Jasmin Preisig shows endurance racing spirit, clinches TCR podium in 12H Kuwait
Jasmin Preisig and her Wolf Power Racing teammates overcame an endless streak of misfortunes, including crashes and all sorts of technical failures, showing true endurance racing spirit to finish the inaugural 12 hours of Kuwait on the TCR class podium.
The anticipated season finale of the CREVENTIC 24H Series saw the first ever international race on the brand-new Kuwait Motor Town, a 5.608 km FIA Grade 1 circuit 56km north of Kuwait's capital.
Over two months after the previous round in Barcelona, the 12H of Kuwait was part of the 24H Series Championship of the Continents - as well as the newly-established Middle East Trophy Series.
After the previous 6 championship events - starting from the classic 24H of Dubai, to the 12H of Mugello, which opened the European Championship - until two 24-hour races in Portimao and Barcelona, the CREVENTIC series has once again showcased great female talent among its numerous classes.
A historic overall victory for reigning champion Samantha Tan in Mugello made global headlines, while Katarina Kyvalova took GT4 glory in Portimao. Crarie Schreiner, Corinna Gostner, Chantal Prinz and the Yoloc sisters Yasmeen and Aliyyah all made appearances in the GT division, while it would be once again Swiss ace Jasmin Preisig to battle for the TCE title for the second year in a row, in the Wolf Power Racing entry.
At the wheel of the #116 Audi RS3 LMS TCR, Jasmin Preisig finished second in the European series' standings - and was the only female entry in the 12 Hours of Kuwait, sharing the car with Ivars Vallers and local racer Mohammad Al Sabah.
Unfortunately, their weekend was off to a rough start, when the team's containers - together with some other teams - were not delivered at the track until Wednesday. CREVENTIC therefore had to alter the timetable in order to allow every team the same amount of practice time, with the track being new to everyone.
But that was only the start of an endless streak of misfortunes for the Swiss team. One of Jasmin's teammates had a massive shunt in practice and, while the driver was luckily unhurt, the #116 Audi sustained very heavy damage; thanks to the Wolf Power Racing's impressive effort, mechanics rebuilt the car overnight and drivers could take the start from third in the TCR class on Friday afternoon.
Their race, though, would quickly turn into the most trying challenge of the team's season.
With Ivars Vallers behind the wheel at lights out, the #116 Wolf Power Racing Audi initially held third in class, but was back in the pits less than 20 minutes into the race, with the front splitter coming loose. Mechanics fixed the issue and sent Vallers back out - albeit already two laps down the class leader - but he had the worst luck to collect the tyre carcass lost by the Team Kuwait by MRS GT-Racing Porsche. The impact destroyed the radiator and the whole front end of the #116 Audi, which returned to the garage on the flatbed truck.
The Swiss team lost one further hour for repairs but then managed to send Preisig out on track, with true endurance racing spirit. There was no luck for the young Swiss lady as well, who could only complete 2 laps before the hood came loose and had to pit once again.
The series of technical issues and misfortunes continued: four hours into the race, the #116 entry had completed less than 30 laps, before Jasmin Preisig had her first relatively smooth stint.
Soon after, though, the car was wheeled back into the garage with more issues, as drivers reported big vibrations and the Wolf Power Racing mechanics worked on every possible component - from brakes to differential.
The night fell on the scenic Kuwait Motor Town and Preisig handed over to Vallers after a pit for fuel. The team could log more laps and closed in on the #188 AC Motorsport Audi TCR, who also had troubles and spent many hours in the garage.
The TCR class was meanwhile dominated from start to finish by the #159 BBR Monlau Cupra, driven by the all-Thai squad of Promsombat-Sathienthirakul-Kusiri-Kusiri-Asiralertsir.
Showcasing all their determination, Wolf Power Racing endured and overcame more issues to front suspensions and were back on track once again, for more stints by Preisig, Vallers and Al Sabah, who got behind the wheel in the second half of the race.
They eventually completed 190 laps, finishing fourth in the TCE division and second in the TCR class.
While certainly a proving event that tested all members of the team, the #116 Audi crossed the finish line of the 12 Hours of Kuwait, in a performance that encapsulates the spirit of the championship.
There was plenty of drama in the overall classification as well: the ARC Bratislava Lamborghini of Miro Konopka / Matej Konopka / Zdeno Mikulasko took the lead at lights out and led the opening ten minutes, but was then hit by a series of right-rear punctures that eventually forced the #44 Huracan GT3 to retirement. The pole-sitting Team Kuwait by MRS GT-Racing Porsche also was slowed down by punctures.
The #85 CP Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 and the #32 Team GP Elite Porsche 911 GT3 R traded places at the top, but it would be the Mercedes, already winner of the 24H of Portimao, to eventually settle in the overall lead.
When Charles Putman / Charles Espenlaub / Joe Foster / Shane Lewis seemed to have the win in the bag with 3 hours to go, the leading Mercedes spun off track and got stuck in the gravel while passing a lapped Porsche GT3 Cup. The CP Racing squad lost two laps to the new leaders - the Team GP Elite trio of Lucas Groeneveld / Jesse van Kuijk / Daan van Kuijk - who seized the opportunity and safely led into the final hour.
Incredibly, the Dutch team's Porsche came to a halt with 45 minutes to go and retired with a drivetrain issue. The #85 Mercedes therefore re-claimed the lead and took its second overall win of the season, with Putman, Espenlaub, Foster and Lewis becoming the first ever winners of the 12H of Kuwait.
Mohammad Al-Kazemi / Zaid Ashkanani / Ahmad Al Ghanem brought the #47 Team Kuwait by MRS Porsche across the finish line in second place overall, as the 992 class Red Camel Jordans Porsche of Breaukers/Breukers/Breukers secured an impressive class win and overall podium in third.
The #714 Razoon-more than racing KTM X-Bow driven by Dominik Olbert, Daniel Drexel and Haytham Qarajouli also deserved a honorable mention: the Austrian team was leading the GTX class, when the car suffered an engine issue and a fire in the refuelling area. Fitted with a new engine and gearbox, the KTM reappeared on track two hours later, survived a further alternator problem to finish third in GTX.
Pasarit Promsombat,Tanart Sathienthirakul, Kantadhee Kusiri, Kantasak Kusiri and Anusorn Asiralertsiri were flawless in their lights to flag victory in TCE and TCR, rounding out a perfect season for the #159 Cupra TCR of the Thai outfit, that thus secured the overall TCE Teams title both in the European and Continents championships.
The popular endurance series will return to the track in a month's time, with its traditional January meeting of the Dubai 24H. The 2023 calendar will then include the 6H of Abu Dhabi - next year part of the Middle East Trophy Series - before heading to Europe, for 12 hour races at Mugello, Spa Francorchamps, Monza, Estoril. The 24 Hours of Barcelona will round out the European campaign, as the final round is yet to be confirmed.