Patrick Pilet, making his regional debut at this weekend's Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai, yesterday proved the virtues of virtual reality. The Frenchman helped his team, IMSA Performance MATMUT 1, take pole position after finishing the qualifying session at Dubai Autodrome with a fastest lap time of 2min 2.701sec. Pilet, 28, and driving a Porsche 997 GT3, is visiting the Emirates for the first time, but alongside teammates Raymond Narac and Marco Holzer looked at home on the 5.39km track. And that, says Pilet, is down to video games.
"I learned the track before coming here," he said. "I played it a lot on GT3 - FIA GT Racing Game and it is pretty accurate. On the game I made 2:03 and here I am a little bit faster so it was clearly worth it. "Qualifying was pretty difficult because there was so much traffic. But the team did a good job; I think we managed to get the balance perfect. "It was a little sandy, but hopefully it will get better over the next couple of days and there will be plenty of opportunities to overtake.
"When I was driving, I overtook four or five cars and didn't lose much time so I am very happy with how it went." Second-placed Gravity Racing International of Denmark were 0.835sec behind, while Italy's De Lorenzi Racing 1 were in third, trailing the leading time by 1.305sec. Holzer, from Germany but racing for MATMUT 1 courtesy of his connections with Porsche, said that while yesterday went as flawless as they could have wished, they are not reading too much into their position at the front of the grid.
UAE representatives Al Faisal Racing 1 - with Saudi Arabia's Abdulaziz and Khaled al Faisal and Germany's Marko Hartung and Claudia Hurtgen - narrowly missed out on a top-five spot, finishing 0.082 behind fifth-placed Rhino's Leipert Motorsport 1 of Germany. MATMUT 2 came fourth. The all-Emirati team, Lap57 Race Team, finished 67th from a field of 72. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org