Kessel Racing broke through to claim a hard-fought victory in the fifth running of the Gulf 12 Hours, which ended early under a red flag at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit.
Davide Rigon took the No. 11 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 to the checkered flag, 24.253 seconds ahead of Yelmer Buurman’s No. 2 Black Falcon Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 in second, following a heavy accident between two Ferraris with less than 10 minutes remaining.
It came after a frantic second half of the race, which saw the Ferrari factory driver charge to the lead with 2 hours and 40 minutes to go, passing the No. 2 Mercedes of Abdulaziz Al Faisal and never looking back.
Rigon bridged out a 30-second gap over the Mercedes in the final stint, after a close battle with the Mercedes and the pole-sitting No. 44 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3, which finished third.
The Italian shared driving duties with Michael Broniszewski and Giacomo Piccini and marked Kessel’s first Gulf 12H victory, after being one of only two teams to have taken part in all previous editions of the around-the-clock enduro.
Buurman, Al Faisal and Hubert Haupt were second, ahead of the Darren Turner, Jonny Adam and Ahmad Al Harthy-driven Aston, which came to life in the second half but unable to challenge in the closing laps.
The No. 1 Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon Mercedes, a pre-race favorite, settled for seventh overall after electrical issues forced the 2013 race winners to the garage with less than four hours to go.
While having lost ten laps, the car was caught up in controversy following the second safety car period, when Piccini said he was passed and then held up by Maro Engel that ultimately cost the eventual race-winning Kessel Ferrari some time.
The race, split into two six-hour segments, was brought to a dramatic end with eight minutes to go when the No. 99 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Michael Lyons and the Alexander Volz-driven No. 38 Black Pearl by Rinaldi Racing Ferrari spun on oil in Turn 3.
The red flag was immediately waved, followed by the checkered flag moments later once cars stopped at the start/finish straight.
Officials reverted to the results from the previous lap, which gave the crashed No. 99 Kessel Ferrari of Lyons, Vadim Gitlin and Marco Zanuttini the Gentleman class victory with a fifth place overall finish.
The No. 55 AF Corse Ferrari, which was involved in a three-car pileup in the first corner of the opening lap of the race, made a remarkable recovery to finish fourth and take Pro-Am class honors with Marco Cioci, Ilya Melnikov and Jack Gerber.
MRS-GT Racing, featuring American drivers Charles Espenlaub, Charlie Putman and Dutchman Xavier Maassen, meanwhile, dominated the Porsche Cup class from the onset, taking a five-lap victory in its class.
Of note, MotoGP star Loris Capirossi, in his four-wheeled endurance debut, finished eighth overall and second in the Gentlemen class, despite a crash by the Italian in the 9th hour.
RESULTS: Gulf 12 Hours