Pit stop crew boost for GT1 Aston Martin duo

Emirati drivers scoop three major titles in the UAE GT Championships at Yas Marina Circuit.

ABU DHABI // As a jubilant Clivio Piccione and Stef Dusseldorp stood on the top step of the podium at Yas Marina Circuit last night, it was fair to say that they knew they owed their success largely to the work of their Hexis team in the pit lane.

The pair, in their Aston Martin, triumphed in the opening round of the FIA GT1 Championship thanks largely to a swift pit-stop by their mechanics midway through the race.

Piccione, the driver from Monaco, had run fifth in the early stages, but the rapid work of the Hexis pit crew vaulted them up the order to first place, with a six-second advantage, leaving Dusseldorp, the 21-year-old Dutch driver, to hold off the challenge of Richard Westbrook's Nissan GT-R to take the win in his first GT race.

Piccione led the praise of his mechanics afterwards. He said: "They made this win possible today with an amazing pit stop. The car was good all weekend and it is just the best start we could have."

Dusseldorp, who credited the fast work of his team simply to "lots of practice", said he was not surprised by how quick the stop had been. "This morning we did a great pit-stop in the qualifying race and gained a lot of positions, and the team did the same job in the main race and they put me out in front which was great," he said.

"All I had to do was stay in front, which was not as easy as it looked, but we did and it is a great feeling."

Enrique Bernoldi had led the opening laps in his Sumo Power Nissan GTR, but disaster struck when he swapped over to Ricardo Zonta in their pit stop on lap 13 as Zonta collided with Frederic Makowiecki's Marc VDS Racing car. Zonta suffered a puncture and was out of contention.

There was no home delight for Jamie Campbell-Walter, Yas Marina's Formula One two-seater driver, as his co-driver, David Brabham of Australia, twice fell foul of the race stewards.

The pair had finished eighth in the qualifying race in their Sumo Power Nissan GTR yesterday afternoon, but Brabham ignored a red light at the pit exit, and he and Campbell-Walter were given a five-place grid penalty for the start.

Then Brabham, who started the race, was adjudged by the stewards to be have been "abusing the track limits" by going off the circuit as he battled with cars on the opening laps. Brabham and the Sumo Power car were given a drive-through penalty and dropped to the back of the field, and had to be content with ninth place, 32 seconds off top spot.

Meanwhile, there was plenty for the House of Portier Corvette team to be happy about in the UAE GT Championship, which was part of the support races at Yas Marina yesterday.

Karim al Azhari had already secured the GTA title, and it mattered little that he and his co-driver, Fabien Giroix, were sidelined early in yesterday's final round of the season with mechanical problems. But his teammate, Mohammed al Mutawaa, the 18-year-old Emirati, with al Mutawaa's co-driver, Jiri Skula, finished second overall behind Julian Griffin's Dodge Viper, a result that was good enough to earn al Azhari the GTB title.

And to cap a good day for Emirati racers, the GTC race was won by the UAE pair of Saeed al Mehairi and Hasher al Maktoum in their Yas Marina-sponsored Aston Martin.