After two cancelled events in March, the Gulf Radical Cup 2020/21 would finally come to an end with an epic 4 round season finale at the Dubai Autodrome.
Going into the last event, series leader Alex Khateeb was a clear favourite to take the title, with Roberts and Kerbouci close for the Vice Champion spot. However with double points for the last two races all places were up for grabs.
This was for sure to be a tough weekend, with 4 x 45 minute races in near summer heat! First day on the high speed National Circuit and the second day on the short Club circuit, which would see the racers complete 40 laps!
Thursday afternoon saw a 45 min test on each of the two configurations to be used this weekend, and it was Tarik Kerbouci posting the fastest time in both sessions. Interestingly he set a 1.02.566 on the Club circuit, setting the pace for the race ahead.
As Q1 and Q2 rolled around on the Friday morning it was Khateeb however showing fantastic pace. These sessions were on the National circuit, Khateeb set a 1.24.073, but with Kerbouci only 0.159 behind on a 1:24.232, and Roberts 0.773 behind that on a 1:25.005.
Q2 started 5 minutes later with all 13 cars rolling out on track apart from British driver Ian Loggie with a differential issue. However the front three were pretty much a carbon copy of Q1 with Khateeb on Pole, Kerbouci 2nd with Roberts 3rd.
Race 1 started 2 hours later in the incredible heat of the late morning.
Khateeb lead the pack around turn 16 up to the red lights - as soon as they were switched off all 13 cars roared into turn 1. It was Kerbouci that got the hole shot with Roberts behind him and Khateeb down to third. Chasing hard, Khateeb slipped past Roberts into turn 9 on the opening lap, also allowing Ian Loggie past too.
Khateeb spent the next few laps chasing hard to get past Kerbouci, and as they rushed into the club link Khateeb dived down the inside, but he didn’t make the pass work and clipped the rear inside corner of Kerbouci. Luckily for Kerbouci it didn't turn him around, but was enough to spin Khateeb, dropping him right down the order. This put Kerbouci in a very strong position, as he had no pit stop penalty from the previous event, where as Khateeb had the full 15 seconds.
As they came out of the pits it was now Loggie in the lead, with a good gap to Kerbouci in second, however this was all about to change. The safety car was deployed for a stranded car, this meant Loggie’s lead was decimated, and all the cars closed up. However the slow pace was a good chance for a breather for the cars and drivers in the midday heat.
Safety car was in and it was a race to the finish!
Loggie in the lead from Kerbouci, then Khateeb back up to third, followed by Roberts and Khazzoum. Kerbouci quickly dived past Loggie to take the lead back and started to pull away when Khateeb ran into the back of Loggie sending him spinning out at turn 7.
Kerbouci held the lead to win with his closest championship contender Roberts for second (following a 10 second penalty handed to Khateeb for his collision with Loggie), and Johnny Khazzoum taking third!
A short gap, and Race 2 was underway. Again a great start from Kerbouci saw him take the lead, as all the cars raced into turn nine Khateeb again clipped the back of Kerbouci, this time turning Kerbouci round sending him off the track and out of the lead. Khateeb took the lead from Roberts, Loggie and Feyzulin. Kerbouci was doing his best to catch back up, but he was also carrying the maximum 15 second pit penalty from his earlier in in Race 1.
Out of the pitstops it was Khateeb in the lead, Roberts second and Ian Loggie in third. Feyzulin was running 4th, but carrying a 10 second track infringement penalty. This allowed Kerbouci to pass him on the time sheets by just under a second to snatch away 4th place.
For race 3 and 4 the following day the circuit configuration changed, and it was 2 races of 40 laps on the relentless Club circuit.
Q3 took place first thing and Khateeb put in a blistering lap of 1:01.147, some 0.9 seconds ahead of second place Ian Loggie, third was Kerbouci.
Q4 was much the same with Khateeb again able to take a clear advantage over the other drivers for pole, setting an all-time lap record for the Club Circuit with a 1.00.989. Loggie took second and Kerbouci third.
