AF Corse claimed victory in the first part of Friday’s Gulf 12 Hours at Yas Marina Circuit.
After six hours of racing, the No. 1 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Michele Rugolo crossed the line 53.906 seconds ahead of Bernd Schneider’s Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 in second.
The Italian squad took the lead in the fourth hour during the one-and-only safety car period of the race when the Black Falcon entry lost time in the pits.
Both cars capitalized on the caution period to complete their fourth and final set of mandatory two-minute and 40-second pit stops, but the Mercedes crew waited to pit Jeroen Bleekemolen one lap later than the AF Corse entry.
It cost them the better part of one lap, as the field went back to green the following lap. Bleekemolen, however, made up more than 30 seconds in his stint, but it wasn’t enough to catch the AF Corse entry in the end.
Per event rules, both cars will start the first part of the race on equalized times, since they both completed the same number of laps.
However the No. 7 M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 of Guy Smith, Steven Kane and Andy Meyrick, which finished one lap behind in third in Part 1, will take the green in Part 2 one lap adrift from the overall leaders.
The No. 11 Kessel Racing Ferrari and No. 9 Gulf Racing McLaren completed the top-five overall. Both cars will also need some luck in order to walk away with the overall victory tonight.
Nova Race’s No. 91 Ginetta G50 GT4 holds a one-lap lead over the No. 93 Yas Marina Circuit Aston Martin at the halfway point in the GTX category, while the CN class sees only two remaining entries, led by the No. 95 Avelon Formula Wolf GB08 in 15th overall.
The No. 15 Slamstop Motorsport Ferrari, which was the only car to keep the Black Falcon Mercedes within reach early on, crashed late in the second hour and lost nearly 10 laps in the pits for repairs. It currently runs 9th overall.
The second part of the race gets underway at 5:55 p.m. local.
RESULTS: Gulf 12 Hours (Part 1)