For the end of the racing season 2017, Rinaldi Racing traveled to Abu Dhabi for the 12 hours race. The team competed in this race with the Ferrari 488 GT3 and the drivers Rinat Salikhov, Marco Seefried, and Norbert Siedler.
It was the seventh edition of the Gulf 12 hours race. The starting grid had 26 cars – GT3, LMP3, and various other racing car classes.
During the four free practices, the drivers could adapt themselves to the track conditions, especially Rinat Salikhov, who has never been racing there before. Also during the mandatory night practice, the team always positioned themselves in the top 10. At the qualifying, the team with the starting number 33 reached the eighth position.
The 12 hours race was scheduled on Saturday. The race was split into two races with six hours and a break in between.
Norbert Siedler started from the fourth starting grid and already after the first lap, he gained two positions. During his stint, Siedler was able to go with the speed of the leader. After an hour, he went to the pits for the first mandatory stop, where he handed over the Ferrari to Marco Seefried. Back on track, the Ferrari was now on position four with a gap of 45 seconds on the leader. Although Seefried caught the third place, after the half of his stint, he had to come back to the pits due to a tire damage. The pit stop crew changed the tire and send Marco back on track – back on the fifth position. At the next stop, Rinat Salikhov was behind the steering wheel of the Ferrari 488 GT3 and began his stint on the fourth position. One and a half hour before the end of the race, the safety car was deployed. Normally the teams had to do their last mandatory pit stop one hour before the end of the race and under safety car conditions, it was not allowed. Anyway, the race control allowed to do the last stop under safety car. Due to a good strategy, the team gained a lot of time and went back on track as second overall. The first half of the race was finished under the safety car period. At the end, just five racing cars crossed the finish line in the same lap. The gap on the rest of the grid was already one lap.
For the start of the second race, Norbert Siedler was back in the car; this time from the second position. He kept his place during the start and tried to catch up the leader. Also, during the next stops, the Rinaldi Racing crew did a faultless job. In the early evening a little moment of shock – rain started. But it was not raining enough for wets, so Seefried stayed out on track. The fight for the first three positions was between three racing cars. Again and again, the team went from position one to position two and from position two to position three. Although Rinat Salikhov drove very good lap times in the Ferrari, the team could not reduce the gap to the leader. At the fourth and last mandatory pit stop, Seefried was back in the car. The gap to the leader was too huge to catch him. But due to a good speed, the team kept a constant gap to the third overall, an LMP3 car. At the end, Rinaldi Racing cheered the second position overall at the 12 hours race of Abu Dhabi.
Michele Rinaldi: „This was an exciting race and at the end, we were rewarded with the second place. Drivers and team did a great job. Of course, it was hard to beat Kessel, as they won this race twice before. We had great fights and during the race, we won against the LMP3 cars and extended the gap. An amazing result for the last race of the 2017 season. We want to thank Rinat Salikhov for his awesome performance and an amazing end of season experience.“