Dubai, UAE, November 19, 2016 - Jonathan Aberdein from Team Motopark has claimed the first championship points of the 2016/2017 Formula 4 UAE Championship powered by Abarth at the Dubai Autodrome, while local UAE teams share the spoils of podium finishes at Round 1 in Dubai, UAE.
While the six-event season began last month with a Trophy Event at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, Round 1 marked the first time that drivers could earn championship points towards the outright title chase, which is integral for drivers wishing to qualify for FIA Super Licence points and move up the ladder of motorsport globally.
Team Motopark from Europe continued last months’ success with teammates Jonathan Aberdein (#21) from South Africa and Logan Sargeant (#23) from the USA claiming first and second places respectively across all three 20-minute races.
However, it was Dubai-based Energy Dubai F4 Racing Team’s Sean Babington (#4) – a multiple British, European and World karting title holder – and Rasgaira Motorsports' new Irish driver James Roe Jr (#11) who shared third place finishes after hard fought battles among the local competitors.
H.E. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of ATCUAE and Emirates Motor Sports Federation, praised all the drivers for the increased competition and good sportsmanship, and for the new GCC drivers who are improving every event.
“The first championship event for F4UAE was a great success and it was wonderful to see our local UAE teams on the podium for every race. We are very proud to see our new GCC drivers improving their times and getting more confident on the racetrack and we look forward to seeing them improve more next month at Yas Marina Circuit,” said Ben Sulayem.
PRACTICE & QUALIFYING SUMMARY
Thursday’s two extended practice sessions gave new F4 drivers Babington and Roe quality track time to become familiar with the Abarth-powered Tatuus F4UAE racecars they had not competed in before. By the end of Friday morning’s final practice sessions, both drivers plus the Team Motopark duo were within one second of each other, and setting the tone for a weekend of close competition.
The experienced Team Motopark duo were fastest in qualifying, with Aberdein clocking a best lap time of 1 minutes 22.436 seconds around the 3.56km circuit. Sargeant lost the right rear wheel early in the session, but did not let it stop he or his team from being able to get the car back on track in the closing minutes to qualify second outright.
Dubai-based Babington impressed in third, while Roe sat fourth fastest ahead of the QMMF F4 Team’s Ahmad Al Muhannadi (#22) and Abdulrahman Tolefat (#20).
Team Motopark’s Aberdein and Sargeant finished all three 20-minute races in first and second respectively, however, the results were not gifted so easily due to stronger competition from the local teams.
An uneventful Race 1 saw drivers finish in the order they qualified, however it was Race 2’s reverse grid that forced the field to race harder. The QMMF F4 Team’s Tolefat started from pole position before stalling as the lights went out, which gave way for Babington to leap into the lead. A fast-attacking Aberdein moved up to second from sixth by turn one, and Roe moved into third ahead of Sargeant. The latter – a world junior karting champion – threw a few late-race moves on Roe, and then Babington, to eventually make up five places to finish second for Race 2.
Babington claimed third place honours in both of the first two races, but it was Saturday’s Race 3 that saw Roe determined to snare a front-running result. With the 18-year-old’s blinding start taking the Team Motopark duo by surprise, Aberdein and Sargeant were forced to follow the Rasgaira recruit for the first full lap until being able to pass on lap two. Between Roe, Babington and the ever-improving Al Muhannadi, the trio finished a mere 1.3 seconds apart in that order, giving Roe a taste of the podium at his first ever F4 event.
The QMMF F4 Team of Al Muhannadi and Tolefat from Qatar flew the flag for the GCC competitors all weekend, after an accident in Friday practice left the UAE’s Saif Ben Sulayem (#3) sidelined for the weekend.
Jonathan Aberdein, Team Motopark (#21): “It was a really great weekend for us getting pole, all three wins and now to have a lead in the points. The competition is definitely a bit tougher than at Yas Marina Circuit last month with James and Sean here this weekend. James’ quick start off the line in Race 3 added some excitement to the last race and I really enjoyed driving at Dubai Autodrome.”
James Roe, Rasgaira Motorsports (#11): “In my time racing Formula Ford, my uncle taught me how to get starts right and today we just nailed the clutch and got the F4 moving early. Leading that first lap was a bit surreal but it was good to have a battle with the Team Motopark guys; it’s great to have them here giving us a good benchmark. Sean [Babington] is pretty experienced as well and I learned a lot against him, finding out where I was slower and also faster around track, and I was able to work on that. Our battles were almost like playing chicken with who was going to brake first! I still feel like I’m only 40% there so still a lot to learn in these cars but I’m having great fun.”
Richard Cregan, Rasgaira Motorsports Team Manager: “The QMMF guys did a fantastic job improving their times during the races so you could see that they were progressing their race craft. And then James’ podium finish is great encouragement in our first championship race weekend, so we’re delighted. This series is a lot more difficult than what people anticipate. Ahmad in the last race did a fabulous job staying up there with James and Sean, he’s more consistent now with his lap times, and both of the QMMF boys are certainly catching up to the other more experienced drivers and showing they can race. It was a shame with what happened with Saif [Ben Sulayem]’s crash in practice but we’ll have him out next race at Yas Marina Circuit.”
Round 2 of the F4UAE Championship will be held at the Home of F4UAE, Yas Marina Circuit, from December 16-17, as a support to the Gulf 12 Hours endurance event.