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Herbert win sets up thrilling decider
Johnny Herbert scored a long overdue win in the first race of the Speedcar Series finale at Dubai Autodrome on Friday.

The three-time Formula 1 grand prix winner, who was dominating the last race in Bahrain until he was forced out with a gear selection issue, came out on top of the 40-minute event after a fantastic battle with fellow ex-Formula 1 stars Jean Alesi and Gianni Morbidelli, as well as former world karting champion David Terrien.

There was excitement before the race as pole sitter Nicolas Navarro failed to take up his position at the head of the field, and was forced to join the race from the pitlane at the back of the pack.

That meant Morbidelli grabbed the lead, ahead of Alesi. Herbert charged past Terrien into the first corner and then attacked Alesi with a huge lunge into a hairpin bend. While Johnny got past Jean, Terrien passed them both!

It took another four laps for Herbert to repass Terrien, with a great move at Turn 1, by which time Morbidelli - who won both demonstration races here in January - had opened up a sizeable lead.

But Herbert chased him down, and after a couple of looks at the Turn 10 hairpin, Johnny got past Gianni with a smart move at Turn 1 on lap nine. Terrien quickly followed suit, passing Morbidelli at Turn 4 just moments later.

After that, it was a straight duel for victory between Herbert and Terrien, who traded fastest laps in the closing stages. Herbert stayed in front, however, winning by seven-tenths of a second - which led to him singing along to the British National Anthem on the podium!

"After my bad luck in Bahrain, where I could have won the first and definitely would have won the second, it's nice to get a win," said Herbert. "When I got in the lead, I was trying to make no mistakes, but seeing David in my mirrors did not help! We made some changes to the car after qualifying, and they definitely benefited me."

Terrien said: "I tried my best to put as much pressure on him as possible. The problem was, the more pressure I exerted, the faster he went! I was expecting him to make a mistake, but he just kept getting quicker, so he deserves to win. My car was great in the corners, but I just didn't have the top speed that the others had, so I struggled to stay in contact on the straights."

Morbidelli finished third, six seconds in arrears of the lead duo: "My car was very good in the beginning," he said. "But they were faster than me as the race went on. Third place became my only goal when I flatspotted a front tires - the car was almost undividable after that."

Uwe Alzen finished fourth after a fantastic scrap with Marchy Lee, and he grabbed the lead of the championship after Alesi was forced to retire with engine failure when he was well-placed to add to his points tally.

Alzen now leads the championship by two points going into Saturday's final round, while Terrien and Herbert have moved into contention thanks to today's results. Terrien is five points behind Alzen, while Herbert is seven behind.

After his enforced delay, Navarro stormed through the pack to finish sixth, ahead of Al Maktoum and Stefan Johansson. Former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve finished ninth as he continues to get up to speed in the series.

The destiny of who will be the first Speedcar champion will be decided in Dubai, the home of the series, on Saturday afternoon at 15:00 local time. Johansson will start from pole position, as the top eight positions are reversed from today, ahead of local hero Al Maktoum. The title rivals will start in the order Alzen (fifth), Terrien (seventh), Herbert (eighth) and Alesi (14th)

With a huge amount of money riding on the outcome, as well as professional pride between great drivers, expect some major fireworks!

The day's qualifying and results are as follows:

Qualifying Session Preliminary Classification


Driver Lap Time
1 Nicolas Navarro 8 2:06.703
2 Gianni Morbidelli 8 2:07.042
3 Jean Alesi 12 2:07.043
4 David Terrien 11 2:07.398
5 Johnny Herbert 6 2:07.418
6 Marchy Lee 12 2:07.561
7 Uwe Alzen 10 2:07.997
8 Stefan Johansson 10 2:08.278
9 Jacques Villeneuve 11 2:08.701
10 Hasher Al Maktoum 12 2:08.879
11 JJ Lehto 9 2:08.901
12 Ukyo Katayama 10 2:10.074
13 Pedro Lamy 4 2:13.860

Preliminary Classification Race 1


Driver Laps Time / Gap
1 Johnny Herbert 19 40:40.518
2 David Terrien 19 0.731
3 Gianni Morbidelli 19 7.329
4 Uwe Alzen 19 10.827
5 Marchy Lee 19 15.440
6 Nicolas Navarro 19 20.658
7 Hasher Al Maktoum 19 22.311
8 Stefan Johansson 19 23.630
9 Jacques Villeneuve 19 29.082
10 Fabien Giroix 19 32.902
11 JJ Lehto 19 42.632
12 Ukyo Katayama 19 52.673
13 Pedro Lamy 19 62.224
Jean Alesi DNF

Fastest Lap Johnny Herbert 2:06.828 on lap 17

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