May 28, 2024

Oman’s Al-Faisal Al-Zubair and Canadian team-mate Mikaël Grenier finished fourth (P2 in the Pro category) and first overall in the two races that constituted the opening round of the 2024 International GT Open at the Autodromo Internacional Algarve in Portimão at the weekend.


In tricky weather conditions and after an early collision, the Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed Mercedes-AMG GT3 duo drove superbly to snatch second place in the Pro category in the first of the races on Saturday afternoon and then claimed victory under a yellow flag in the second one-hour race on Sunday. Despite not planning to contest the whole series, Al-Zubair and Grenier now lead the 2024 International GT Open by four points after round one.


Al-Zubair said: “It was a great race weekend. If we look at it at a whole, yesterday’s race didn’t go according to plan, as we were hit by a Lamborghini in turn one and we lost all positions and went back to last and finished the race in fourth with great pace that we had. Despite the spin, we should be very happy with that result.


“Then, today, we got to show how it is with no real issues. We just got our heads down and made a good getaway with Mick going into the lead. I managed the safety car restart and finished it off. We are very happy with everything as a whole and, hopefully, there will be more wins to come this season.”


Al-Zubair and Grenier topped the Pro category times in the first of the free practice sessions with a fastest lap of 1min 49.639sec on a damp track. They finished fifth in the second stint in drier conditions but, when the two sessions were combined, they were classified in third behind Getspeed colleagues Anthony Bartone and Fabian Schiller and the Spirit of Race Ferrari duo of Morten Strömsted and Thomas Ikin.


Al-Zubair qualified the Al-Manar Racing car in sixth place in the Pro category for the first 70-minute race on Saturday afternoon. The Omani carded a best lap of 1min 59.676sec in tricky wet track conditions and finished the stint behind Getspeed’s Schiller, a pair of Team Motopark Mercedes, the Car Collection Motorsport Porsche and the Spirit of Race Ferrari.


But the opening race delivered a much more positive display after the early collision and the Al-Manar Racing car clocked the fastest lap of the entire race – a run of 1min 42.459sec – as Al-Zubair and Grenier stormed through the field to finish in second place in the Pro category behind Bartone and Schiller in the Getspeed Mercedes and fourth overall after several incidents occurred in the early stages of the race that started in wet conditions after a thunder storm.


Team Motopark’s Lukas Dunner and Charles Bateman confirmed a Mercedes 1-2-3 on the Pro class podium.


Grenier placed the Al-Manar Racing Mercedes in third on the grid for the second race on Sunday afternoon. The Canadian ran for 12 laps in the second qualifying session and posted a best run of 1min 40.788sec on his ninth tour of the Portuguese circuit. That put the Mercedes duo on the grid behind Dominik Baumann and Mikaeel Pitamber in the SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes and the Car Collection Motorsport Porsche in the hands of Gustav Bergström and Nico Menzel.


Grenier made a solid start to the second one-hour race and moved up to second place before handing over to Al-Zubair. The duo held station through the driver change and Al-Zubair headed Pitamber by 6.5 seconds after 21 laps with a little over 20 minutes of the race remaining.


Al-Zubair continued to pull away from his rivals and was running nine seconds ahead of Pitamber when the yellow flag was raised and the safety car was deployed with less than a quarter of an hour to run. Al-Zubair then had to keep his concentration and

stay ahead of the hard-challenging Mercedes when racing resumed with 11 minutes on the clock.


The safety car was deployed again four minutes later after an incident involving two Pro Am cars and an Amateur entrant, as Al-Zubair continued to lead under the yellow flag with the clock ticking down.


The race eventually finished under the yellow flag with Al-Zubair and Grenier claiming a memorable outright victory. Pole-sitters Pitamber and Baumann came home second and the Team Motopark Mercedes crew of Diego Mancheca and Marcos Siebert rounded off an all-Mercedes podium.


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