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Dubai Autodrome to host thrilling race weekend

NGK 300 race concept being run for the first time in the region

Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai Autodrome will host the first national race day of 2013 this Friday, featuring the inaugural NGK 300 endurance race and two races counting towards the Motorcity UAE Sportbike championship on the International Circuit configuration.

The NGK 300 concept has been part of endurance races since the 1960s, and the introduction of it in this region is aimed at bolstering grids, while offering drivers an alternative challenge to the customary sprint race format, which has prevailed on the national scene.

Heading the entry list is the Dragon Racing Ferrari 458 Italia, which Leon Price will share with Rob Barff, and they are the team to beat for top honours. But they will be chased hard by a strong Radical SR3 contingent featuring the likes of UAE champion Jordan Grogor and Tarek Elgammal.

The Radical versus Ferrari duel should be a close affair, and could be one of the highlights of the day.

Two former champions are making welcome returns to the grid, with Nader Zuhour driving his SEAT Leon Super Copa, which he campaigned last year to win the UAE Touring Car championship title, and Spencer Vanderpal lining up on the grid in his 2013 Dunlop 24 Hours class winning BMW 120D.

A big battle is expected in the ‘pocket rocket’ Clio Cup class with the Moutran brothers, Nabil and Sami, in their Duel Racing Clios taking on the likes of Guillaume Simonnet in similar cars.

Qualifying for the NGK 300 is scheduled for 10.10am on Friday, with the 70-lap race set to be flagged off at 2pm and expected to last around two hours.

It’s been close on two months since the last round of the Motorcity UAE Sportbikes championship, and all indications are that fans can expect an action packed double-header from the two-wheel brigade on Friday.

The script this year in the 600 Class is turning into a battle between the 2012 champion and last year’s rookie cup winner, in other words Mahmoud Tannir versus Surya Raja.

At the moment Yamaha-mounted Raja has the upper hand, with three victories in four rounds giving him 95 points in the championship standings. Tannir, on his Duseja Moto Triumph, trails by 30 points but with 50 points up for grabs on race day anything can happen, and word from the champion’s camp is that he is targeting double wins this Friday.

The pair will have to contend with the likes of Joe Oxley (Ducati), Omar Naji (Kawasaki), Rob Nicholas (Triumph) and Erikas Savickas (Yamaha) – all capable of spoiling the plot, with Oxley and Savickas particularly strong in the most recent races.

The race-in-a-race Rookie Cup has proven a great success since it was introduced last year, having produced Raja as a winner there is now an impressive group of newcomers, who progressed from the popular Bike Track Days at Dubai Autodrome to the racing scene at national level.

Dominik von Poelnitz (Suzuki) won the two opening races of the season, but last time out had to play second fiddle to Colin Hindes (Kawasaki). The pair are likely to be at the forefront of the rookie action again this weekend.

In the 1000 Class, Abdul Aziz Bin Ladin is the man to beat on his BMW and is likely to be chased hard all the way by the likes of fellow BMW rider Nasser Al Shaiba, Kawasaki duo Alan Boyter and Steve Blackney, sole Honda rider Gregory Fitzgerald and Ducati’s Damien van Blerk.

Qualifying for the Motorcity UAE Sportbikes is scheduled for 9.45am, with race one to start at 11.40am and race two at 1.45pm .

Also on the bill are motorcycle track sessions – Bike Track Day style – where riders will be able to lap the Dubai Autodrome circuit on their own machines during the course of the day.