Race 1 of the second day started again in the blistering heat, Khateeb got away well and was pushing hard to get as much space between him and Kerbouci given the 15 second pit penalty he was carrying. It was then Roberts and Loggie for 3rd and 4th.
Khateeb and proved incredible pace in qualifying and was able to keep that up in Race three, pulling nearly a second a lap over the rest of the pack in the early part of the race.
With 40 gruelling laps ahead of them the pit stop window brought a small bit of respite, Kerbouci was in first on lap 18, reseting tyre pressures and taking on some water. Then came Loggie, followed by Roberts and lastly Khateeb. With all the pits stops said and done it was Khateeb still in the lead, with Kerbouci in second 6 seconds behind. Feyzulin and climbed up to 3rd, with Roberts in 4th and Loggie down to 5th.
But in lap 26 the heat proved too much for Ian Loggies car, blowing a hole in a coolant hose and retiring, however the car was stuck in a difficult position (Radical SR3 ECU cuts the engine when it detects overheating), and the safety car was out!
4 laps later safety car was in and the race to the finish was on! Khateeb was again able to get back to great pace, a few seconds down the road from Kerbouci, while Roberts had passed Feyzulin for 3rd.
In the end that’s how it stayed with Khateeb taking a convincing win and taking enough points to become the Gulf Radical Cup Champion 2020/21.
Soon enough it was race 4, later in the day now, the drop in temperature was welcomed by drivers, cars and indeed the teams.
The race got underway in a similar fashion to race three with Khateeb taking the lead from Kerbouci, but this time Kerbouci was not letting him go almost matching his pace lap for lap. Khateeb had now earned enough points from the previous race to become Gulf Radical Cup Champion, but the race was still on for second between Roberts and Kerbouci.
Khateeb again had a 15 second penalty over Kerbouci (who was on 10) and Roberts on 5. But as the pit stops came around Khateeb had pulled only 5 seconds over Kerbouci.
Kerbouci was into the pits first, making no mistakes, his pitstop was as quick as can be. But Khateeb was still out there. Two laps later Khateeb was in, also making the perfect pit stop. As Khateeb was about to be released from the pit box, Kerbouci came roaring round turn 16, his team waving him on knowing that as he would go in to turn 1 Khateeb would be right there. And he was, now nose to tail but just ahead to retake the lead.
Meanwhile Roberts was holding third (enough for him to retain Vice Champion in the overall standings), but he had Ian Loggie chasing him down. The two were nose to tail over the last 10 laps of the race. Loggie looking to pass to take that podium place. On the last lap and as the pair came into the club link Loggie looked down the inside, forcing Roberts to go in deep. Coming in too fast, Roberts picked up the power a touch too early and he span around, allowing Loggie past for 3rd. Roberts was left stranded, with a damaged starter motor (from the spin), it was the first DNF of the season for him. But timing could not have been worse, and this DNF allowed Kerbouci to jump to 2nd overall in the standings.
All the drivers reconvened in Parc Ferme, great racing spirit and congratulations all round.
It was a very convincing and well deserved overall victory for Khateeb. He had been consistently quicker all season, and really showed the way round, taking the perfect score (Pole, fastest lap and win) on 6 occasions.
Kerbouci had also impressed in his Rookie year, taking two race wins and multiple podiums to take Vice Champion for 2020/21.
Roberts ended up 3rd overall, showing his usual very consistent pace all season also taking 3 wins.
Russian driver Amir Feyzulin finished 4th (taking one win), closely followed by Marcus Bamberg and Johnny Khazoum.
This season saw 7 drivers start their first ever race. Proving that the Radical SR3 and the Gulf Radical Cup is indeed a perfect place to kick off your racing career, regardless of age or experience.
Next season is a short 6 months away. But with 4 new SR3 XX cars on order for new customers its hoped to be a bigger and better season ahead.