The Gulf 12 Hours reaches a milestone on Friday with the fifth running of the around-the-clock GT enduro at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit.
Sportscar365 caught up with event promoter Andrea Ficarelli, of Driving Force Events Limited, to get his thoughts on this year’s event, its clash with the Sepang 12 Hours and to look towards the future.
A total of 19 cars are set to take part in the race, a number that’s slightly down from previous years. What was the reason for the decline?
“I really think we’ve entered into a time when many things are happening at once that has resulted in the limited expansion of the event.
“Clearly we should have had more cars in our race. But I really believe it’s just one year like this. It’s not a crisis or issue in the market.
“It’s very simple in that the cars that wanted to come were simply not available in Europe, doing something else due to important logistics things.”
Do you think the SRO-run Sepang 12 Hours, which is also occurring this weekend, played a factor?
“It’s not an issue at all for the teams that normally come here, except for the two Bentleys, which were confirmed [for Abu Dhabi], and went to Sepang for their own marketing program.
“If you have a race in Sepang and a car in Asia, we’re not going to move the date just because Sepang… We are in a market that’s five times bigger than Malaysia.
“I don’t have a reason to be scared if there is an event on the same date.”
There was a push to have Ginetta LMP3 cars on the grid this year but that didn’t materialize. What happened?
“We registered strong interest in the beginning but we understand there was a change of strategy for Ginetta.
“They decided to focus on a different kind of class and it caused an issue with some teams where they simply decided to get rid of their cars.”
So what’s your ideal car count for the future?
“Thirty cars. But that’s 30 qualified cars. Dubai is a great result, first of all, but half of those cars are cars that would never be accepted here due to the gap of performance. Also I don’t think it’s a positive thing to have one car every 50 meters.
“[Some] teams are starting to come here and not to go to Dubai because people are starting to get fed up due the number of cars.
“Having said this, it’s a fantastic and great event and something fantastic for the region. But the [Gulf 12 Hours] is another product.
“It’s not been developed as well as it should but we can keep going for another ten years.”
What’s the status of the proposed Istanbul 12-hour race?
“We will not do it. We evaluated all of the costs involved and it became much, much more expensive than what it was originally expected. It was difficult to do it from a commercial point of view.
“The second issue is that since the ACO has launched the new [Michelin Le Mans GT3 Challenge], I really think there’s no more space on the European market to add anything new during the [regular] season. We can’t do something in Istanbul in winter because it’s too cold.
“We are doing different things in the [Middle East] region but not really a standalone race. We operate as a motorsport business but nothing to do in terms of [a similar event] to the Gulf 12 Hours].”