|The winning #23 United Autosport team|
United Autosports have scored a triple podium at the Gulf 12 Hours, including a class win for Richard Meins, Shaun Lynn and Jim McGuire in the #23 Ligier JS P3.
Johnny Mowlem, Bon Grimes and Tony Wells teamed up in the #22 Red River Sport Ligier JS P3, finishing second in the ProAm class. The #24 Ligier of Guy Cosmo, Patrick Byrne, Mike Benham and Salih Yoluc finished third, making it another double podium for United Autosports.
The first half of the 12-hour endurance race started just after 9am on Saturday 16th December, where Johnny and Guy lined up sixth and seventh respectively. Shaun started the race for the #23 team from 15th after a combined qualifying on Friday. All three cars got a clean getaway, and drove almost flawless stints – only pitting when necessary for tires and fuel. The racing during the first half was cut short as the safety car was deployed with almost 90 minutes still to run. The safety car stayed out as the circuit officials repaired damaged barriers until the end of the six-hour session.
Race two began just as the sun set, with Johnny once again starting the #22 Ligier, this time from fifth place on the grid. Richard Meins started the #23 from 13th and Patrick took the start for the #24 in seventh – the finishing positions from race one. Once again, all three cars made a clean start, with Johnny taking the LMP3 lead on lap one. He had a great battle with the Ultimate Ligier JS P3 for the majority of his opening stint. As night fell, there were reports around the circuit that rain was on its way. Luckily it was only a light shower and although prepared, there was no need to change to wet tires.
During the latter part of the race, Jim McGuire, Richard Meins and Shaun Lynn all set their personal best lap times, getting faster and faster with each lap. They ultimately finished 15th overall, a fantastic result, giving them first in class. Tony Wells, Johnny Mowlem and Bon Grimes were in with a chance of winning the LMP3 class, Johnny hunting down the leading Ligier in the later stages of the race. Guy Cosmo, Patrick Byrne, Mike Benham and Salih Yoluc also drive a great second half, holding the overall lead at one point. At the end of the 12 hours, all three driver crews finished on the podium, with car #22 finishing second and car #24 finishing third.
The next event for United Autosports is the official test for the Rolex 24 At Daytona – the ROAR before the 24 – on 5-7 January, where the team will enter two Ligier JS P217s for Fernando Alonso, Lando Norris, Phil Hanson, Will Owen, Paul Di Resta, Hugo de Sadeleer and Bruno Senna.
Kessel Racing reigned victorious by taking their third win at the Gulf 12 Hours, after 302 laps around the 5.555 kilometer long famous Yas Marina Circuit. The #11 Ferrari 488 GT3 of Michael Broniszewski, Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina dominated the Gulf endurance event after starting on pole for the 12-hour battle in Abu Dhabi last weekend.
With 26 cars taking the start and 86 drivers competing in this year’s race, the seventh edition of the Gulf 12 Hours was set to be the largest yet. Qualifying made it clear that the 12-hours would be packed with action between the GT and LMP3 classes and the race certainly delivered.
The most glamourous endurance race in the UAE has seen the Kessel crew be the first across the line in 2015, 2016 and now 2017, with their overall and GT Pro class win. For Pro driver Rigon, it was his fourth victory at the Gulf 12 Hours, the first being with AF Corse in 2014.
Rinaldi Racing made it a Ferrari 1-2, as Rinat Salikhov, Marco Seefried and Norbert Siedler finished less than a minute behind Kessel in their #33 488 GT3 stallion. Giving Rinaldi their first Gulf 12 Hours podium with second overall and second in the GT Pro class.
After a solid showing throughout the endurance event, Matthieu Lahaye, Jean-Baptiste Lahaye and FranÃ§ois Heriau brought the #17 Ultimate Ligier JS P3 LMP3 home in third overall and first in the LMP3 ProAm class.
Not being content with the win alone, the ‘Ferrari show’ was well and truly rounded off by the #77 sister Kessel car of Claudio Schiavoni, Andrea Piccini and Sergio Pianezzola, who won the GT ProAm class. Kessel team mates Piti Bhirombhakdi, Morris Chen, Nicholas Foster and Giorgio Roda completed the GT ProAm podium in their #39 TP12 HubAuto entry.
