Winner – Pim Van Ark (Fair Racing Team) 84 laps, 2:25:39.357
Fastest Lap – Paul Holt (Fair Racing Team) 1:40.336
Pim Van Ark has won the RF2 Asia 2018 Endurance race at Dubai. He secured another dominant victory through leading from pole position and pulling away from the field. In a race packed with incident and a high rate of attrition, Van Ark balanced strategy with speed to take his fourth win of the series. Speaking after the race Van Ark was mindful of the searing hot conditions and, “started easy with mediums and boost mapping one,” and looked to maintain a gap to fellow Fair Racing teammate Paul Holt behind. Slightly dropping temperatures aided in Van Ark being able to nurse his tyres in a one stop strategy to take victory in 84 laps.
Further down the field saw a rash of retirements from the race, with Paul Holt on a two-stop strategy the only other LMP2 car to see the chequered flag. Certainly, Van Ark must have breathed a sigh of relief with the surprise non-attendance of Francesco Grasso who set the fastest lap of the event at 1:38.724, although in the practice period between the end of qualifying and the race. Issues suffered by participants were wide ranging, with an angry Michal Nizio running as high as second place at one point becoming the victim of a penalty for, as he described it; “bullshit track limits.” Similarly, Edmund Wong of Hong Kong Sim Racing was having a great race with Nizio and Team Poland’s Wojciech Bobrowicz before, “an unfortunate disconnection event” in the middle of the race. Upon reentering the server Wong was disconnected again. Not to be deterred Wong made a second re-entry to the race but found at that point that his car had been classified as DNF.
As previously mentioned, issues have been raised about the BoP within the class, although this is unlikely to dampen the dominance and enthusiasm of Van Ark as he once again extends his championship lead in the LMP2 category. With the season now half way complete, it is difficult to see where a credible challenge to his lead may come from.
Winner – Audie Devanugraha (Crybaby Racing) 78 laps
Fastest Lap – Andrew Burrows (Hawkstone) 1:47.500
A lonely victory for Audie Devanugraha in the LMP3 class has propelled him to joint third in the championship. The Crybaby Racing driver expected to start from second, but pole-sitter Kamil Smieja of Viper Virtual Racing did not participate. Neither was there an entry in the round from series leaders Arkadiusz Otreba and Mark Robinson. Devanugraha said after the race that he struggled with the pace of the only other LMP3 entry, Andrew Burrows. Indeed, Burrows drove away from Devanugraha and moved up to be running as high as fifth but retired on lap 26. Bizarrely third placed participant Grzegorz Bulat elected to not enter in the LMP3 category for the round but ran in the GTE class instead. Devanugraha remained to deal with the extreme heat and take the class victory in 78 laps and securing the last step on the podium overall.
Winner – Alexis Clapano (ANBU Racing) 75 Laps
Fastest Lap – Grzegorz Bulat (RF2 Asia Guest Corvette) 1:53.946
The GTE class saw the most intense battles through the field. Alexis Clippano of Anbu Racing gained his fourth win of the championship when he overtook Grzegorz Bulat in the final turn of the last lap. Bulat had driven an outstanding race from the back of the field to gain the lead. Clapano was ecstatic after the race describing it as one of his best races so far. He felt huge pressure from the speed of the Polish drivers Bulat and Sim Racing Poland Team’s Adam Karkuszewski behind him and admitted that he was ready to accept second, after Bulat passed him with just a few laps to go but was shocked when Bulat slowed on the last corner, seemingly out of fuel.
Clapano had established an early lead in the race and took a risk in pitting from his lead two laps earlier than the charging Polish drivers on lap 35. The undercut proved successful and Clapano eked out a one stop strategy to finish on medium tyres that had run 40 laps and with less than a litre of fuel left in the tank.
Farther down the GTE field Merapi Motorsports’ Mada Andhika made a lightning start on soft compound tyres and attempted to build a gap to fourth place Chris Shire and Team Garou Philippine’s Pol Faustino. However, a miscalculation on fuel led to Andhika pitting very early on lap 12. This left Dirty Gweilo Racing’s Chris Shire pushing for the final podium position, but there was nothing he could do about the electric pace of Bulat and Pol Faustino. By lap 30 Bulat was long gone chasing Clapano and Adam Karkuszewski, and Faustino was closing at nearly a second per lap. Faustino got past Shire but locked up into the Turn 10 hairpin, with Shire retaking the lead. However, Shire made a series of blunders; first missing the pitstop entrance, and then on the next lap leaving the engine running during the pitstop narrowly avoiding his car overheating. He had to short shift for the next lap, meaning Faustino was able to exit the pits just under two seconds ahead of Shire. Shire pushed hard but at the expense of his tyres in his efforts to chase down Faustino. Faustino admitted that he nearly suffered from a heat problem himself and had to deal with pressure from behind after his stop, but eventually his pace and one-stop strategy delivered a deserved fourth place finish in the class.
Retirements affected several other GTE participants with Chris Payne being unfortunately rewarded for observing blue flags and allowing front runners to go past with his engine overheating and taking him out of the race. Jason Back has also expressed his disappointment with a DNF due to his car overheating. Given this was his best qualifying performance of the season, it was certainly a shame that he could not turn this into a points-paying finish. A surprise entry from Han Liang, initially in the invitational class Renault caused excitement across the field. However, the race was delayed a couple of minutes to allow Liang to join in a more competitive GTE Corvette. Unfortunately, with little practice Liang retired on Lap 9.
With victory in Round 5, both Pim Van Ark and Alexis Clapano extend their respective championship leads. The heat of the Dubai desert claimed nearly half the field so congratulations to all finishers in what was one of the toughest races of the championship so far! Full results and data are accessible from the menu bar at the top of the page.
Next RF2 Asia moves to Suzuka for round 6 on August 26th in what will be another competitive and demanding event.
Entries for the series are still possible, as are bespoke car skins from our admin team. If you are not registered and wish to take part we would love to accommodate you! See the links in the title bar for details.