With a gap of only 11 days since Round 3 and 4, driving on the same glorious 5.4 kms Grand Prix circuit in Dubai, everything was still fresh in the minds of the teams and drivers going into Rounds 5 and 6 of the UAE’s premier one-make championship.
It was set to be a busy day with two qualifying sessions and both races on the Friday and first out at 08.40 for Q1. As the colourful and perfectly prepared Radical SR3s started crossing the line at the end of the first 15 minute session it was Ian Roberts holding pole with a 2.05.110 with Sean Simpson on a 2.05.140 for second. But last man over the line was Jeff Curtis putting a 2.04.673 to claim his first ever pole in the GRC!
Just 5 minutes later the siren sounded to indicate the start of Q2 and with tyres still hot the fast times soon came. James Edmeades very quickly made his mark with a 2.03.400, Ian Roberts upped his game putting in a 2.04.078 as did Sean Simpson on a 2.04.581 for third.
Round 5 - Gulf Radical Cup
As the lights went out, Ian Roberts made a perfect getaway, but a poor start from pole sitter Jeff Curtis dropped him to 4th. It was pretty much nose to tail up to the mandatory pits stops with Roberts, followed by Hjerppe, Smith and Simpson. Curtis had dropped to sixth and was applying pressure to Ben Freer which appeared to work when he span out at turn 11. Roberts came in at the first chance and with no pit penalty carrying over from the last race he stood a good chance of keeping the lead with his closest rival Hjerppe having the full 15 second penalty from Round 4 and needing a duct tape fix to secure his visor. So after the pit stops were done it was indeed Roberts out front, but with the charging Edmeades behind.
Roberts was holding his nerve, but with Edmeades edging closer and closer as they went into turn 16 on the last lap he saw his chance and lunged to try and take the lead. However, carrying a little too much speed meant that Edmeades’ car slid sideways and in a bizarre moment their rear wing endplates interlocked, spinning them both off the track. Roberts ended up facing the right way and staring at the nearby waved chequered flag, whilst Edmeades had a nice view of the Park Inn Hotel which overlooks the last turn. Roberts quickly got going again managing to cross the line in first place, with Edmeades finishing second. Luckily for both of them Simpson had an off-track moment a few laps earlier opening up a bigger gap, otherwise it would have been a win for him for sure! Smith had pulled up a few laps earlier with a gearbox issue. Lower down the pack, the driving combo of Clark and Cush had found good pace and for many early laps were pursuing Feyzulin, while new driver Francis showed great pace getting into the 2.05s
All eyes were on Edmeades and Roberts as they pulled into Parc Ferme to see the reaction from the incident. However the reaction was hugs, laughter and congratulation, clearly demonstrating the great respect that exists amongst the GRC drivers who expect fair, close and hard racing!
Round 6 - Gulf Radical Cup
Race Two got underway a few hours later with pole sitter Edmeades looking to set the record straight from that last corner action in Race 1 (considered a racing incident by the officials). And that he certainly did, taking a commanding lead in the early laps with Roberts following in second but with Hjerppe in hot pursuit. However this time the tables were turned and it was Roberts who had a winner’s pitstop penalty so, after the pitstops were completed it was Curtis (who had taken the car over from Edmeades), followed by Hjerppe, then Simpson and Roberts.
Hjerppe caught up with Curtis after which we saw lap after lap of cat and mouse tactics between the two as both held their nerve. Notably, the weekend produced the very best driving yet seen from the D5 sponsored driver of Curtis.
Simpson fell foul a few laps later to the ever growing bumps at the exit of turn 12, and he found himself pirouetting over the exit curb. But it was Roberts who was on a charge trying to make up the extra 15 seconds he had to patiently endure in the pits. He was the fastest man on track lapping about a second a lap faster than the leaders but with a 6 second gap and 6 laps to go, were we heading for a last lap lunge as we has seen in Race 1?
Never was it truer to say, ‘just one more lap’ and Roberts may have had his chance for a double, but it was not to be. The three crossed the line nose to tail, with Hjerppe wining from Curtis and Roberts in third. A great day’s racing! On the 17th January, the Gulf Radical Cup returns again to the full Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Circuit at Yas Marina.GULF RADICAL CUP