Dubai: Qualifying report

For the third year in succession, the FIA GT Championship has traveled to the United Arab Emirates and the magnificent Dubai Autodrome. Vitaphone Racing and AF Corse might have secured the titles, but there is still plenty to fight for in the ...

For the third year in succession, the FIA GT Championship has traveled to the United Arab Emirates and the magnificent Dubai Autodrome. Vitaphone Racing and AF Corse might have secured the titles, but there is still plenty to fight for in the classifications, and Saturday's three-hour race looks like being thrilling, especially as it should finish after sunset. 27 cars are due to take part, in four categories.

One of the closest-ever qualifying sessions in the FIA GT Championship saw the top three cars qualify within one tenth of a second, while the top seven were within nine tenths. Fastest time went, exceptionally, to a car running in the G2 class, Frédéric Makowiecki in the Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 Maranello, setting a time of 1:55.987. He was very closely followed by the two Aston Martin Racing BMS cars, in their best qualifying session this season. In GT2, Tim Mullen made it a full sweep for Scuderia Ecosse by taking his second pole of the season, ahead of Mika Salo in the AF Corse car and Jeroen Bleekemolen in the Spyker. Marcello Zani took the G3 pole in the nr 115 BMS Scuderia Ecosse Aston Martin DBRS9.


Larbre Competition, FIA N-GT Champion in 2000, FIA GT Champion in 2001 and 2002, and winner of the 2005 GT1 Drivers Championship with Gabriele Gardel, claimed another first today when they placed the nr 3 Ferrari 550 Maranello at the front of the starting grid for tomorrow's tenth round of the FIA GT Championship -- the first time a G2 car has taken overall pole. Frédéric Makowiecki set an excellent time of 1:55.987 to claim pole position in the nr 3 Larbre Competition Ferrari 550 Maranello, ahead of the two Aston Martin Racing BMS DBR9 cars.

The car, running the new Care Racing Development engine for the first time in the FIA GT Championship, was given permission to take part in the race by the GT Bureau, according to a number of conditions. However the car was moved to the G2 group further to a request from the team, as due to some minor technical issues the car did not conform to the GT1 Technical Regulations. This also meant that the car did not have to carry the 40 kg allotted to all newcomers in the GT1 category. "I'm very happy to be here with Larbre Competition and Care Racing Development, and would like to thank them for letting me drive the car today," Makowiecki said afterwards. "I'm very pleased to be on pole position. It shows how competitive the car is, and is especially good on a nice circuit like this one." Team manager Jack Leconte, whose Ferrari won the Dubai round last year, was delighted with his car's performance : "This is a super job, which has been under preparation for quite some time, since the summer. I would like to congratulate Prodrive, who have undertaken very specialised technical development. And the team is extremely skilled, as we have proved once again. It is very difficult to join a Championship mid-season, so this is really a very proud moment for the whole team."


Dubai has seen the Aston Martin DBR9 cars dominate the GT1 category, with the Phoenix and Race Alliance cars fastest in free practice, and the two BMS DBR9 cars qualifying within nine thousands of a second of each other in first and second. Babini set the best GT1 time, with a lap of 1:56.067 in the nr 23 car, while 2004 Champion Fabrizio Gollin set a time of 1:56.076. "It was a good result," Babini said. "In the free practices I was testing the different solutions for the setup and the tyres. We did a good job two hours before the qualifying session, as we took the decision to start the qualifying with a different setup. But BMS and Pirelli did excellent work to get this result." Mike Hezemans was a further tenth behind in the nr 4 GLPK Carsport Corvette, ahead of the nr 1 Vitaphone Racing Maserati MC 12, carrying a total of 95 kg penalty weight. Philipp Peter was a disappointed sixth in the nr 33 Race Alliance Aston Martin, the Austrian having twice set the fastest second sector time but systematically catching traffic in the last sector. The Phoenix Racing car, fastest in the free practice, was eighth, the nr 5 Aston Martin having stopped on the track with a broken prop-shaft. The Zakspeed Saleen was ninth, having suffered from differential problem. The nr 75 Ebimotors Porsche did not set a time, due to engine problems, while the nr 101 Vertigo had gear-box problems.


Ten races, ten pole positions : Scuderia Ecosse continued the pattern they set in the 2005 British GT Championship by claiming pole position at every race this season. Andrew Kirkaldy set a new FIA GT record with eight poles, and Tim Mullen carried on the good work by setting pole in the last race of the season. The nr 63 car set a time of 2:01.260 around the 5.394 km circuit, after a good battle throughout the session with Mika Salo in the nr 59 AF Corse Ferrari. Salo was eventually second. "Andrew [Kirkaldy] had a good run going in qualifying but it's nice to be back in first position again," Mullen explained. "The car has been really good from the word go. We've hardly changed the setup at all, which really helps to get on the case quickly. We've been fast, and fastest, in both sessions. Mika Salo was making me work a little bit more towards the end and I had to push hard to get another lap in but I'm just really pleased for myself and the team. "

Third place went to Jeroen Bleekemolen in the nr 79 Spyker Squadron C8 Spyder GT2 R -- the first time since Silverstone that anything other than a Ferrari has qualified in the top three in GT2 ! The nr 55 JMB GruppeM car of Sugden, Alexander and Case was fourth, ahead of Vilander and Melo in the nr 58 AF Corse car, with the second Spyker in sixth.


Marcello Zani, pole setter and race winner in this year's inaugural season of the FIA GT3 European Championship, and winner of the Aston Martin Cup with his team-mate Max Mugelli, continued his fine performance behind the wheel of the BMS Scuderia Italia Aston Martin DBRS9 with pole position in the G3 class for tomorrow's 10th round of the FIA GT Championship. The young Italian set a lap of 2:06.117 in the nr 115 car, placing him 20th overall. "I did my best. I think the Aston Martin with dry tyres was very competitive, so it was quite easy. I pushed really hard because I needed to get a good result. I'm happy to be here, and I hope to be here again next year."


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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Fabrizio Gollin , Mika Salo , Mike Hezemans , Jeroen Bleekemolen , Tim Mullen , Andrew Kirkaldy , Marcello Zani , Frédéric Makowiecki , Philipp Peter
Teams Aston Martin Racing , AF Corse , Larbre Competition , Phoenix Racing , Team Zakspeed