The inaugural FIA GT Nations Cup weekend is now over and it’s team Turkey that has been crowned the winning nation, Ayhancan Guven and Salih Yoluc combining to take a dramatic win in tonight’s Main Race at the Bahrain International Circuit.
It was a real fight for both drivers for almost the entire hour of racing. Yoluc started in the RAM-run AMG GT3 and managed to hold the lead through the opening lap, which ended with the safety car coming out after a multi-car incident at Turn 1.
The drama at the start saw the Belgium Audi fly across the circuit after being pin-balled between the Russia and Mexico Ferraris on the run down to the corner.
The R8 of Mike den Tandt (and Charles Weerts), which showed so much promise early in the weekend, (taking pole for both Qualifying Races and a win in Race 1) was unable to continue, the car stuck in the gravel after its series of spins.
Also caught up in the Turn 1 mayhem was the Australia and Belarus entries, both retiring with damage, the Aussie Porsche of Stephen Grove rear-ending Alexander Talkanitsa Jnr’s Ferrari, sending it into the outside barriers.
Later on in the lap, Germany sustained race-ending damage from a hit with the Argentina Lamborghini and the Sweden McLaren retired on the opening tour too.
When the race went green, the action was frantic, and the lead changed shortly after, Chris Froggatt making a daring move past the Turkey Mercedes of Yoluc at Turn 7.
The Russian Ferrari of Rinat Salikhov then followed him through, creating a tussle for second that would allow Froggatt to pull away in the UK Ferrari before the round of stops.
The UK Ferrari was over 10 seconds clear of the field when Froggatt came in to hand over the Buncombe, but that margin would prove to be too little to seal the win. Buncombe was unable to extract the same raw pace and consistency out of the car he did in the other two races through his stint, after the race explaining that the car balance was off.
He was reeled in quickly by the Turkey Mercedes of Ayhacan Guven which had climbed back up to second. Guven then made his move stick after a sequence of heavy resistance from Buncombe with over 10 minutes remaining in the race.
From there, Guven pulled away, and finished just over three seconds ahead, the United Kingdom Ferrari unable to produce enough performance with the tyres wearing out to allow Buncombe to fight back.
“I’m literally out of words,” exclaimed Yoluc after the race. “He (Ayhancan) drove an amazing stint, I’m so proud of him, getting us the victory.
“Really proud to take the win in a new event that I think has a real future. It can be tricky to jump from car to car on different weekends but the team did a great job giving us a car that was good to drive all weekend.”
Guven added: “This weekend was the first time I had driven the car and it took some time to learn how to get the best from it, and from the tyres.
“So this is amazing, the race was tough, at the start there was a big crash and it was a difficult first lap for Salih. The tyres were there for me when I needed to push.
“It’s a really good weekend for us, excellent job all weekend.”
Froggatt felt that the early safety car was a key factor that led to them losing the lead in the race.
“I pushed at the start and could pull away, I was aware there was a lot of chaos around at the start but steered clear of it.
“I think for us it was the safety car that messed up the start and therfore our ability to run away with it,” he said. “Chris did a fantastic job to hold Turkey off as long as he could though.”
Taking third overall, in the end, was the #16 Denmark Ferrari of Nicklas Nielsen and Johnny Laursen having a quiet but impressive run to a podiun spot, denying team Russian medals on this occasion.
Russia took fourth, ahead of the PR China Porsche, Italy Ferrari and Hong Kong Nissan.
The FIA GT Nations Cup will be back in 2019, the SRO announcing earlier today that Vallelunga will be the host circuit for the second edition of this new event.