Optimum Motorsport secure Gulf 12 Hours class podium
Optimum Motorsport looked set to secure GT Pro Am class victory in the Gulf 12 Hours this evening (17 December, 2016) under the lights of the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, only for a suspension issue to dash its hopes with just two hours remaining, forcing the team to settle with the runner-up position.
Joe Osborne, Ryan Ratcliffe and Flick Haigh shared driving duties in the #75 Audi R8 LMS GT3 and finished a fine second in the first segment of the 12-hour race. An aggressive restart from Osborne saw him take the class lead, a position he and his teammates retained until nearly ten hours were complete only for the team to pit and replace the spring platform.
The team returned to the race action, taking the chequered flag second in class and sixth overall.
“While it’s a podium, it’s obviously a disappointing result for us - we could have won,” said Optimum Motorsport Team Principal Shaun Goff. “We had a tough start with the early stop for the wheel issue and then having to double stop late in the first race to meet the stop requirements.
“Then in this race we were in third overall and leading the class only for us to have this suspension issue. It lost us the win and potential overall podium. Still, on the positive, we were fast and all three drivers had great races.
“Joe is Joe, it was Flick’s first time here and she put in very impressive times, while Ryan was able to further build our lead at a crucial time. The team worked so hard and it’s just a shame we didn’t get the result we feel we deserved.”
The Gulf 12 Hours is split into two races of six hours each. Following the first stint, the team were relatively content with second position in class. Never one to miss an opportunity, Osborne quickly dispatched Andrea Rizzoli in the #51 Ferrari at the restart to take fifth position and lead the class with just under six hours remaining.
Very much game-on, Osborne pulled out a cushion of 20 seconds, and then maintained that gap to the end of his first stint.
“The car felt great but were slower than both the Porsche and Ferrari in straight line speed,” said Osborne at the time. “We are just head down flat out to the finish now…”
Ratcliffe took over for the second stint and the young Welsh racer was able to maintain, and then further extend the gap over the next 75-minutes of racing; pitting with the gap up to more than a minute.
Osborne’s second stint saw him running at the head of the class and third on the road overall and despite pressure from the #16 Renault driven by Stuart Hall, maintained position until pitting with two hours and 15 minutes remaining.
Haigh completed a lap at reduced pace but even by them Osborne was reporting the suspension issue. “We had a couple of wheel nuts come lose this weekend,” he said. “We boxed and couldn’t see anything on my last stop, so perhaps it’s the shock.”
Rapid repairs to the right-rear suspension followed, with Haigh re-joining the race second in class and eighth overall after the eight-minute stop. However, hopes of victory were effectively over and Osborne completed the final laps of the race, taking the chequered flag on lap 296 sixth overall and second in GT Pro Am.