x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Barff does it for his friend Wheldon

The UAE GT Championship¿s first round winner looks back at the IndyCar tragedy, saying the news of the Englishman's death made it difficult for him to race at the National Race Day in Dubai.

Rob Barff's Ferrari 458, left, put all his worries, and rivals, behind him at Dubai Autodrome to win the UAE GT opener.
Rob Barff's Ferrari 458, left, put all his worries, and rivals, behind him at Dubai Autodrome to win the UAE GT opener.


Rob Barff dedicated victory in yesterday's opening round of the UAE GT Championship season at Dubai Autodrome to Dan Wheldon, the motor-racing driver killed in a crash in the United States last Sunday.

Barff, who was partnered with Leon Price in the AUH motorsport run Ferrari 458 Italia car, said he had known the Englishman Wheldon since they were children, and the tragedy in the Indy Racing League event in Las Vegas had made it difficult for him to prepare for racing in Dubai this weekend.

"It was great to win after a very difficult week for me personally," Barff said.

"I lost a dear friend in Dan Wheldon, who I knew since we were kids. So, winning here, I feel I have done him proud."

Wheldon died of head injuries in the crash and drivers from the series are due to meet at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Monday in the United States to discuss safety.

Barff and Price proved too good for the rest of the field as they comfortably triumphed ahead of the Gulf Racing Lamborghini pairing of Fabien Giroix and Frederic Fatien.

Barff drove the opening stint of the race where he pulled away at the front, and said: "We always knew we had a good car, and my job is to deliver a well set-up car for the race.

"I got a good start, banging in some good laps early on and then preserving the tyres, establishing a good lead for Leon, and he brought it home."

Price said: "Rob did all the hard work, making it very easy and when I took over I had a good lead which allowed me to pace myself and run consistent laps.

"I knew I had a good lead, so I could afford not to push too hard. The car was brilliant running in this heat, a great day."

The result also created history as it was the first time that a Ferrari had won in the championship.

In the GTB Class, Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal drove solo to take his first win in the championship driving the Lechner Racing-prepared Porsche.

Al Faisal said: "It was great fun. We are not used to the Dunlop tyres, so we needed to adjust, and also I had a drive-through penalty, which made it tough, especially with the heat.

"I have not raced the Porsche since May, but it is a great car, a good series and this is a great track. So I am very happy to win.

Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum and Saeed Al Mehairi in their Aston Martin were the victors in the GTC Class category.

In the 1000 Class of the UAE Sportsbike Championship, Nasser Al Shaiba, the Emirati rider, made an impressive start as he won his first race in the series on his BMW bike.

He said: "I have never raced before here at Dubai Autodrome, but have done a few track days at the track as riding is my hobby. I felt comfortable and thought I would be able to do well in race conditions."

Gernot Dobida, who finished behind Al Shaiba in the first race, won the second race, and he said: "Everything clicked, the Dunlop tyres were great with good grip, the bike felt good and I had a perfect run."

Vendetta Racing teammates Alan Boyter and Mahmoud Tannir won a race apiece in the 600 Class, with Boyter triumphing in the opening race, and Tannir avenging his defeat in the second race.

Chris Morley made it four wins from four races in the Rookie Cup competition as he won both of yesterday's events.

Of his domination of the series, Morley said: "It was a hard race day with the heat and wind, takes some getting used to. I need to train a lot more, but I brought it home. It feels great to win."

The second round of the championship will take place on November 4-5 at the Autodrome.

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