Continuing their driver development program in the UK with Formula Gulf Academy's summer program, Omar Gazzaz and Cato Poulsen were at the famous Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit in Kent, Englan for two rounds of very popular JMT Mono Championship. Built in the 1950s, this was the home of the British Formula One Grand Prix, alternating with Silverstone every year from 1964 until 1986 when Nigel Mansell won in his Honda powered Williams. This is an extremely fast and narrow circuit which demands precision and bravery in equal measure. Nelson Piquet's average speed, when he won pole position in 1986 was more than 140mph!!
So wide eyed with anticipation, these two young drivers, who had been trained by the Formula Gulf Academy found themselves on a grid of no less than 30 single seater racing cars, including Dallara, Van Diemen, Lola, Reynard, Mygale, Ray, Jedi, Speads, and Vauxhall Junior, divided into 4 classes by engine size.
Interestingly, the very first exploratory lap of this demanding 2.43 mile took place during a short 15 minute qualifying session, which itself was interrupted by a safety car when one of the cars went off into a gravel trap.
So GulfSport's young drivers only had 8 laps to learn the circuit. Nevertheless, Omar qualified 4th in class (7th overall) and Cato qualified 5th (8th overall) an admirable achievement. Their beautifully turned out Ralph Firman F1000 cars, being seen in the UK for the first time, attracted significant and constant attention from the crowd of single seater aficionados that follow this championship, especially after AUTOSPORT reported that Cato won both Tiedeman Trophy Championship races at Rockingham five weeks earlier.
Race 1 was a nail-biting affair as Cato fluffed his start and dropped back to 27th position as he entered he fearsome Paddock Hill Bend (turn 1). But it was a good getaway for Omar who slotted himself in behind the lightning quick starters ahead of him as they flew uphill to the Druids Bend. Over a very exciting 9 lap race, Cato clawed his way back to finish 8th overall (5th in class) setting Fastest Lap which was 6-tenths quicker than Class winner Richard Gittings, a more experienced driver who has competed in 46 races in his 1000cc Jedi Mk 6. Omar moved up a place to finish an amazing 6th overall which was good for 4th in class. A great result for both drivers in extremely demanding circumstances.
Race 2 found Omar and Cato in P8 and P10 on the very busy starting grid. This time Cato managed to get away cleanly as did Omar. Having started further back than in race 1, they both enjoyed some very tough racing along the way with Cato, who had two wheels on the grass whilst passing Omar who got himself boxed in along the Cooper Straight going into Surtees. But as the front group of drivers attacked Clearways on lap 6 the unfortunate Omar was pushed wide into the gravel at high speed which brought out the red flag to end his race prematurely. Cato had a much better race this time and worked his way through the pack to finish on the podium with 3rd in class and 6th overall a great achievement.
Cato added - “This weekend at the thrilling Brands Hatch circuit was a really interesting challenge. First time to Qualify with-out testing the full track and first time with 30 cars on track! So I learned a lot and was quite happy to end the day with a third place trophy in the MONO1000 class”
Omar said - "This is by far the most rewarding circuit I've ever raced at. I managed to secure a great position in Race 1 and experienced the difficulty of overtaking here when I lost the fight for 2nd in class from an unsuccessful overtake attempt. I pushed really hard to regain lost ground but spun through Clearways whilst doing so. Onwards and upwards. A lot learned during this challenging weekend. Onto the next one!"
Their next challenge is to race with an even bigger grid on the famous Donington GP circuit on 13th & 14th August.