Optimum Motorsport sets out intentions for season-ending Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi
Optimum Motorsport senses an opportunity to take an outright podium and a class victory in the sixth edition of the Gulf 12 Hours at Abu Dhabi’s state-of-the-art Yas Marina Circuit (15-17 December).
Middle Eastern endurance races bookend Optimum Motorsport’s maiden season with GT3-spec machinery, as the team started 2016 by fielding its Audi R8 LMS in the 24H Dubai in January and concludes the year with an entry in the Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi.
The year-ending endurance race is held at the super-modern Yas Marina Circuit – the home of the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – which boasts epic facilities, an atmospheric marina-side location on Yas Island and an eclectic 5.5km configuration that passes under the now iconic Yas Viceroy Hotel – a spectacular focal point of the venue.
As in previous years, the Gulf 12 Hours will be split into two six-hour segments and boast a strong multi-class entry consisting of thoroughbred GT3 cars, GT4s and LMP3 prototypes.
Optimum Motorsport fields its Audi R8 for its endurance regulars Joe Osborne, Ryan Ratcliffe and Flick Haigh, who teamed-up and at times fought for victory in selected rounds of the 24H Series, and all three are looking forward to seeing out the season together with a marathon in the desert.
“I’ve been looking forward to getting back behind the wheel in the Gulf 12 Hours for some time. The British GT Championship finishes so early in the year and this is an opportunity to stay fresh for the start of the 2017 season,” said Osborne. “I’ve raced alongside Ryan (Ratcliffe) and Flick (Haigh) several times now and we know what’s achievable as a trio. We came so close to winning in the 24H Series and it would be perfect to round-out the year with a decent finish in the overall classification and a class victory.”
Ratcliffe added: “I’ve been counting down the days to the Gulf 12 Hours, having been out of the car for months! I thoroughly enjoyed my previous outings on the Yas Marina Circuit in 2013 and 2014 and I’ve been keen to return to Abu Dhabi ever since, and to be in a GT3 car with a very real shot at victory is a mouth-watering prospect. Joe (Osborne), Flick (Haigh) and I know each other really well and that makes us strong. I think we have the tools and experience to bring the car home in a strong position and victory in class has to be the chief objective.”
Haigh, who will be one of the first females to race on the Yas Marina Circuit, said: “To be one of the first females ever to race at Yas Marina is a bit of an honour, but to be the first woman to win there would be far more satisfying! Optimum Motorsport knows how to win endurance races and Joe (Osborne), Ryan (Ratcliffe) and I are a proven trio in the Audi R8, so we’re confident that we can take an outright podium and a class win away from Abu Dhabi.”
Optimum Motorsport Team Principal, Shaun Goff, said: “Looking at the number of Pro and Pro Am entries in this year's Gulf 12 Hours, I’d like to think an overall podium and a class win are very achievable. Joe (Osborne) and Ryan (Ratcliffe) both raced a GT4 car to a podium in 2013 edition of the race, while this will be the first outing at Yas Marina for Flick (Haigh). We have always expected to have a strong run in class, but finishing first, second or third on the road is what we’re pushing for, especially as we feel the Audi R8 package is well suited to Yas Marina’s demands.”