AF Corse Retain Gulf 12 Hours Title

The crew of the #1 retained the Gulf 12 Hours for AF Corse (Photo Credit: Gulf 12 Hours)

AF Corse successfully defended their title in the Gulf 12 Hours, the team of Gimmi Bruni, Toni Vilander and Gaetano Ardagna taking advantage of a mid-race delay for rivals Kessel Racing to win by 25 seconds over the pole sitting AFWaltrip Ferrari 458 GT3.

The podium places – and the cars on the lead lap, number 309 – were completed by the Autolando Porsche of Sebastian Bleekemolen, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Emilio Di Guida.

Fourth was the other AF-Waltrip car in the race, fifth – four laps behind the overall leaders – was the Avelon Formula Wolf CN Prototype.

The lightweight Wolf, with SPEED EuroSeries champion Ivan Bellarosa at the wheel was momentarily a challenger for the overall lead in the opening hours, pressuring early leaders Kessel Racing, until the relative slower pace of Bellarosa’s teammates meant they fell away from the battle at the front.

Kessel Racing were dominant in the opening half of the race, before the 90-minute break between the two halves of the race. Smart strategy under an early safety car put the team – drivers Michael Broniszewski, Philipp Peter and Daniel Zampieri ahead of the AF Corse fleet heading into the break.

At the break in competition the Kessel crew held a 37 second lead over the team that would eventually win the race, though Vilander only snatched second place late in first half with an opportunistic move on AF-Watrip driver Alex Popow when the Venezuelan driver was caught out when lapping another GT3 car around the Yas Marina circuit.

The mid-race stop deleted Kessel Racing’s already meagre advantage and only served to increase the damage when, early in the second half of the race, the team were forced into an unscheduled pitstop to repair damaged front bodywork. The stop lost them four laps to the new leaders, a margin that remained until the checkered flag the team finishing sixth, just 1.7 seconds behind the Avelon Wolf.

Another Ferrari team to suffer delays was the second AF Corse entry of Stephane Sarrazin, Nicolas Minassian and Enzo Potolicchio. The trio were the fourth and final car on the lead lap at half way, but lost eight laps to a left-front wheel bearing failure that would limit them to just an eighth place finish.

After taking the class pole position Ebimotors looked destined to win the GTX class, leading by six laps at half way.

However, a serious gearbox issue in the second half of the race knocked them out of contention, Italian team Nova Race (Roberto Rayneri, Luca Magnoni, Luis Scarpaccio and Matteo Cressoni) winning the class in their Ginetta G50.

Barwell Motorsport finished third in the class, eight laps in arrears.

United Autosports – the other UK based team in the race – were severely delayed in the first half of the race, the Anglo-American team having to replace the gearbox on the Audi R8 LMS, only returning to the track for the beginning of the second portion of the race.