2 Seas Motorsport controlled the opening half of the Gulf 12 Hours with its pair of Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos which ended up one lap ahead of third place at the interval.
Martin Kodric led at the six-hour mark in the No. 1 Mercedes-AMG despite a pit stop three minutes from the intermediate checkered flag due to a front-left puncture.
The Croatian had built an advantage of more than half a minute over Ian Loggie in the No. 66 Pro-Am sister car, but the margin came down to 4.2 seconds at the break.
The pole-sitting No. 1 car led most of the way at Yas Marina Circuit courtesy of Ben Barnicoat’s two stints on either side of an Isa Al Khalifa single, but the two entries from the Bahrain-flagged squad switched positions at the last round of scheduled pit stops when Kodric stepped in for Barnicoat.
A noteworthy stint from Casper Stevenson saw the GT3 rookie and Euroformula Open race winner impressively close down Barnicoat in the fifth hour, with the gap reducing by around 13 seconds to almost nothing over the course of a 60-minute stint.
Barnicoat pitted on on the five-hour mark while Stevenson continued for three more laps, after which Loggie emerged ahead of Kodric at the head of the 15-car field.
Kodric then put the pressure on Loggie and overtook the Bronze-rated driver around the outside heading into the long Turn 9 left-hander to recapture the lead.
The No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 of Eddie Cheever III, Giorgio Sernagiotto and Tani Hanna ranked third after six hours of racing, one lap of the 2 Seas pair.
Cheever was initially running fifth in the final hour, but the Italian gained two spots courtesy of overtaking Alessio Salucci’s VR46 Ferrari and profiting from Mikkel Mac’s unscheduled stop after the fourth-placed Baron Motorsport Ferrari clashed with a GT4 car.
Dominik Baumann also got past Salucci’s Kessel-run VR46 machine in the closing stages to take fourth in the No. 88 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes-AMG.
Mac’s lengthy pit visit cost Baron Motorsport two laps and left the Ferrari squad in eighth overall, behind the Gentlemen class lead duel between AKKA-ASP and AF Corse.
In GT4, Greystone GT’s McLaren 570S GT4 of Oliver Webb, Iain Campbell and Jamie Clarke by a lap over the Century Motorsport Aston Martin and BMW entries.
Beyond the No. 1 Mercedes-AMG from 2 Seas, problems befell the two other Pro-category contenders run by SPS Automotive Performance and Attempto Racing.
The No. 75 SPS Mercedes-AMG experienced delays due to a right-rear damper failure according to Maro Engel, who is sharing the recovering ninth-placed car with Mikael Grenier and Kenny Habul.
Attempto Racing’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II charged from the back of the grid to as high as fifth in the third hour with factory driver Dries Vanthoor at the controls.
However, the German squad suffered a setback when Vanthoor’s co-driver Alex Aka returned the new-spec Audi to its garage with gearbox issues.
Another notable moment was a 25-minute safety car period in the first hour to clean up debris from the No. 11 Kessel Racing Ferrari which crashed into the barriers under braking.
The Gulf 12 Hours will resume at 5:33 p.m. GST (8:33 a.m. ET) with the grid set by the positions at the end of part one and the lap counts carried over into the second half.
GULF 12H: Positions after Six Hours