Strong start for Optimum Motorsport in the Gulf 12 Hours
The opening half of the Gulf 12 Hours at Yas Marina Circuit this morning (17 December, 2016) saw Optimum Motorsport finish second in GT Pro Am class, sixth overall. The team are now aiming to go one better this afternoon when the racing restarts in Abu Dhabi.
Fielding the #75 Audi R8 LMS GT3, Joe Osborne, Ryan Ratcliffe and Flick Haigh and took turns behind the wheel, leading the race outright with 75-minutes remaining.
However, having taken a full pitstop earlier in the race under full course yellow, were forced to cede position and make an additional pit stop, costing the team the ‘first half’ victory.
Osborne took the first stint making a great getaway from tenth on the grid to vault fifth overall and first in class. However, a wheel issue saw him forced into the pits on lap nine. Losing a minute in total and the circuit down in 18th overall, fourth in class.
A string of quick laps followed, routinely lapping on the race-leaders pace, as he quickly worked his way back into the top ten, pitting on lap 32 and handing over to Ratcliffe.
“Gutted is one of the words I would use,” Osborne stated. “I made a great start to gain position and run fifth and I soon felt a problem with the right rear wheel and I had to box…”
Ratcliffe was barely up to speed before a safety car was scrambled following a heavy crash from the #61 Lamborghini of Jim Michaelian. With the barriers damaged, it took over 90 minutes for repairs to be completed and by that time Ratcliffe had already handed over to Haigh, running second in class, ninth overall.
Haigh enjoyed a strong run, chasing down and passing #51 Ferrari to take the race, and class lead, before handing back to Ratcliffe who ran down the clock to the final hour before pitting.
Haigh put in three laps and then was forced to pit again to complete the total number of mandatory stops, dropping to sixth overall and second in class. Haigh completed the final laps in the first half of the race, taking the chequered flag on lap 143 just 48 seconds behind the class leader, but crucially on the same lap ahead of the second race.
“Joe made a mega start and then we had the wheel issue which was a shame,” said Ratcliffe. “We as a team worked really hard to get ourselves back into position, even if those final 15 minutes in the lead were really tough! We now look forward to the second part and see if we can get this win.”
We’re at the half way point with another six hours of the Gulf 12 Hours to follow from 17.45 local time, 13.15 GMT.