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Abu Dhabi-Proton finish on podium at Le Mans.

Summary: Finishing race alone is a big achievement for team, says Al Qubaisi after taking third spot

N. D. Prashant, Staff Reporter

Abu Dhabi: Khalid Al Qubaisi and Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing created history by becoming the first Emirati team to be on the podium (3rd in LMGTE Am class) at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, round three of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), at Circuit de la Sarthe in France.

It was also a personal triumph for Al Qubaisi as it was his second podium finish at Le Mans following a podium finish in 2014 (second in class).

Al Qubaisi shared driving duties with David Heinemeier Hansson of Denmark and Patrick Long of the US behind the wheel of the No 88 Porsche 911 RSR.

The race began under safety car due to heavy rain. With standing water on the track and extremely poor visibility, the cars spent almost an hour running at reduced speeds before it was safe to start racing. When the green flags waved, the track dried up rapidly and this set the tone for action-packed racing.

The No 88 Porsche 911 RSR climbed from P3 to P2 and then P1 shortly after racing began and Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing led for most part of the first 12 hours of the race.

However, as night fell, Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing slipped to second and, as the hours ticked away, the No 88 Porsche 911 RSR was engaged in a fierce battle with the No 62 Ferrari. In the closing stages of the race, the No 88 was battling for second place and eventually settled for P3 instead of jeopardising the team's chances of finishing on the podium.

The competition was always going to be tough, but racing in track temperatures that were hovering around 17?C, the No 88 Porsche 911 RSR did exhibit good pace and balance. The outcome would have been better, but the low temperatures in the night affected the performance of the tyres thus costing Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing the lead.

Given the conditions, Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing concentrated on avoiding any incidents and staying on course to achieving their goal of taking a place on the podium. Al Qubaisi kept the team in the hunt for a podium place, pitting with four hours still to go and handing over the wheel to Long, with Hansson, who had earlier given the team a flying start, bringing the No 88 Porsche 911 RSR home safely in third place.

"It is always great to be racing at Le Mans, and just finishing the race is an achievement in itself and being on the podium is indeed an honour. Obviously, we are a little disappointed as we could have finished higher. Having said that, we had a good race overall but the low temperatures did affect the performance of our tyres. Nevertheless, finishing in P3 is still a big achievement for the team," said an elated Al Qubaisi.

"Also, I am extremely happy with my second podium at Le Mans following my first podium at the 2014 race here," he added.

The team clocked 330 laps at an average speed of 206.2/km with a best lap of 3:57.989 over the 24-hour endurance race. The team did a total of 23 pit stops.

Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing will next be in action at the 6 Hours of Nurburgring in Germany on the weekend of July 24.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Jun 20, 2016
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