LOCAL UAE TEAMS SHARE MAIDEN VICTORIES AS TEAM MOTOPARK DOMINATES THE TEAMS CHAMPIONSHIP
Abu Dhabi, UAE, February 12, 2017 – Two local Formula 4 UAE teams have joined the winners circle after claiming maiden race wins during Round 4 of the championship at Yas Marina Circuit, preventing points leaders Team Motopark from a clean sweep for the first time this season.
Dubai-based Energy Dubai F4 Racing Team and Abu Dhabi-based Rasgaira Motorsports – both new to running Formula 4 race cars this season – earned their first race wins with star drivers Sean Babington (in Race 12) and Fabio Scherer (Race 14) respectively, sharing two of the four race victories on offer.
Babington (#4) – a four-time British karting champion – only made his circuit racing debut four months ago but had amassed six podium finishes prior to the weekend’s event in the UAE capital. While Swiss racer Scherer (#13), a former race winner in the ADAC Formel 4 Championship in Germany, won on debut in the Middle East this weekend while also claiming a second-place finish earlier in the day.
Championship leader and South African racer Jonathan Aberdein (#21) from Team Motopark dominated the remaining two races ahead of teammate Logan Sargeant (#23), both helping the Germany-based operation to seal the F4UAE Teams Championship one round early.
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of ATCUAE and Emirates Motor Sports Foundation, congratuled the local teams on being able to claim victory during the inaugural season of the Middle East’s newest open-wheeler championship.
“Congratulations to everyone at Energy Dubai and Rasgaira for racing so strongly against the other very experienced drivers, and we are very proud to see the UAE teams on the top step of the podium this weekend,” said Ben Sulayem. “We have one more event at Yas Marina Circuit next month and we are sure that all the drivers will deliver the best racing of the year to finish our first F4UAE Championship.”
PRACTICE & QUALIFYING SUMMARY
Despite Team Motopark again topping the timesheets, with Aberdein claiming pole with a best lap of 2m11.492s ahead of Sargeant in second, it was Dragon F4's Osciar Piastri (#88) from Australia who surprised the field with his pace afterscoring a best qualifying performance to date in third place.
Round 4 of the 2016/17 season was held at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, with Races 11 to 14 being run on the International F1 circuit layout.
Team Motopark's frontrunners Aberdein and Sargeant lead from the front row in Race 11, with Piastri holding his own in third to claim his first career circuit racing podium finish for Dragon F4; an impressive achievement considering Piastri only made the jump from karting back in December. The Rasgaira Motorsports team of David Malukas (#79) and Scherer followed in fourth and fifth during the Friday afternoon 20-minute race.
Race 12 on Saturday morning was a reverse-grid start, with the QMMF F4 Team of Abdulrahman Tolefat (#20) and Ahmad Al Muhannadi (#22) leading the field into turn one. Team Motopark's Charles Weerts (#25) and Scherer charged to the front early and swapped the lead multiple times, until Babington took over at the end of lap one. Despite pressure from Scherer and Sargeant, the Dubai-based driver took the chequered flag and became the first locally based F4 driver to win a race this season. Scherer finished second ahead of Sargeant third.
The results of Race 13 were a repeat of Friday's, with Aberdein and Sargeant again holding their own by race end, however not without fierce competition from 15-year-old Piastri. Again showing his maturity, Piastri took the lead of the first few laps while the Team Motopark steerers duelled among themselves, but was overtaken mid-race. Piastri held on to claim his second third-place finish of the weekend ahead of Babington and Team Motopark's Sebastian Wahbeh (#7) in fifth.
Saturday evening's final race again was reverse grid, this time with Scherer dominating comfortably ahead of the Team Motopark frontrunners of Aberdein and Sargeant; all three filled the final podium of the weekend with Wahbeh in fourth and Babington fifth. The race win was Scherer's second career F4 race win after scoring his first at the Lausitzring in Germany last year.
GCC NATIONS TROPHY
In the battle of the GCC competitors, QMMF F4 Team’s Ahmad Al Muhannadi (#22) and Abdulrahman Tolefat (#20) showed consistent improvement again in what was only their fifth weekend of circuit racing.
Now clocking lap times within four seconds of the leaders - a vast improvement since the beginning of the season - Al Muhannadi won the new GCC Nations Trophy plate for all four races, but not without pressure from Tolefat who in the final race improved his times enough to lap faster than his Qatar teammate. Al Muhannadi leads the points standings for the outright GCC Nations Cup title set to be awarded at season's end.
"They were very close today, the gap between their times has reduced dramatically, and they're closing in on the top guys, so they've come on in laps and bounds since they started the championship back in October," said Rasgaira Motorsports team principal Richard Cregan. "They're developing their race skills, getting more track time, and virtually have halved the distance time-wise from the rest of the field now since they started this chapter of their racing careers, so enormous credit to them."
South African Jonathan Aberdein leads the driver’s championship points lead ahead of Sargeant – the leading rookie driver – with Babington maintaining third outright.
The grand finale of the 2016/17 F4UAE Championship, round five, will be held at the Home of F4UAE, Yas Marina Circuit from March 10-11. The Abu Dhabi circuit will host Races 15 to 18 of the season.
Sean Babington (England), Energy Dubai F4 Racing Team (#4): “It's a massive relief to get that win, especially after being hounded for the whole of the race; you can see the Motopark guys and Fabio [Scherer] all the time in the mirror behind. Into the very slow corners everyone closes up so much and the gap you think you have is suddenly gone, so the pressure to hold on at the front was hard to manage. And the level of competition is getting harder and harder so the whole team is ecstatic to get this win. We've worked really really hard all year so a massive thanks to the team for making the right setup changes to get me onto the top step."
Fabio Scherer (Switzerland), Rasgaira Motorsports (#13): “We improved a lot from qualifying and I saw I had the pace so I was just relaxed and I think that was the key to the race. Towards the end I saw Jonathan [Aberdein] coming after me and I pushed a bit more but never I thought I was needing to go to the limit. I like the reverse grid races because you need to be good in the battles, not just with speed, so it's really nice to be at the end of the weekend in the best position."
Richard Cregan, Team Principal of Rasgaira Motorsports: "It's a great day for us as Rasgaira, we've been on the podium many times before but it was our first win and nothing is as sweet as a win. Fabio did a great job and was very professional, and you could see his experience coming through as well, having done the German championship last year. David [Malukas] also did well with two fourth places, and I think the partnership again with US Racing from Germany works exceptionally well so for us. As a whole, it shows we have the right resources to help these young drivers improve their racing experience and that this is the championship for young drivers who want to go to Europe and do well."