Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed's Al-Zubair and Grenier earn stunning victory in ‘GT Open 500’ race at SPA

Sports Monday 27/May/2024 10:00 AM
By: Times News Service
Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed's Al-Zubair and Grenier earn stunning victory in ‘GT Open 500’ race at SPA

Muscat: Oman’s Al-Faisal Al-Zubair and Canadian team-mate Mikaël Grenier delivered a racing masterclass to stun their rivals and win the ‘GT Open 500’ round of the 2024 International GT Open at the demanding Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium on Sunday.

The Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed Mercedes-AMG GT3 duo had qualified in second position and quickly moved into a lead they held for virtually the entirely of the 2hrs 40mins race that counted for double points towards the International GT Open. Despite missing round two in Germany, the crew now top the championship standings by eight points.

The Oregon Team’s Jordan Pepper and Alessio Deledda reached the chequered flag in second place in a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo2 with Comtoyou Racing’s Lorens Levertua and Matisse Lismont rounding off the podium places. Al-Zubair’s Getspeed team-mates Anthony Bartone and Fabian Schiller came home in fifth place after 65 laps of racing.

Al-Zubair said: “It was a great race today. We were very happy and couldn’t really ask for anything more. We were disappointed with qualifying on Saturday but we actually chose to go on one set of new tyres instead of two, so wee saved an extra set for the race. That seemed to make a lot of sense. Mik got both new sets and I had fresh tyres. We were happy with that in terms of strategy.

“It was very important for us to get past in the first few laps, which I managed to do on lap one. I had a good run into Eau Rouge and managed to get past Diego Mancheca. From there, we maintained and opened a gap. But then we had the safety car come out. That didn’t help us in terms of the gap because of the 10-second handicap in the last pit stop and the bigger the gap the better it would be for us. After the safety car, I managed to open the gap a bit and it was a bit close to the Lamborghini in the end but it all worked out well.

“We missed one round in Germany but we are back as championship leaders. So, very happy with the weekend’s performance, with Mik and the whole team. The next race is the big Spa 24. Hopefully we can get a win there.”

The green flag for the ‘GT Open 500’ was brought forward by 25 minutes and Al-Zubair lined up on the front row. The Omani made the perfect start in dry conditions and managed to get ahead of Team Motopark’s Diego Mancheca and snatch a slender lead.

Al-Zubair gradually extended his advantage and led the race by 2.067 seconds after 13 laps with 2hrs 08mins remaining. The first of the mandatory pit stops saw Grenier take the hot seat and the Mercedes slipped back to second place behind Tijmen van der Helm in the Car Collection Motorsport Porsche but Grenier soon regained the lead when the 911 crew pitted. Marcos Siebert moved up to second in the Team Motopark Mercedes.

Grenier increased the gap to 5.709 seconds with 101 minutes of the race to run and the duo held the lead through the second driver change with Al-Zubair retaking the wheel. With 69 minutes remaining, the Omani led by 21.992 seconds from Mancheca but the race was yellow flagged soon afterwards and the leading pack bunched up before the restart.

Al-Zubair maintained his advantage and handed over to Grenier again with the Canadian increasing the duo’s lead to 6.043 seconds with 22 minutes and one additional lap remaining. Pepper had moved into second place with Levertua pushing the Aston Martin Vantage into third.

Grenier kept his cool over the closing laps to reach the chequered flag 13.035 seconds ahead of Pepper to seal a memorable win for the Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed duo.

GT Open 500 action got underway for the Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed crew with a pair of 70-minute free practice sessions on Friday. The car ran for 19 laps in the opening session with a best tour of 2min 36.424sec that put Al-Zubair and Grenier in 11th place.

The AF Corse Ferrari 296 GT3 of Jean-Claude Saada and Conrad Grunewald topped the times with Getspeed’s Antony Bartone and Fabian Schiller in second and the leading Pro car. The Car Collection Motorsport Porsche of Gustav Bergström and Nick Menzel ran out quickest of the Pro cars in free practice two.

Practice counted for nothing when the first 30-minute qualifying session got underway and Al-Zubair delivered a polished stint to hit the top of the standings with a lap of 2min 19.401sec in cool and cloudy conditions.

After pitting, the stint was red-flagged with 8min 34sec remaining: the Omani was down in sixth with Olimp Racing’s Karol Basz leading the way. Qualifying resumed minutes later and Al-Zubair completed the session in ninth place with a quickest run of 2min 17.652sec and the Team Motopark Mercedes claiming the fastest lap, courtesy of Marcos Siebert (2min 16.798sec).

Grenier took the hot seat for the second qualifying session and the Canadian ran a best lap of 2min 16.983sec to slot the Mercedes into second place behind Nico Menzel.

But the time was eclipsed in the dying seconds by the session-winning Christopher Haase in the Eastalent Racing Audi and Grenier was pushed down to fifth. When the two sessions were combined, Al-Zubair lined up on the front of the grid in second place behind Mancheca for the start of the race.