in a one-hour mini-endurance race with 15 other GT cars. There is absolutely no time for the driver to take in the stunning architecture of the Yas Marina Circuit as he negotiates 21 corners on the 4.73km lap, where the car reaches a top speed of more than 230kph. Remarkably, the lap takes a little over two minutes during which the average speed is a little under 140kph.
We were supporting two major international series: the Australian V8 Supercars, which is without doubt the best touring car championship in the world, and the super fast and extremely loud GP2 Asia series, which features a whole grid of ambitious single-seater drivers who believe passionately that they will be racing in Formula One within the next few years.
Testing went without incident, although we had only 30 minutes of track time. The next day, at the all-important qualifying session, again only 30 minutes determined the starting positions of all 19 cars on the rolling start the following day at 1:35pm.
The cars are entered into one of three classes based on their declared power-to-weight ratio. This enables a wide range of makes and models of race prepared road cars to race competitively with similar machinery. It's not a perfect system, but the biggest variable is, of course, the driver. Most of the clever stuff is done on the brakes and through those 21 corners, so differences in weight and power tend to be minimised.
Our four drivers had an event-free qualifying session. They all competed in Class C, where 11 of the 18 cars are classified. By contrast, Class A contains only three, albeit very exotic million-dirham-plus cars and only once this season have they all finished a race. Four cars were entered in Class B yet only two finished.
Of the 12 cars entered in Class C, one driver had food poisoning and couldn't race, and only eight finished the race. But of the three that did not finish, two were ours. To be precise, one of our Ginettas got pushed out wide on the very busy first corner of the first lap and then bounced around like a pinball, which broke the left front suspension. Then on lap three, our other Ginetta had a big moment in Turn 11 and accidentally ran into the back of another car - one of our two Maseratis. So both Ginettas were out of the race. Fortunately, the two Maseratis managed to finish the race; one badly damaged and the other in a brilliant second place.
We headed home somewhat disconsolately contemplating the enormous task of procuring parts and bodywork from the UK and repairing two badly damaged cars in time for the next race less than two weeks later. The only consolation was that with the second place we still led both the Drivers and the Team championships.
So, 11 long days and nights later all four cars look good as new and are about to go back into battle. But that's racing.
Barry Hope is a director of GulfSport Racing, which is hoping to produce the first Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online at www.singleseaterblog.com