Going into the penultimate round of the Gulf Radical Cup, series leader Jani Hjerppe was not in attendance, this gave a great chance for those hot on his heals to edge closer. However, bad luck and weather had its own ideas!
Sergey Shalunov showed his pace in free practice on the Thursday, but as the field rolled out to Q1 his car had developed a gremlin overnight, with the team spending next 30 mins frantically trying to resolve the issue Sergey was unable to post a time. However the flying Ian Roberts snuck in an impressive 1.27.119 in the tough damp and dusty conditions to take pole.
For Q2, the rain came down, and with a few delays and stoppages the session finished with Ben Freer posting a pole time of 1.43.213. For all it was just a question of survival being out on a wet track on slicks. But all cars returned home safely!
In the meantime it was looking like Shalunov car was fixed and he would start Race 1 from the back of the grid.
So, Ian Roberts started the race on pole but it was Hugh Smith got a great start to lead away. Unbelievably Shalunov’s issues had not gone away with him pulling in on lap one.
Ben Freer ran off track on the first lap with Jeff Curtis and Sean Simpson taking advantage and slipping past. After numerous attempts to get passed, Simpson spun off shorty after making a great overtaking move on the quick Curtis, losing Simpson some 20 seconds.
With a stall in the pit stop for Sam North, they lost some 30 seconds struggling to restart, handing the lead to Roberts. This left James Edmeades chasing down Roberts right to the finish line. But Roberts was comfortable and was able to maintain a gap to take the chequered flag!
Ben Freer also had a comfortable and controlled race after his time off track in the first few corners of the opening lap, Simpson fought back after the pitstop and managed to overtake Sam North and finish 4th.
The following day the weather was completely different a cool, clear, but windy 20 degrees. Shalunov now with his issue resolved, would again start at the back of the grid. Freer who has set a pole time in tough conditions the previous day was called away to work, so the whole grid bumped up one place leaving Sean Simpson on the pole. The race got underway and Shalunov had a point to prove, going to the outside he took a risk on the dusty part of the track to overtake making his way to the lead. Amazingly he was in the lead by the end of lap 1 but being chased by Sean Simpson. Matching each other for a few laps in the mid 1m27s’s, Sergey reacted with a couple of 1m25’s to put some fresh air between them. Meanwhile James Edmeades, Ian Roberts latched onto the back of Simpson and the three were covered by less than a second up until the mid race pitstops.
Ian pitted as soon as the window opened to allow him to re enter the track in free air, while Edmeads hung on to the last moment before coming in to hand the car over the his team mate Jeff Curtis. Meanwhile Shalunov had pitted, and re entered the track with a clear lead out front. As the timesheets started to settle after all the pit stops it was Shalunov from Smith followed by Simpson in third, but with charging Roberts (who had a 15 sec pit penally from his race 1 win) was close behind. However on lap 18, Roberts lost control of the car while chasing down Smith. The race finished with Shalunov taking a perfect start to finish win, followed by Sam North/Hugh Smith and Sean Simpson in third.
However it was not quite over!
During the race, race control had indicated that two cars were under investigation for pit lane speeding infringements and race winner Shalunov was under investigation for running off track at the start of the race. The podium went ahead, but with a slightly tighter grip on the trophies than normal given the impeding decisions from the stewards.
In the end both pit lane infringements were overturned, due to inaccurate radar readings, so no further action taken.
However, Shalunov was given a 10 penalty for gaining an advantage at the start of the race. But with the large lead that he had built up in the race he managed to hold onto his well deserved win!
Finally the Smith/North car was also reported to the stewards for being 5kg under the minimum weight at the end of the race, but luckily for them they had also performed brilliantly in the race and just held onto their second place after also being handed a 10 second penalty.
The final round takes place at the Dubai Autodrome on the 22nd of March where the crown will be decided!