AF Corse’s No. 3 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Michele Rugolo, Steve Wyatt and Davide Rigon leads the 2014 Gulf 12 Hours after the opening six-hour segment, following a dice with the new No. 59 McLaren 650S GT3 for most of the race.
Wyatt held the lead over Khaled Al Qubaisi in the No. 1 Abu Dhabi Racing Black Falcon Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 by 13.827 seconds. The McLaren was third, 49.240 seconds back.
Gaps are neutralized in the three-hour, 10-minute break, although each car will restart with their total number of laps completed. The top four finished on the lead lap, completing 157 laps of the Yas Marina Circuit.
The McLaren dominated the majority of the opening six hours, but ran on a slightly altered pit stop strategy. The McLaren made five pit stops in the opening six hours compared to four for the Ferrari and the Mercedes.
Rob Bell started the McLaren from pole before turning over to Kevin Estre, and later Alvaro Parente.
Jeroen Bleekemolen in the Mercedes passed Bell at Turn 1 off the start, and Bell didn’t have the pace in the opening segment compared to Bleekemolen or Rugolo.
However once Estre took over in the second stint, compared to Al Qubaisi and Wyatt, Estre was able to establish a gap and set the pace throughout his stint.
The lead ebbed and flowed between Estre and Rigon for most of the first six hours depending on pit strategy.
In Rigon’s first and thus far only stint, he gained nearly 20 seconds on Bell, closing from more than eight seconds behind to being up more than 10 before Bell pitted and handed back to Estre.
With Estre back in the car, he again closed down the gap to Wyatt before passing the Ferrari driver for the lead on the inside of Turn 1 on Lap 138, in the sixth hour.
Within a lap, Estre had the lead out to nearly three seconds over Wyatt and more than nine seconds in total before pitting for the fifth time on Lap 143, to hand back to Parente. Wyatt reassumed the lead at that point.
The three all-Pro lineups held the top three spots for nearly all of the first six hours, with the second Black Falcon Mercedes (No. 2) and one of the two Kessel Racing Ferraris (No. 11) momentarily interrupting.
The No. 2 entry stands fourth with the No. 11 Ferrari in fifth at the end of the segment, and run first and second among Pro-Am classified entries.
MRS GT-Racing’s No. 33 Porsche 991 GT3 Cup leads the Cup category, currently 10th overall, with the No. 45 Avelon Formula Wolf GB08 the only CN2 car to have run an untroubled first six hours. The two-driver lineup of Ivan Bellarosa and Gugliemo Belotti sits 12th overall.
Several GT3 cars had issues during the first six hours, notably the second Kessel Ferrari. The No. 99 entry features two-time MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo in the driving lineup.
Lorenzo ran an untroubled first stint, lapping within a second of the leaders, but co-driver Liam Talbot stopped on the backstraight with apparent gearbox issues in the fifth hour.
Additionally, the second factory McLaren was repeatedly in-and-out of the garage with bodywork and wheel issues, and the Gulf Racing Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 made several trips to the garage as well.
RESULTS: Gulf 12 Hours Segment 1