Muscat: The Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed trio of Oman’s Al-Faisal Al-Zubair, Germany’s Fabian Schiller and China’s Anthony Liu were not able to challenge for the overall titles at the final pair of four-hour races of the 2023/2024 Asian Le Mans Series at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit last weekend.
After qualifying their Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo in a superb pole position, they finished the first race in 10th and then lost an early lead in the second red-flag interrupted encounter and eventually reached the chequered flag in eighth after a drive-through penalty.
Al-Zubair said: “It was a very unfortunate weekend finishing P10 and P8 in the races after starting on pole and second place and feeling like we had a really good set-p with the car. Everyone was feeling good. I think with the championship on the line there were a few mistakes made by the team.
“Also, Anthony, my team-mate, made a mistake in the race which cost us a penalty. Taking that into account, coming back from the penalties and all, it was not so bad. With our goals, which he had to try and win the race, it was difficult to accept. We just prepare again and hopefully come more prepared for the next one.”
Liu moved ahead of the rest of the GT field at the start of Sunday’s second race and held a tiny advantage over Alex Malykhin in the Pure Rxcing Porsche before the race was red-flagged after a two-car accident at turn 11. The Al-Manar Mercedes was down in fourth behind Pure Rxcing, Optimum Motorsport and Saintéloc Racing.
After a substantial delay to remove debris from the trackside area, racing resumed with just under two hours of the race remaining. Liu pitted in a packed pit lane and Schiller took over but the car was down in 15th with 1hr 40min remaining. But the crew incurred a drive-through penalty for a pit lane infringement. Schiller slipped to 17th and then moved up to 13th with 80 minutes to go before climbing to 10th as the race approached the three-hour mark.
Al-Zubair took over for the final stint, managed to get into the top 10 and moved up to eighth but that left the team short of the position needed to challenge for the overall GT Team and Drivers titles.
Leipert Motorsport won the second race from Triple Eight and the Pure Rxcing trio of Klaus Bachler, Joel Sturm and Alex Malykhin, who clinched the championship in their Porsche 911 GT3 R, despite an accident in race one.
Liu took the wheel from pole position for the first stint in the opening four-hour race and reached the half-hour mark in second behind Christopher Haase in the Saintéloc Racing Audi. The Chinese driver slipped down to third behind the Pure Rxcing Audi as his stint progressed but moved back into second around the 90-minute mark.
The car had slipped down the running order as far as 16th before Al-Zubair took over for the second stint. Luca Stolz had pushed the Triple Eight Mercedes into the lead from the Saintéloc Racing Audi and Optimum Motorsport’s Tom Gamble in a McLaren.
Al-Zubair and Schiller managed to climb back through the field and reached the chequered flag in 10th with the victory going to Stolz, Jordan Love and H.H. Prince Abdul Rahman Ibrahim in the Triple Eight Mercedes. The Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini came home second ahead of the first of the Optimum Motorsport McLarens.
More importantly for the Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed crew was that fact that the series-leading Pure Rxcing Porsche only completed 43 of the 99 laps after an accident and the Saintéloc Racing Audi finished 11th.
Schiller took advantage of the first free practice session to run the Mercedes to a best lap of 1min 53.417sec in a stint where Davide Rigon claimed the fastest lap of 1min 53.116sec in the AF Corse Ferrari 296 GT3.
Al-Zubair took the wheel in the second practice stint and guided the Al-Manar Racing Mercedes to a best run of 1min 53.184sec but the team had work to do before the qualifying session to be on pace with the session-winning Riccardo Pera in the GR Racing Ferrari 296 GT3.
But the Al-Manar Racing Team delivered when it mattered and a lap of 1min 52.673sec during an eight-lap qualifying stint was sufficient to claim pole position for the first of the four-hour races. That lap put the Mercedes 0.266sec faster than their second-placed Getspeed team-mates Anthony Bartone, Aaron Walker and Martin Konrad in an historic 1-2 for the Getspeed team.
The Dragon Racing Ferrari qualified third but title rivals Pure Rxcing and Saintéloc Racing were down in fourth and eighth on the grid.