Dubai: After the successful running of the non-championship NGK 300 a couple of weeks ago, it is back to business for competitors in the NGK Racing Series with rounds nine and 10 of the 16-round UAE national championship taking place at Dubai Autodrome on Friday.
Class 1 pacesetter Costas Papantonis is expected to be back in action at the wheel of his Gulf Petrochem SEAT, after missing the previous round of the series at Yas Marina. The Fujairah-based multiple UAE champion will be the man to beat on the day.
The big action will be in Papantonis’ mirrors, where a bumper entry of Renaults will be slugging it out for victory in the Clio Cup while chasing the nimble and victory-proven Hondas for top honours in Class 2.
Heading to this weekend’s races on Dubai Autodrome’s National Circuit configuration Ramzi Moutran, in the Duel Racing Renault Clio, tops both the Class 2 and Clio Cup championship tables, However, in both instances he leads by a mere four points.
Reigning Class 2 champion Rupesh Channake, who won the first six races of the season on the trot, was forced to sit out the two rounds at Yas Marina with technical issues on his Lap57 Honda.
He will be looking to annex the top step of the podium once again as the non-finishes have cost his title ambitions dearly, but will be inspired by the fact that he is third in the standings and only six points down on Moutran.
Jonathan Mullan in his Honda lies second in the Class 2 championship race and, heading to Dubai Autodrome, will be buoyed by his double win last time out, which were also his maiden victories in UAE Touring Cars.
Making a welcome return to the UAE national scene is former UAE Touring Car champion Spencer Vanderpal, who will be making his debut in a former BTCC Honda and could be the cat among the pigeons on race day.
This weekend will witness the biggest Clio Cup grid of the season, and the class is expected to deliver some of the closest racing on the day. Trailing Moutran by four points is reigning Clio Cup champion Alex Annivas in the Gulf Petrochem-backed car. And, given that the pair have four wins each to their credit, this ensures that fans are set to witness a riveting battle between the two on Friday.
However, the Clio Cup leaders will be chased hard by the likes of Sami Moutran, Leon Johnson and Willie Morrison, with impressive newcomers Guillaume Simonnet and Thomas Sorensen likely to be in the mix.
Qualifying for the NGK Racing Series starts at 9am on Friday followed by Race 1 at 11.05am and Race 2 at 2.30pm. Also on the bill are two rounds of the Motorcity UAE Sportbikes and two rounds of the Radical Winter Cup.