Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Twin 12-Hour Endurance Race Weekend Preview

There are two, 12-hour endurance races that feature GT3 stacked grids this weekend and not only does it test the strength and global reach of the GT3 regulations but it gives us a wonderful last hooray to the 2015 motorsports season in the middle of December.

Gulf 12 Hours
The fifth edition of the unique Gulf 12 Hours will be run on Friday from the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Nineteen cars are entered, 12 in the GT3-class, five in the 991 Cup class, one Renault RS01 and one Wolf GB08.

Three-quarters of the GT3 field are Ferrari 458 Italias and last year's winners, AF Corse return with three of them. The #50 Ferrari will be driven by Francisco Guedes, Alexander Moiseev and Ricardo Ragazzi. Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellachi and Andrea Rizzoli will make up the #51 Ferrari. Marco Cioci returns and will be joined by Jack Gerber and Ilya Melnikov in the #55 Ferrari.

Davide Rigon won last year's race driving for AF Corse with Stephan Wyatt and Michele Rugolo. Rigon will be in one of three Ferraris entered by Kessel Racing and his co-drivers will be Giacomo Piccini and Michel Broniszewski in the #11 Ferrari. Loris Capirossi makes his Gulf 12 Hours debut driving for Kessel Racing. Nicola Cadei and Alexis De Bernardi will be the MotoGP champions' co-drivers in the #65 Ferrari. Marco Zanuttini, Michael Lyons and Vadim Gitlin will be in the #99 Kessel Racing entry.

Black Pearl Racing by Rinaldi's #38 Ferrari will be driven by Pierre Kaffer, Steve Parrow and Alexander Volz.

Johnny Mowlem, Charlie Hollings and Ivor Dunbar will drive the #25 FF Corse Ferrari.

The #88 Ferrari has been entered by Dragon Racing and their three drivers are Frédéric Fatien, John Harsthorne and Alex Kapadia.

Black Falcon entered two Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3s with Jeroen Bleekemolen, Maro Engel and Khaled Al Qubaisi sharing the #1 Mercedes and Hubert Haupt, Yelmer Buurman and Abdulaziz Al Faisal in the #2 Mercedes. Haubt, Buurman and Al Faisal won the Dubai 24 Hour back in January with Oliver Webb.

The lone Aston Martin in the race will be #44 Motorbase Performance Oman Racing Team Vantage GT3 of Darren Turner, Jonny Adam and Ahmad Al Harthy.

Two of the 991 Cup class cars features American drivers. The #20 MRS GT-Racing Porsche features Charles Espenlaub and Charles Putman and Dutch driver Xavier Maassen. The #67 GDL Racing entry will see Jim Michaelian partner with Bashar Mardini and Roberto Rayneri. The Wolf GB08 of Avelon Formula will be driven by Angelo Negro, Philipp Protte, Amro Al Hamad and Sam Taheri.

The Gulf 12 Hours has retained its unique two 6-hour race format. The first half of the event will start at 9:30 a.m. local time (12:30 a.m. ET) and run six hours. A two-hour and fifteen-minute intermission will take place with the final six-hour leg beginning at 5:45 p.m. local time. (8:45 a.m. ET).

Sepang 12 Hours
On Saturday, the 16th running of the Sepang 12 Hours will take place at the Sepang International Circuit. Two-dozen cars are entered, 13 of which are in the GT3 class and unlike the Gulf 12 Hours, there are six manufactures represented in the class.

Clearwater Racing has won two consecutive Sepang 12 Hours and driver Mok Weng Sun will try to make it three consecutive Sepang 12 Hours victories and he could set the record for most Sepang 12 Hours victories if he get his fourth. Gianmaria Bruni returns to Sepang looking for his second consecutive victory in the event. James Calado and Matt Griffin have been called in to round out the line-up in the #1 Ferrari 458 Italia.

There are three other Ferraris entered. The #11 Singha Motorsport Team entry will be shared by Davide Rizzo, Piti Bhirom Bhakdi, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Carlo van Dam. Naza Nexus Racing has entered the #27 Ferrari and Adrian Henry D Silva, Joshua Lee Hunt and Dominic Ang Ding Xiong are the drivers. The French Sport Garage will have Georges Cabanne, Jean Paul Buffin, Romain Brandela and Gerald Tan Wee Jun pilot the #42 Ferrari.

Bentley has entered two factory cars. The #8 Continental GT3 will features 2015 Blancpain Sprint Series champions Maximilian Buhk, Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet. Steven Kane, Guy Smith and the other half of the 2015 BSS championship winning pair, Vincent Abril are the drivers for the #9 Bentley.

Audi has entered four R8 LMSs. The #15 Audi Hong Kong Powered by Phoneix Racing Asia entry has Marchy Lee, Shaun Thong and Alex Yoong listed as their drivers. Phoenix Racing has also entered the #16 Audi for Niki Mayr-Meinhof, Nicki Thiim and Markus Winkelhock. The Blancpain GT Series regular Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has two cars entered. The #17 features Stéphane Ortelli, Laurens Vanthoors, who is returning to competition for the first time since suffering injuries in the penultimate round of the BSS at Misano. Stuart Leonard rounds out the #17's driver line-up. The #150 Audi will be driven by Enzo Ide, Christopher Mies and Christopher Haase.

Asian Le Mans Series regulars Team AAI has entered a Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT3. Han Chen Chen, Hirki Yoshimoto, Nobuteru Taniguchi and Tatsuya Tanigawa will pilot the #35 Mercedes.

AMAC Motorsport has entered the #51 Porsche 997 GT3 R for Warren Luff, James Winslow and Andrew MacPherson.

Hiroshi Hamaguchi, Andrew Watson, Andrea Caldarelli and Álvaro Parente will drive the #55 McLaren 650s GT3 for FFF Racing Team by ACM.

Seven entries make up the GTC class. Notable entries are the #23 Giti/Top Speed Lamborghini Super Trofeo Huracán of Yuan Bo, James Munro, Afriq Yazid and Martin Rump, the #26 B-Quick Racing Audi R8 LMS Cup V10 of Henk Kiks, Daniel Bilski and Peter Kox, the #33 CPK Racing Porsche 911 Carrera Cup of William Wang Wooi Meng, YS Lim and John Martin and the #777 Team NZ Motorsports Porsche 997 Cup will be driven by Will Bamber, John Curran, Graeme Dowsett and Alif Mohamed Hamden.

Every single winner of the Sepang 12 Hours has featured an Asian driver. Porsche has the most victories in the event with four. Audi, Bentley and McLaren have all yet to win the Sepang 12 Hours.

The race begins at noon local time on Saturday (11:00 p.m. ET Friday) and ends when the clock strikes midnight on Sunday morning (11:00 a.m. ET Saturday).

1. Over or Under: 3.5 Ferraris in the top five at the end of the first half of the Gulf 12 Hours?
2. Over or Under: 6.5 cars completing 300 laps in the Sepang 12 Hours?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Over: Mark Winterbottom won the V8 Supercars championship by 238 points over Craig Lowndes.
2. Under: Only one of the Ginetta LMP3 cars raced and it completed only 163 of 690 laps.

1. AF Corse gets one car on the Gulf 12 Hours podium but does not win the race.
2. Two Audis finish on the overall podium at Sepang.

Last Week's Predictions
1. A manufacture that isn't Holden or Ford wins at least one race at Homebush (Wrong. Holden swept the weekend).
2. Rain will prevent the winner of the 25 Hours of Thunderhill from completing 700 laps (Correct. The #45 Flying Lizard Motorsport Audi completed 690 laps and it did rain).
Overall: 1/2 Running Tally: 36.5/68