Dubai: Season finale preview

SEASON FINALE IN DUBAI And so the 2006 season draws to a close ... but before this most exciting and close season finishes, there is one more race to go. Even if the Championships have mostly been decided, the season finale, at the Dubai ...

SEASON FINALE IN DUBAI

And so the 2006 season draws to a close ... but before this most exciting and close season finishes, there is one more race to go. Even if the Championships have mostly been decided, the season finale, at the Dubai Autodrome, promises to host a thrilling race, with plenty of competition for second and third places.

Vitaphone Racing Team, already Team Champions in 2005, went one better in 2006, with Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels also securing the 2006 Drivers' Championship at Adria. However, there is a close battle for second place. Zakspeed's Sascha Bert is in the lead at the moment, one point ahead of his team-mate Jarek Janis. Piccini and Deletraz are two points behind. However, Vitaphone's Davies and Biagi, and Aston Martin Racing BMS driver Fabio Babini could all move up to second place with the right results...

In GT2, AF Corse's Matteo Bobbi and Jaime Melo took an unbeatable lead in Adria. However, Bobbi will be replaced by Vilander in Dubai, leaving a question mark over the eventual Champion or Champions. Their AF Corse team-mates Mika Salo and Rui Aguas are currently lying second, but this place is also under threat from their seasonlong rivals, Scuderia Ecosse. Tim Mullen is still in contention for second place; Kinch and Kirkaldy could move up to third, but second is out of their reach.

Dubai should see a full and varied grid of up to 28 cars. Larbre Competition, whose driver Gabriele Gardel is the outgoing Champion, will return for the first time this season, with a Ferrari 550 Maranello with the new Care Racing Development engine. In GT2, Spyker Squadron will enter two Spyker C8 Spyder cars, with a high-powered line-up including Jeroen Bleekemolen, Jonny Kane, Peter Dumbreck and Peter Kox. Three cars will run in the G3 category : two Aston Martin DBRS9 entered by BMS Scuderia Italia, and a JMB Racing Ferrari 430 GT3 Challenge, as well as the sole G2 Gillet Vertigo.

The event takes place over two days, with support races including the UAE National Superstock Bike Trophy and the GTi Cup Trophy, as well as plenty of on-track entertainment. A thrilling way to end the season...

WHAT THE DRIVERS THINK

"Dubai is the most beautiful of the new Middle East tracks. Very long, with lots of corners to remember" Andrea Piccini, Phoenix Racing Aston Martin

"I like the Dubai track very much : there is a mix of very fast and slow corners and there are also changes of levels. You have a corner with banking, and some very hard braking zones. I hope the team lets me start the race again - I like it very much.." Bert Longin, GLPK Carsport Corvette C6

A WONDERFUL CIRCUIT...

Dubai's beautiful circuit is much appreciated by the drivers. Thomas Biagi takes us round the track:

"There is a very long straight. You arrive with quite high top speed, about 280 km/h, then you brake hard from 6th to 2nd gear, turning right, into a very tricky part of the circuit. Then you start a trick uphill section in fourth gear, followed by a very tricky corner in fourth gear.

This is followed by a quick direction change from right to left and then right, very nice but very technical. While you are turning, you have to brake deeply from 4th to 2nd gear, for a double long right 2nd-gear corner, like two corners. You have to find the good line. Then it's full power, up to fourth gear, and then downshift to 3rd for a very nice parabolical corner. You have to find just the right line, as you are turning and you have to brake. It's an important corner, as it's followed by quite a long straight. At the end of the straight there's a place where you can overtake, as you have topspeed followed by braking. You now enter the slowest part of the circuit, with a right-turn in second gear, then a left turn between 2nd and 3rd gear. Then another small acceleration, up to third and then down to 2nd for a right turn.

Here, you need good traction and acceleration. You are then back in a faster part, and you go up to 5th gear. A left turn, flat out, and then you have to downshift to 2nd for another nice corner, another parabola. Out of the corner, there is a right turn, but if you find the perfect line, you should be able to stay flat out. In 4th, you brake slightly for the last corner, which is very important for the long straight afterwards. It is difficult as you go slightly downhill, and there is a reverse camber, so you have to use all the circuit and try to get out as fast as possible. The circuit is quite difficult, as there is so much sand, the circuit can be very slippery, especially at the start of the event. The grip increases over the event. For the race, if you go outside the perfect line, you can be in trouble as it can be very slippery. But it can be good for you, as if some drivers in front of you make even small mistakes, you can overtake almost anywhere ! You need quite a lot of downforce at this track."

Thomas finished third at Dubai in 2004, when he shared the Care Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello with Enzo Calderari and Lilian Bryner. Last year he finished 5th with Fabio Babini in the Vitaphone Maserati. This year, he will be fightiing for second place in the Championship with his team-mate Jamie Davies in the nr 2 Maserati MC 12

Dubai has hosted the penultimate round of the FIA GT Championship for the last two years; this will be its first time hosting the finale. In 2004, Bobbi took pole in the BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello. He and his team-mate Gabriele Gardel won the race, ahead of Johnny Herbert and Fabrizio De Simone in the AF Corse Maserati MC 12, and the Care Racing Ferrari of Biagi, Calderari and Bryner. The GT2 category was won by Maassen and Luhr in the Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3 RS.

In 2005, the Russian Age Racing Aston Martin DBR9, running in the colours of Aston Martin Middle East, took pole position, wiith Christophe Bouchut at the wheel. But victory went to future Champion Gardel and his team-mate Pedro Lamy, in the Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 Maranello, ahead of the Vitaphone Maserati of Bartels and Scheider and the GLPK Corvette C5 of Kumpen, Longin and Hezemans. GT2 saw victory go to GruppeM's duo of Collard and Sugden, ahead of the Spyker Squadron Spyder of Bleekemolen and Crevels, with the JMB Ferrari 360 Modena of Thurn und Taxis, Buncombe and Casadei third.

-credit: fia

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Andrea Piccini , Mika Salo , Jamie Davies , Pedro Lamy , Peter Dumbreck , Michael Bartels , Matteo Bobbi , Peter Kox , Jaime Melo , Jonny Kane , Christophe Bouchut , Jeroen Bleekemolen , Fabio Babini , Andrea Bertolini , Tim Mullen , Gabriele Gardel , Enzo Calderari , Lilian Bryner , Bert Longin , Sascha Bert , Rui Aguas , Jarek Janis
Teams AF Corse , Larbre Competition , Phoenix Racing , Team Zakspeed