The fourth edition of the Gulf 12 Hours is set to have a significantly different look and reach from previous years, with the much-anticipated addition of television coverage, an expanded class format and the influx of support series poised to join the growing event.
Dubbed as the “most glamorous” endurance race in the world, the once-around-the-clock marathon, held again at the state-of-the-art Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, is scheduled for Dec. 11-12, which will close out the international motorsports calendar.
According to promoter Andrea Ficarelli of Driving Force Events Ltd., a number of changes are in store for this year’s race, including the likely expansion of its class structure to accommodate new cars and teams.
While GT3 will remain the top class, Ficarelli anticipates the addition of Cup classes for cars from the Ferrari Challenge and Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Series, along with the inclusion of the popular SP7 class from the Nurburgring 24, which allows a large selection of Porsche Cup cars.
The timing of other end-of-year events could also help deliver a significant entry boost.
This year’s Lamborghini World Finals in Sepang is set for three weeks prior to the race, while the Ferrari Finali Mondiali will be held at Yas Marina circuit the weekend before the 12-hour.
“It will be an opportunity for cars and teams to stay,” Ficarelli told Sportscar365. “It will be a very big logistics operation for us. We’re working very closely with Ferrari to coordinate it.
“After the Ferrari World Finals and before the Gulf 12 Hours, there will be a day where we will need to rotate something like 150 containers. More than just a promoter, I now feel like a logistics specialist!”
In addition to GT3, Ferrari Challenge and the likely Lamborghini and SP7 classes, the event will also see the return of the CN category, with Wolf Racing Cars having already committing to six Wolf GB08 prototypes, as well an series initiative to boost the car count in GT4.
Ficarelli wouldn’t provide an entry estimate although he’s very confident of seeing a significant increase over the 21-car starting grid from last year’s race.
“Having experienced it from the past, we cannot get the picture of how many cars we will have until we’re after the Spa 24 Hours,” he said. “Everyone’s looking to this event right now and then after Spa, it’s when our plans for the race become concrete.”
The format of the Gulf 12 Hours will remain unchanged, with the race being split into two six-hour segments and include an intermission period for teams to work on their cars.
The Maserati Trofeo World Series, which held a race during the intermission last year, will again return as a support series, with talks ongoing for two other championships to join the bill.
Additionally, television coverage is planned for the first time. Ficarelli said he’s in negotiations with a number of production companies, with the goal of having live TV for the start and finish of the race, along with the the full race streamed online.
“It will be a big step forward when you put together all of these ingredients,” Ficarelli added. “I cannot predict the future but we’re still very confident.
“There’s also been a big increase in interest in the local markets, not only from drivers in the UAE but also the whole GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council).
“It’s a bit strange as up until now, we’ve appealed faster to foreign people coming outside of the Gulf region. But now that the race is finally successful, everybody wants to get on board. It’s a good sign.”