After a series of hard-fought battles throughout the 12 hours, #88 Dragon Racing added to this group of successes for the Italian marque, as they came away with a triumph in the GT Gentleman class with John Hartshorne, Ollie Hancock, David Perel and Greg Caton at the wheel.
Attempto Racing rounded off the GT ProAm podium in their #99 Lamborghini Huracan GT3, peddled by Ali Capan, Clemens Schmid and Issac Tutumlu.
A bitter sweet end for Oman Racing Team and its drivers Ahmed Alharthy, Tom Jackson and Euan McKay, as despite leading the race, and by some margin, in both parts of the 12-hour battle, a spike in gearbox temperature forced the crew from TF Sport to box the car for repairs. Despite only being 90 laps away from the checkered flag dropping, the #97 car was sent back out in time to fight it’s way up to second in the GT ProAm category.
Only one lap down on the Ultimate crew, United Autosports enjoyed success with both #22 raced by Johnny Mowlem, Bonamy Grimes and Tony Wells who finished second in LMP3 ProAm, and #24 of Guy Cosmo, Patrick Byrne, Michael Benham and prototype debut maker, Salih Yoluc, one position behind the sister Ligier.
United Autosports accomplishments didn’t end there, as their third entry, the #23 Ligier JS P3 of Jim McGuire, Shaun Lynn and Richard Meins, claimed the LMP3 Am winners title.
GTX was dominated all week by the #46 Target Racing Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo. Sarun Sereethoranakul, Karim Al Azhari and Jan Lammers took to the top step of GTX1. The GTX2 victory went to the #14 MRS GT-Racing Porsche of Norberto Fontana, Esteban Gini and Lucas Colombo Russell.
The GTX overall classification, introduced by Gulf 12 Hours, was awarded to the #44 Generation AMR SuperRacing team of James Holder, Matthew George and Steve Tandy, who also took to the top step in GTX3.
Johnny Mowlem, driver car #22, United Autosports:
“United Autosports did a fantastic job with the car. We managed to improve the car as the weekend went on and by the end of the race it was really, really good. Although I’m quite tired now, I’m really pleased because Bon and Tony did a phenomenal job so to get second in class is great. The win looked like it might have been on for a while, which is why I did the double stint at the end, but it wasn’t quite to be. But second in class is great and I’m looking forward to the next one. Thank you to all of United Autosports for a great job all weekend."
Bon Grimes, driver car #22, United Autosports:
“The thing that I’ve been most amazed with this weekend is how great the team is – how well they work together and they are so well rehearsed and professional. It’s just a step up from what I’m used to. If I was to be honest, the only faults during the week were with my driving, which I know and I’m going to improve on, but the team didn’t miss a beat. It just goes to show that if you get it right, you get the results. The circuit is great too. It’s quite tricky though as sometimes you’d go out and be on the pace and then other times you wouldn’t be. But all in all, I’ve had a great weekend."
Tony Wells, driver car #22, United Autosports:
“I’ve had a nice weekend. Happy to be back with the team and I’m a bit tired to be honest! I found some pace and I was pleased with my lap times. I need to find more pace but we are heading in the right direction. The Ultimate guys did a great job so congratulations to them. The event has been fun, Bon and Johnny were a laugh and I got another trophy rounding off the year nicely."
Richard Meins, driver car #23, United Autosports:
“I’ve had a great week. I love Abu Dhabi. It’s a relaxed atmosphere and you get a lot of track time. I think we were all on the pace and we have had a fantastic time and we did the best we could. Hopefully we will be back next year. We are all a lot quicker this year than last year. The competition is tough and we aren’t going to beat the Pro guys, but I’m pretty happy with where we finished – I loved it!"
Shaun Lynn, driver car #23, United Autosports:
“Abu Dhabi was absolutely amazing. It was my second time here after racing with United in 2016. I loved the race even more than the first time. I was faster, the car was amazing, as were the team as always. They really helped me progress and get faster and faster so I’m super happy."
