Rounds 3 & 4 of the UAE Touring Car Championship were held at the Dubai Autodrome on Saturday 18th November. The race was billed as the International TCR series support race and the event saw a significant departure from the normal 2 x 20 minute races to the new 1 x 20 minute (race 1) and 1 x 60 minute (race 2) format. This brought a lot of tactical intrigue for tyre management as most teams / cars would only be using 1 set of tyres for the event.
Qualifying saw Jonathan going out with used tyres from round one to set the lap time, with Umair then scrubbing in two new tyres (to be used for race 2). Two issues were reported, (1) the back end of the car was still way to loose and (2) due to the relatively cool conditions the V-Tec was not working. Without V-Tec the engine is significantly down on power. Two new tyres solved the grip issue and the time honoured use of duct-tape blanking off some of the radiator ducting along with our technical wizard Sander dropping the V-tec temperature set point on the ECU solved the problem. Still, Jonathan qualified the car 2nd place in class within 0.5secs of P1, so all was not that bad.
Race 1 saw Umair having to take the first few laps conservatively to scrub-in and not root (technical racing term for not destroying) the new front tyres. This resulted in Umair being ~14 seconds behind 2nd place with half the race elapsed. As the second half of the race evolved Umair found his pace and more and the start of the last lap saw Umair power past 2nd & 1st placed cars and into the lead, which he held to the chequered flag.
Race 2 saw Jonathan start the race and after pressurizing Alex Annivas for 5 laps he felt it was time to take over and build a lead. For the few next laps Jonathan extended his lead by ~1 second a lap until he had established 7-second lead. Most of the other competitors pitted for the mandated pit stop (minimum stop time 3 minutes) after 30 minutes, however as our tactics were to pit after 40m Jonathan rose to 3rd place overall just behind the Ferraris before his stop.
As a result of being a little over cautious, the teams pit-stop time was 5 seconds longer than it should have been and so Umair came back out into a group of 5 other cars. Umair pushed hard and took the class 2 lead only to be pushed wide by a Class 1 BMW and back into 3rd place. At the chequered flag Umair had recovered to 2nd place a mere 2 seconds behind the class 2 winner.
After 4 rounds ZRT Motorsport have 4-podiums (3xP1 and 1xP2).
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Photo Credits: Rohan Ganapathy, www.carculture.ae & Dubai Autodrome