A double podium finish exceeded FFF Racing Team’s expectations for the opening round of Lamborghini Super Trofeo Middle East at the state-of-the-art Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi (9-11 February).
A full grid of Lamborghini Huracans turned out for the first ever Super Trofeo Middle East event, building on the success of Lamborghini’s established continental series in Europe, North America and Asia.
FFF Racing – one of 11 teams to have committed to Super Trofeo Middle East – saw the series as an ideal platform to develop the next generation of professional racers under its newly-established Young Driver Programme, which was launched late last year when Carrie Schreiner, Richard ‘Spike’ Goddard, Jack Bartholomew and Parth Ghorpade were announced as the first four recruits.
The inaugural Lamborghini Super Trofeo Middle East weekend took on a familiar format, with two 50-minute races following a brace of one-hour free practice sessions and a pair of 20-minute qualifying sessions.
However, FFF Racing’s drivers utilised an open test day to acclimatise to their Lamborghinis and the Yas Marina Circuit before the weekend began in earnest.
The extra mileage paid dividends, as Ghorpade and Bartholomew took the #5 Huracan to third at the conclusion of first practice and Qualifying 1, when Schreiner and Goddard in the sister #15 entry recorded the second fastest time to secure a front-row grid slot.
In the first of two Super Trofeo Middle East races (Friday 10 February), Goddard and Bartholomew started from second and third respectively and both did well to avoid a first-corner shunt, which caused an early Safety Car intervention, and then continue their hunt for the lead at the resumption of racing.
Goddard was unrelenting in his pursuit of P1 and the pressure eventually told, the Australian forcing the race leader into a mistake, snatching the initiative and setting the fastest lap to build a three-second advantage before handing the baton to German teammate, Schreiner.
However, a well-drilled changeover saw Bartholomew and Ghorpade leapfrog the other FFF Racing Lamborghini for what was second place on the road when, approximately three laps later, the Safety Car intervened and red flags brought the race to a premature conclusion.
Second for the #5 of Bartholomew and Ghorpade and third for the #15 of Goddard and Schreiner was well-received by all in the FFF Racing camp, but the Roger Dubuis-backed team faced an uphill battle from the back end of the grid in race two (Saturday 11 February).
From 11th, Schreiner immediately made headway into the top ten, but was required to play a rear-guard action against a pair of hard-charging rivals for the duration of her 20-minute stint.
The young female racer cannily stood her ground and, in doing so, ensured Goddard had a shot at moving further up the order on the run to the flag.
Consistency helped the young Australian pick off five rivals and recover a highly respectable fifth place result, while Ghorpade and Bartholomew also progressed to seventh, the latter finishing with a flourish by unexpectedly pumping in the fastest lap in the dying embers of the race while sporting heavily worn tyres.
“It was never going to be the easiest of weekends so it’s good to open the season with a second-place result,” said Bartholomew. “Qualifying was good, especially as there was less than a tenth between me and Spike (Goddard). We then sat one-two for most of race one, but mine and Parth’s driver-change was so smooth that we gained a couple of seconds and jumped ahead before the race got red-flagged.
“Race two was always going to be challenging, but Parth completed a strong stint, we had another smooth driver-change and went from 14th to seventh in the end. Setting the fastest lap when the tyres were at their oldest was a surprise to everyone and it felt like a win to me! We’ve set the bar high for the rest of the Middle Eastern series, but I’m still targeting wins in Asia.”
Goddard said: “Overall, this has been a very good weekend and I’ve really enjoyed working with FFF Racing and my teammates. Having had no pre-season testing, the Lamborghini Huracan was completely unfamiliar and it took me a while to trust the ABS. A day of running on Wednesday allowed me to get my head around it and then concentrate on chipping away at the lap times. I was very pleased to qualify second and then finish my first Super Trofeo race on the podium. It was a good showing by everybody at FFF Racing.”
Schreiner added: “My first weekend in sportscars has been a fantastic learning experience. I had a little crash in practice and lost some confidence, but I worked on that in qualifying and the races and I’m happy to have reached the podium on my Super Trofeo debut. It hasn’t been easy, but I take so many lessons into next weekend in Dubai and I feel lucky to have such a great teammate to learn from. Spike did a fantastic job throughout.”
FFF Racing Team Owner, Sean Fu Songyang, said: “The Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo is a car I’ve driven. It’s a fantastic car to race and all four of FFF Racing’s young drivers exceeded expectations in the opening round of the Middle Eastern series in Abu Dhabi. The two with more experience, Jack (Bartholomew) and Spike (Goddard), were able to push at the front the entire time and Carrie (Schreiner) and Parth (Ghorpade) used the week really well and kept progressing. To reach the podium is an amazing effort by all and I think the results put us on a good footing for the rest of the campaign.”