Phil Quaife (Tunbridge Wells, Kent) and Memac Ogilvy Duel Racing began their 24H International Endurance Series campaign in emphatic fashion with a dominant TCR class win at the Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai last weekend (January 16-17).

Having transferred to the competitive TCR touring cars category for this year’s contest, the McLaren Test and Development Driver – alongside fellow co-pilots Nabil, Ramzi and Sami Moutran – arrived in Dubai eager to build on the performance that took him and his crew-mates to the A3T class title, as well as the Overall Teams’ crown, during a highly successful 2015 campaign.

The Briton consequently began the 2016 season as he means to go on, securing pole position and the fastest racing lap of all touring car entrants en route to a dominant victory that saw the quartet finish comfortably ahead of the class runners-up.

Faced with stiff competition from their TCR rivals, Quaife made the most of Friday’s dry conditions to hone the set-up on his SEAT Leon Cup Racer. Precious time spent fine-tuning the car’s balance paid dividends come the qualifying shootout’s dying moments, when he grabbed his first pole of the campaign by a commanding seven tenths.

Their pace stood the team in good stead for Saturday’s twice-around-the-clock race, with Ramzi taking the wheel for the first stint and making a flying getaway at lights out. Despite temporarily slipping back two places amidst heavy traffic, Ramzi continued to set fast lap times until the end of his solid outing, fighting through the field to regain the lead by the time he handed over to Quaife.

With multiple on-track incidents and caution periods hindering Ramzi’s progress in the opening stages, Quaife adopted a conservative strategy for his first spell behind the wheel, targeting consistently quick lap times to maintain the squad’s advantage at the front. The tactical approach put him in an ideal position to extend his lead when his second-placed class rivals hit trouble as evening fell.

Equally fast and trouble-free stints from Nabil and Sami ensured that Quaife could continue to build the quartet’s lead when he returned to the track once more. A further series of quick and clean night shifts from Ramzi and Quaife gave the team an unassailable advantage come daybreak, and the Briton completed two additional strong stints before the #1 machine crossed the line to secure a first win of the season.

The assertive performance sees Quaife and his Duel Racing team-mates leave the Arabian Desert in a highly competitive position, with the crew sitting at the top of both class championship standings and remaining in strong contention for the Touring Cars Drivers’ and Teams’ crowns.

“It was the perfect start to the season for me; I’m thrilled to pick up where we left off last year,” enthused Quaife. “Claiming pole and the fastest lap of all touring car entries is great, and starting the season on such a high at this early stage bodes well for the rest of the season. I have to thank the team for all their hard work, too, as the car was faultless throughout the weekend and a joy to drive! Obviously, moving to a new class with such competitive opponents was challenging and, given the amount of traffic from the enormous grid, we had to be performing at our absolute best. Nevertheless, we’re relishing a season-long battle with our rivals and pushed hard to be at the top of our game. Our technical knowledge of the track gave us a good edge as well, and we spent a good amount of time in qualifying sorting the balance to make both managing the car and setting consistently fast lap times much easier. The strategy worked out perfectly in the end, so I don’t think we could’ve done anything better.”

“The target is to chalk up more victories and win multiple titles once again, so hopefully we can keep up the good progress and steal a march on the competition.”

For more information on Phil Quaife please visit www.philquaife.com

Ben Potter

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