Alesi wins close finish in opening Dubai race Jean Alesi held off a charging Christopher Zoechling to win a close finish in the opening Speedcar Series race at Dubai Autodrome on Friday afternoon. Alesi grabbed the lead after a spectacular ...
Alesi wins close finish in opening Dubai race
Jean Alesi held off a charging Christopher Zoechling to win a close finish in the opening Speedcar Series race at Dubai Autodrome on Friday afternoon.
Alesi grabbed the lead after a spectacular rolling start, over which surprise poleman Zoechling, a 21-year-old Dubai-based Austrian, complained that Jean had jumped ahead of him before the white line that marks the start of the race. Alesi disagreed, saying Zoechling was braking too much.
"I was on the power, he braked, so I braked, but I was straight back on the throttle," said Alesi. "It meant I had a bit more speed than him on the run to the first corner."
Alesi still had to brake late to dive around the outside of Zoechling at Turn 1, and they were followed by Vitantonio Liuzzi, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Johnny Herbert and Gianni Morbidelli.
Frentzen passed Liuzzi for third at Turn 12, but had to drive hard to fend him off into the following 'bowl bend'. Liuzzi regained the position a lap later at Turn 10, only to run wide and let Frentzen and an opportunistic Johnny Herbert past. Liuzzi would later suffer a puncture, which put him out of the points.
At the front, Alesi pulled out a 3sec lead before Zoechling put in a mid-race attack. By lap 17, Zoechling was just 0.6secs behind, and pushing Alesi hard for the victory.
Despite the 30-degree air temperature, which was more like 55-degrees in the cars, the pace at the front was relentless. Despite Zoechling's charging drive, Alesi held him off to the finish, with a winning margin of 0.703secs.
"My car developed a little oversteer as the race progressed, but the Michelin tyres were very consistent," said Alesi. "It was very hot in the cockpit though. When I tried to get more cooling, there was nothing more to come."
Zoechling was happy with second, and said: "I ran out of time to catch Jean, unfortunately. I'm pleased with the result, but I've never been in such a hot racing car."
Frentzen finished a distant third, but suffered a gearbox problem in the closing stages. He lost second gear, but managed to coax his car home just ahead of series returnee David Terrien. "I didn't have as good a pace as I thought I would," said Frentzen. "Although I had the gearbox problem, I could not attack as much as I had planned."
Terrien took fourth place at the expense of Johnny Herbert, who he passed with a smart manoeuvre at Turn 12 - just in front of the office building in which Terrien works (he runs the kart track at Dubai Autodrome). Herbert finished fifth, ahead of Hasher Al Maktoum.
Morbidelli could only manage seventh after he was hit into a spin on the opening lap. Damien Pasini finished eighth, and will start Saturday's second race from reverse grid pole position.
Qatar star Marco Melandri didn't shine quite so brightly at Dubai. He ran eighth early on, but spun down to 13th position at Turn 14. He recovered to finish 10th.
Morbidelli still leads the championship by five points, with three races remaining, ahead of Herbert, Frentzen, Liuzzi and Alesi. <pre> Race 1 Classification
Pos Driver Team Laps Time / Gap 1 J. Alesi HPR 24 41:15.994 2 C. Zoechling Continental Circus 24 0.703 3 H. Frentzen Team Lavaggi 24 11.222 4 D. Terrien Durango 24 11.778 5 J. Herbert JMB 24 16.478 6 H. Al Maktoum UP Team 24 17.829 7 G. Morbidelli Palm Racing 24 34.677 8 D. Pasini JMB 24 38.057 9 T. Biagi Palm Beach 24 39.882 10 M. Melandri Team Lavaggi 24 50.412 11 M. Lee HPR 24 53.845 12 V. Liuzzi UP Team 23 1 Lap 13 H. Al Fardan Durango 24 2 Laps 14 E. Charles Continental Circus 19 5 Laps
Fastest Lap C. Zoechling Continental Circus 1:42.438 on lap 8