After a couple of stunning races at the season opener on the Yas Marina Circuit last month, the UAE’s top national circuit race event, the Gulf Radical Cup moved to Dubai for Rounds 3 and 4. Featuring drivers from Australia, Finland, Russia and Great Britain, including the 2017 European Masters Champion, Jani Hjerppe, these rounds took place on the magnificent 5.4kms Grand Prix Circuit.
Round 3 got off to a cracking start with the Finish Champion taking an immediate lead in the number 17 Radical SR3 followed closely by Russian driver Sergey Shalunov in the number 33 car. But on that opening lap it was British driver Ian Roberts who managed to slip by to take second place which he was to hold for the first 4 laps.
On lap 5 Shalunov managed to regain 2nd place from Roberts, who then came under pressure from another Russian driver, Konstantin Gugkaev in the number 9 car who got by Roberts on lap 9 to move up to 3rd place.
The Gulf Radical Cup features 45-minute races with a mandatory pit stop. To make things interesting, previous success attracts a pit stop time penalty, so Hjerppe had an extra 15 seconds and Shalunov had an extra 10 seconds based on them coming 1st and second respectively in Round 2.
This offered Gugkaev an advantage which he used to the full to take the lead after the pitstops which he never relinquished to take his first victory in the championship. But all eyes were on Hjerppe’s driving partner Seppo Mantyla who emerged from the pitstops just a couple of seconds ahead of Shalunov who set about getting past him over the course of the second half of the race.
But try as he might, with the gap reducing to just 0.3 of a second, Shalunov was unable to get by and decided to stay safely in 3rd place to the finish even though he set the fastest lap of the race in the process. Roberts was only 1.5 seconds adrift at the finish, a very creditable drive from this newcomer and was followed home by the experienced British duo of James Edmeades and Jeff Curtis, and Russian driver Amir Feyzulin. The Australian driver Ben Freer suffered an unfortunate puncture on lap 2 which put pay to his chances of points.
Round 4 kicked off from a rolling start with poleman Gugkaev taking the lead followed by D5’s Edmeades, Shalunov and Mantyla in close pursuit. But by the end of lap 1, Shalunov had got past Edmeades.
As the drivers started to burn off their heavy fuel load and settle into a fast pace it was noticeable that on lap 4 the first four cars were lapping within .13 of a second - remarkably consistent and close racing!
But on lap 6, the hard charging Shalunov spun which cost him time and put him at the back of the pack with a lot of work to do to catch back up. Just a couple of fast laps later he was already past compatriot Feyzulin.
After 15 minutes the pit lane was opened for the mandatory pit stop window of 10 minutes when drivers must stop their car for 45 seconds. The top 3 from the previous race have to also observe an additional pit stop penalty which can have quite a dramatic impact on the race order.
First to pit was Gugkaev, Mantyla and Ian Roberts followed the next lap by Ben Freer and Shalunov. Edmeades brought the #4 car in just moments before the pit lane closed but was reported for speeding in the pit lane. As the race resumed with all the pit stops completed, it was Jeff Curtis in the #4 who was in the lead, followed by Gugkaev some 8.5 seconds behind and Hjerppe in the #17 just 1.2 seconds adrift.
Within 3 laps Hjerppe had got past Gugkaev and would go on to overtake Curtis to take the lead. But at the rear of the pack Shalunov, who had been driving rapidly, just posting a purple first sector to regain his position suffered a technical issue which stopped the car in a difficult spot and which brought out the safety car. The order did not change as the race finished under the safety car giving victory to the team of Hjerppe and Mantyla, with Edmeades and Curtis in second and Gugkaev in third.
Rounds 5 and 6 of the Gulf Radical Cup will be held on the 7th & 8th December at the Dubai Autodrome.GULF RADICAL CUP