Optimum Motorsport will bring together Joe Osborne, Flick Haigh and Ryan Ratcliffe for the season-ending Gulf 12 Hours at the state-of-the-art Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi (16-17 December).
The British trio will share an Audi R8 LMS in the Middle Eastern endurance race, which will act as the concluding part of Optimum Motorsport’s impressive and successful maiden season with GT3-spec machinery.
Optimum, based in Wakefield, England, fielded the first new-generation customer Audi R8 LMS in rounds of the British GT Championship and 24H Series, alongside existing Ginetta GT4 and GT5 programmes and a one-off outing in the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup.
It was in the GT3 Le Mans Cup at Circuit Paul Ricard that Osborne, Haigh and Ratcliffe last collaborated, but the teammates have also been particularly potent while racing for Optimum Motorsport in the 24H Series.
They most notably finished fifth overall and fourth in class in the team’s first assault on the headlining A6 class in the 2016 edition of the 24H Dubai in January and were on course for victory until the dying embers of the 12H Mugello, when a mechanical fault was compounded by a catastrophic race-ending crash.
However, the Gulf 12 Hours represents one final opportunity for Optimum Motorsport to convert its potential into a maiden GT3 victory and, having finished on the GT4 podium in the 2013 race, it is justifiably optimistic.
The Yas Marina Circuit – designed by German architect, Hermann Tilke – is a jewel in the crown of Abu Dhabi’s massive development programme
Its 5.5km configuration features nine right turns and 12 left turns and is one of only a few circuits to run in an anti-clockwise direction, although the iconic Arabian racetrack is most famous for its distinctive waterfront setting that is straddled by the five star Yas Viceroy Hotel and a glamorous marina.
Optimum Motorsport Team Principal, Shaun Goff, said: “The Gulf 12 Hours has been an event we’ve all been looking forward to returning to. Having run to a second place in the GT4 class in 2013 with Joe (Osborne) and Ryan (Ratcliffe), we’re certainly hopeful of more silverware. A Pro Am class win is our objective, especially as Flick (Haigh) has really grown in confidence. Ryan really enjoys driving the Audi and, given he has competed at Yas Marina on two occasions, he will be fast from the off. Our eyes will also be drawn to the overall win, but factory teams are known for fielding all-Pro line-ups. We love a challenge, though!”