***Twenty-four cars took to Yas Marina Circuit this evening for the opening practice session for Saturday’s Gulf 12 Hours. The 80-minute session saw one red flag for the No. 99 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, which stopped on track.
***This weekend’s race is utilizing a modified version of the FIA’s Balance of Performance regulations for GT3 cars. The debuting McLaren 650S GT3, for instance, is running 15 kg heavier than the FIA BoP and with the ride height used on the outgoing MP4-12C.
***While Bentley is not represented here this weekend after the brand’s debut race one year ago, the British manufacturer is now represented in the Middle East through Lechner Racing. The team claimed victory with its Continental GT3 in the opening round of the NGK Racing Series in Dubai last weekend.
***While the replacement to the Ferrari 458 Challenge is due in 2017, new versions of the 458 GTE and GT3 cars should debut one year earlier. The biggest change is the expected arrival of a turbocharged engine.
***This year’s Gulf 12 Hours event features a bumper support series package, with the Audi R8 LMS Cup, Maserati Trofeo MC and TRD Toyota Cup all in action. It totals 90 cars at Yas Marina Circuit, marking the largest ever event the circuit has hosted.
***Dragon Racing had initially planned to race two cars but eventually scaled down to to just a single Ferrari 458 Italia as no drivers with the required budget were found. The second Ferrari is at the circuit, but won’t be used. 2006 Le Mans Series LMP2 champion Michael Vergers is with the team this weekend as Mohammed Jawa’s driver coach.
***Khaled Al Qubaisi will be pulling double duty this weekend as the Emirati is not only looking to defend his Gulf 12 Hours crown in the Abu Dhabi Black Falcon Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, but is also taking part in the season-ending Audi R8 LMS Cup with a Audi Middle East-backed entry.
***In addition to Al Qubaisi, three other drivers will also race in the support series. Karim Al Azhari is competing in the TRD 86 Cup while Adrien De Leener and Cedric Sbirrazzuoli are both racing in the Maserati Trofeo MC.
***McLaren GT Managing Director Andrew Kirkaldy confirmed to Sportscar365 that K-PAX Racing has purchased two brand-new McLaren 650S GT3s for Pirelli World Challenge, to go along with its current pair of MP4-12C GT3s that it could also run as part of an expanded effort in 2015. More news on K-PAX’s plans is expected to be revealed in the next two weeks.
Marcel ten Caat contributed to this report