Victory in the final race of Avon Tyres Motorsport’s action-packed season went to Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon Racing, as the three-man crew sealed victory in the third running of the Gulf 12 Hours, denying AF Corse a triple victory in the process.
The team was aggressive from the outset, claiming pole position for the two-part endurance race with a time of 2:11.08. The Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 GT3 lined up alongside Team Abu Dhabi’s Mercedes SLS AMG, with the average lap of the Swiss powerhouse nearly three tenths of a second shy of the pole-setting time.
The Slamstop Motorsport Ferrari 458 GT3 of Matteo Bobbi, Alexander Skryabin and Alessandro Pierguidi qualified in third, while it was an excellent debut for the Bentley Continental GT3, as the M-Sport-run muscle car lined up in fourth, with AF Corse rounding out the top five.
A battle emerged between the top qualifiers as the first of two six-hour stints unfolded, with the deployment of the safety car for an accident involving car 95 – the Avelon Formula CN Class Wolf – marking a turning point in the opening session.
The AF Corse and M-Sport Bentley crews were able to capitalise on the safety car period, turning the tables on the Black Falcon Mercedes, as the Team Abu Dhabi crew spent the remainder of the opening stretch attempting to overhaul a significant deficit and AF Corse looked on target to take a hat-trick in the Emirati event. It was too great a challenge, though, as it was advantage AF Corse, with the #1 car stretching out a lead of 53.9 seconds as the first half drew to a close.
After a break of just over two hours, the final part of the 2013 Gulf 12 Hours began on a cooling Yas Marina circuit. While any gaps from the first half were wiped out, the field began the final stint in the order in which they crossed the line at the six-hour mark.
Black Falcon got the jump on the AF Corse Ferrari at the rolling re-start and, as night descended and the 5.6-kilometre track cooled further, the lead of the #3 car proved unassailable. With 308 laps completed, Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon sealed victory by just one lap from AF Corse, while Team Kessel Racing completed the GT3 class podium after a race-long battle with the M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3, which placed fourth overall in a strong competitive debut.
Victory for the Team Abu Dhabi crew ended a perfect year for the team, which took a clean sweep of the 2013 endurance racing calendar, as Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon Racing’s Bernd Schneider said, “This has been an unbelievable year, which started with victory in the Dubai 24 Hours. Then we went on to win two more 24-hour races at the Nürburgring and Spa, a 12-hour race in Australia and we cap it with a win in Abu Dhabi. It’s full credit to my fellow drivers, Jeroen and Khaled; they did an amazing job.”
A close-fought battle in the GTX ranks saw the two Nova Race Ginetta G50 GT4s trade places for much of the race until the #92 Ginetta, which had been running in second, was forced to pit with mechanical issues.
With clean air between the leading Nova Race Ginetta and its Optimum Motorsport rival, the #91 car was able to stretch its legs and extend a significant gap over the Optimum Ginetta, to finish 10th outright and win the GTX class.
It was a tough day in the office for the prototype CN category entrants, as only two of the four open cockpit prototype racers would make it to the finish-line, with the #95 Avelon Formula Wolf GB08 sealing victory.
Avon Tyres Motorsport Manager, Paul Coates, said the Gulf 12 Hours event was a fitting way to end another exciting year for the manufacturer, saying, “The third running of the Gulf 12 Hours proved as exciting as anticipated – close battles throughout the field and some excellent driving in tricky conditions made for a great event to mark the end of the 2013 season.
“This year has been busier than ever for the Avon Tyres Motorsport team, with an ever-expanding motorsport portfolio and it’s been thoroughly enjoyable. I’d like to thank all of the teams and drivers we’ve worked with over the year. It’s been a pleasure and we look forward to another strong season in the New Year.”