Italian racing powerhouse – AF Corse – stormed to its second Gulf 12 Hours win on Avon tyres at the Yas Marina Circuit on Friday as the team made it two wins from two at the new-for-2012 event.
The AF Corse team, which recently announced its entry to the Avon Tyres British GT Championship in 2013, took the spoils by just 2.6 seconds in the first Gulf 12 Hours Race, held at the iconic Herman Tilke-designed circuit back in January. Victory in the second event of the year was decidedly more convincing, though, with the lead AF Corse Ferrari crossing the line nearly half a minute clear of the rest of the field in its second visit to the Emirati capital.
With the first six-hour stint completed, it was Swiss outfit – Kessel Racing – which led the way over a close field and the stage looked set for a repeat of the incredibly close inaugural race.
As the lights went out for the final six-hour race, racing resumed at the 3.45-mile circuit for Avon’s final race of an action-packed motorsport season.
A disastrous start for Kessel Racing saw both of the team’s Ferraris forced to take unscheduled pitstops, dropping them out of contention. It was the lead cars of AF Corse, AF Waltrip and Autorlando which capitalised on the erstwhile leaders’ misfortune, moving up through the order, with the lead AF Corse Ferrari stretching out a 20-second lead at the eight-hour mark.
Quick thinking on AF Corse’s part saw both cars take two of their four remaining mandatory pit stops under the safety car, which was deployed following a crash for the MRS Mollitor McLaren MP4-12C at the final corner. With around 90 minutes left on the clock, the outcome was too close to call as AF Corse, AF Waltrip and Autorlando were all in with a shot of victory in the Gulf.
After two stops, the lead AF Corse Ferrari – driven by Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander and Gaetano Ardagna – trailed the leading duo by 40 seconds. With their pit stop strategy guaranteeing maximum track-time for the remainder of the race, the gap was in no way insurmountable and a sensational final stint for the AF Corse Ferrari 458 saw the team overhaul the 40-second deficit to eventually cross the finish line over 25 seconds clear of the AF Waltrip Ferrari after 309 laps.
The podium line-up was completed by Autorlando Porsche of Jeroen and Sabastiaan Bleekemolen and Emilio Di Guida.
In the prototype class it was the Avelon Formula car, driven by Alessandro Latif, Juma Ali Al Dhaeri and Ivan Bellaro, which took victory, while the GTX class was won by Nova Race’s Roberto Rayneri, Luca Magnoni, Luis Scarpaccio and Matteo Cresssoni.
Speaking after the Gulf 12 Hours, Paul Coates – General Manager, Avon Tyres Motorsport – said, “It’s been another hugely successful year for Avon Tyres in motorsport and I feel that it was fitting for us to end the year with such a fantastic close-fought event. Endurance racing is extremely demanding – both for the drivers and cars, but also for the tyres – and Avon’s performance over this event has again demonstrated why we’re one of the world’s leading motorsport tyre suppliers.
“The Gulf 12 Hours has once again proven itself to be a worthy addition to the motorsport calendar. Despite it being new for 2012, the field has been rich in talent and heritage, with some of motorsport’s biggest names being part of this great event. The racing was superb and I’ve no doubt that the race will continue to grow in stature.”
The full results list for the Gulf 12 Hours can be found here - http://www.gulf12hours.com/results-2/