The battle between championship leader Cato Poulsen (Denmark) and Gulhuseyn Abdullayev (Azerbaijan) intensified this weekend as both drivers impressed with a win apiece. Saudi racer Mashuur Balhejaila withdrew from the series last week due to sponsorship issues.

CatoHowever it was Qualifying Practise that got everyone’s attention as the outcome of intensive training became so clearly evident. This crucial session is where these young stars of the future had just 12 laps to put into practise all the advice and guidance provided by GulfSport’s driver coach, Andy Pardoe who had just returned from New Zealand where he had been coaching drivers in the renowned 5-round Toyota Racing Series.

In what was perhaps the most impressive display of driving since the start of this international driving school and race series in 2012, not only did Poulsen set the fastest lap some in an astonishing 1:37.292 but all drivers set times that were faster than the existing lap record set by Tejas Hirani a year ago.

But come the start of the race it was Omar Gazzaz (KSA) who made an almighty start to take the lead from the second row and comfortably held the lead until lap 6 when a mistake enabled Poulsen to get past and take the lead which he held to the finish ahead of Abdullayev with Gazzaz  third. Poulsen set a new lap record of 1:39.299 at an average speed of more than 155kph on lap 4 whilst chasing Gazzaz.

Round 10 of the Formula Gulf Championship saw Poulsen take the lead from pole position with the newly appointed Ambassador to the European F1 Grand Prix, Abdullayev not very far behind, and closing. But on lap 7, Poulsen finally made a mistake, which would damage his front wing on a kerb which allowed the young man from Baku to take the lead and win the race. But noticeably it was the Italian driver Giulio Peroni who set the fastest laps in the latter stages of the race as he chased down Gazzaz.

Both Poulsen and Abdullayev are attending GulfSport’s acclaimed racing school and championship in order to acquire the skills necessary to compete in F4 and EuroFormula Open (F3) respectively this summer.

The eventual Formula Gulf champion wins an F3 test in Spain with GulfSport’s partner, Campos Racing whose GP2 team driver Rio Haryanto (Indonesia) will be racing for Manor Racing in F1 this season.

The battle continues at Yas Marina Circuit on 18th March.

Ben Potter

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