Jim McGuire, driver car #23, United Autosports:
“I’ve had a fantastic weekend driving with Richard and Shaun. Three gentlemen – the dream team – that came out here to try and attack the track and we’ve absolutely had a blast. As a combined effort we had good pace and did a good job. The car was great, the team was great and I couldn’t ask for more."
Guy Cosmo, driver car #24, United Autosports:
“I’m feeling great after this week in Abu Dhabi. The Gulf 12 Hours is an incredible event on many levels. It’s a very exciting race track and facility and to be back racing with my favourite team is fab. We came into the week with high expectations as we wanted to come away with a podium. We were hoping for the top step but early on it wasn’t really going to be on the cards for us but everyone put in a great effort and the drivers really rose to the occasion so I’m going home happy."
Patrick Byrne, driver car #24, United Autosports:
“Everything was great in Abu Dhabi. United were phenomenal once again and the team worked hard getting the best set up for the car and giving us all the attention in the world. We had two new drivers with Guy and myself this weekend so it was great to meet them. The circuit is nice and the facilities are great. We have had a blast."
Mike Benham, driver car #24, United Autosports:
“It was great to do my first proper event with United Autosports. They are a super bunch of people to spend time with so that helps on these kind of events. It was also my first proper endurance race so it was nice to be able to experience all aspects of it. I’m looking forward to getting back in the car hopefully in the new year."
Salih Yoluc, driver car #24, United Autosports:
“The race was a lot of fun. It was not quite the result we were expecting but it was still a good comeback. I loved working with United Autosports – they are a great bunch of guys and girls. Good attention to detail makes everything easier for the drivers."
Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports:
“All the drivers did really well this weekend – I’m really pleased with them all. We love this event. It gives us lots of track time and I think we pushed the Ultimate car the best we could for the win in LMP3, so congratulations to them. We’ve got to be pleased with all three cars on the podium. Jim, Richard and Shaun did a great job to beat all their personal best times and get themselves a trophy."
Davide Rigon – Kessel Racing #11: “It was fantastic to win again. Thank you to Ferrari for their durability and Kessel Racing for letting us have an unproblematic race. We found good balance in the car when the sun went down and the temperature dropped, so we were really competitive. To lead the grid of 26 cars from this morning’s race was great. I had a nice battle with the Rinaldi Ferrari in part two and performing the overtake for the lead made me very happy. I really want to come back to make it win number five!"
Miguel Molina – Kessel Racing #11: “It was my first time here in Abu Dhabi. I had a bit of pressure with Davide as my teammate! It was a great week for us and we work really well together and also with Michael who did a fantastic job. It was our day. It is great to get another win for Ferrari and its very special to win the overall Gulf 12 Hour race."
Rinat Salikhov – Rinaldi Racing #33: “This was our first time here and we are really happy and proud. It was a tough race for us because we were fighting with the LMP mainly and Kessel’s #11. Congratulations to them, because they were really strong."
Marco Seefried – Rinaldi Racing #33: “We tried really hard and we had an issue at the very beginning – it was in my stint. We ran over some debris and I had a puncture, which cost us 15 seconds. Kessel have been better today, but we clearly fought them hard. Anyway, it was a good weekend. It was the first time for us here in Abu Dhabi and the Kessel team knows the track, they know the game here. But if we return, we know a little bit more now and fight back stronger."
Norbert Siedler – Rinaldi Racing #33: “We can be quite happy with the result we had at the end. We fought hard against Kessel, but in the end it was not enough and as Marco said I hope we fight back next year. I have to thank my team and I hope to be back in 2017."
Francois Herieau – Ultimate #17: “The challenge today was to be as competitive as the GT car in front with their Pro drivers. It was very difficult to follow them and to try to catch them in every stint, but we gave everything we had in the battle. But for our first race here we are very happy to be on the overall podium. Now that we won the LMP3 class we will come back."
Matthieu Lahaye – Ultimate #17: “We had great fun. It was a pleasure racing here and the track is very cool. We finished overall 3rd and 1st in our class, that is amazing."