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Andrea Ficarelli: “The Gulf 12 Hours Is A Winning Format!”

Ahead of last weekend’s Gulf 12 Hours at Yas Marina Circuit the director of event promoter Driving Force Events Limited, Andrea Ficarelli, talked about the 2013 event, the future of the event and other developments regarding the race and his company.

2013 Gulf 12 Hours

Back in January 2012 the first race had 15 cars entered, one year ago there were 21 cars entered and this year 24 cars took part.

“In terms of cars we are growing, this is the most important thing for us. We are moving from 21 last year to 24 for this race. So this is very positive,” said Ficarelli. “If you just look around, when you walk in the paddock, now it’s a real race. The garages are completely allocated, hospitality on the first floor is nearly gone.”

The increased interest in the event has also attracted high-profile manufacturers this year and those manufacturers should be able to help the event in continuing to grow.

“If we look back at the first race, 22 months ago, we did a really massive step ahead and I think we are consolidated as an important international race,” Ficarelli said. “We are developing more thanks to the fact that Bentley is here, that Maserati is our partner in terms of supporting the event. We’re really developing into a more glamorous motorsport event. We have a very glamorous back ground: Yas Marina Circuit and this is the way we want to go.”

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One of the questions on everyone’s mind at Yas Marina Circuit after the practice sessions and particularly after the race was the qestions if CN2 cars have a future in the Gulf 12 Hours or that the focus should be on the GT3 cars only.

“We have tried to develop the CN2 market, because personally I think there is a big potential with this kind of cars,” Ficarelli said. “They are very competitive, they are cheap. We don’t know why it is so difficult to put together a good number of CN2 cars. I believe one of the reasons is that the GT3 teams are used to travel and are more professionally structured than the CN teams. Except a few they are still family business and the idea of coming to Abu Dhabi for them is to say now let’s go to the moon.”

“We are interested in keeping the CN, but the protagonists of our race are the GT3 cars. This is Yas Marina Circuit, it’s a very glamorous venue. We want to develop this into one of the most glamorous motorsport endurance events in the world and we can only do this if we work in association with the brands like the ones we have here now,” said Ficarelli hinting at Bentley and Maserati once more.

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With various other events now running different formats, for example the new 12H races at Zandvoort and Mugello spread over two days, do Ficarelli and his team consider different race weekend formats for their event?

“I think it’s a winning format, I believe this was an important element for Bentley, even if it was not really officially declared. But apart from this I believe it’s an extremely good format to try to pull people into the paddock. Here we have a chance to offer the people, assuming that nobody is coming to the circuit at 9 in the morning to see the full event until midnight, if they come just after lunch time they will have the chance to see the end of one race, they can see the Maserati Trofeo, they can have a pit walk and a grid walk and then they can see another start in night. In three hours they can have a very compact show and entertainment. Obviously they can stay until midnight to see the end of the race, but we need to start offering something interesting, short, not too long, hoping to have people stay longer and longer.”

“We have considered different formats. But when we launched the format 6 by 6 we had a lot of criticism at the beginning, because they told us it is not an endurance race. I asked them why. There are a lot of six-hour races that are considered endurance races, just because we do two in a row we are not an endurance race anymore. They said it’s not a twelve-hour race because there is a break, now I think everybody is happy about this format, at least this is what they tell me. So I think we shouldn’t be scared to experience with new formats, but probably at the moment the ideas are too much creative and it’s better too keep it private until we launch it.”

Initially the Gulf 12 Hours had a contract for three races. But Driving Force Events Limited confirmed that it will continue with the Abu Dhabi event in the future.

“For next year it will be 6 by 6. We have a contract in place for the next 2 years. We want to keep the same date, because it’s a date that is allowing is to get all the cars from Europe. Hopefully we’ll get cars from Asia, because this date still allows us to transfer cars by sea freight from Macau to here. We don’t really think it’s convenient for us to move back to January because of the Dubai 24 Hours. Even now we are strong enough to be at the same level with them. We have a strong event, so we can also attract people. December I believe is an ideal date for us.”

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Ficarelli said he currently has no plans for any European events and he doesn’t see the increased number of events in Creventic’s 24H Series as a threat to his event.

“The European market is completely oversaturated. This is the reason why we are not targeting any operation in Europe at the moment, even though we’re European. We try to focus on this part of the season and try to develop what we are doing now,” Ficarelli said. “Personally I don’t see any competition with the 24H Series, if there are more cars racing at the end of the day and more people are getting used to do endurance the better it is for us. Even in terms of Dubai, if more cars are interested in going to Dubai I believe more cars will be interested to come and race here before. Frankly speaking I believe we are now sort of supporting Dubai because for teams that are coming here there’s a chance to stay and do another race after, it can be an incentive. I would like that they have 200 cars and some more cars are coming here as well, even thouh we will always be on a limited number.”

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Ficarelli plans to return to Abu Dhabi on the same weekend next year.

“I believe the race will be on the 12th of December. The weekend before we will have the World Final of the Ferrari Challenge here, this has already been announced by Ferrari. We will be the week immediately after so I really think we will benefit from this.”

Even though Driving Force Events Limited would like to organise more events Ficarelli reckons now is not the time to plan a second event and that he and his team should focus on improving the Gulf 12 Hours first.

“It is something interesting. But I believe our focus should be to grow as much as possible with this race and maybe if we become very strong, we can probably think to do more,” Ficarelli said. “The problem is that we are a relatively small organisation. Already this year by moving it from the normal format we had to a format where we have one supporting event plus manufacturers more involved, like Bentley, and more hospitality operations, it has made our job much heavier. So we already know we need to upgrade the structure we are using now do go one step further. Until we are not 100% structured to deliver maximum efficiency on the 12 Hours here, it doesn’t make sense to try to put something else on the plate. We want to deliver quality instead of quantity.”

Marcel ten Caat (@dsceuroeditor)