Bold strategic call gives Buggyra ZM Racing superb victory in 24H Series opening in Abu Dhabi
Following a gruelling two weeks on the Dakar Rally, Aliyyah Koloc and David Vršecky claimed a sensational GT4 victory in the Abu Dhabi 6 Hours, the opening round of the 2023 24H Series, alongside team-mate Adam Lacko
The trio, at the wheel of the Buggyra ZM Racing Mercedes AMG-GT4, started third in the category and were running second entering the closing stages before a brave strategic call and tyre management from Vršecky secured the win late on.
The result marks the perfect start to the circuit racing season for the team and for Koloc, particularly as it was the first time the Dubai-born teenager had driven the picturesque Yas Marina track.
“We had just finished the Dakar Rally a few days before and, after two weeks of driving in the desert, it was a little strange to get back onto the circuit from off-road again,” said Aliyyah Koloc.
“I feel really good, it was a really good race, but difficult at the same time. There was a lot of strategy, but the team and David and Adam did really well, and we got the win. It was really tight with the other GT4 but then it was a lot of counting and strategy and this was really stressful! But in the end, it was really good, and David finished the stint and drove well. I also had a lot of fun here in Yas Marina, and driving in the night was also really cool, so I am happy with the race.”
Buggyra ZM Racing team principal Martin Koloc reflected: “I am so proud of this team; it’s been an incredible journey and we have been working so hard for the past few months. We have had to recover from the Dakar, David and Aliyyah have been so tired after the month in the desert; Adam came prepared and did a great job actually. The whole team worked great, the strategy was good and how we adapted the strategy helped us win.”
Free Practice and Qualifying
The opening weekend of the new season began on Friday, with four dedicated test sessions aimed at getting the crews back up to speed around the 5.281km 21-turn circuit. The team spent these sessions collecting valuable tyre data, while the drivers adapted back to GT4 machinery after a long period away from the circuit.
After posting the second-fastest time in official free practice on Saturday morning, heavy traffic meant that qualifying unfortunately did not go to plan and the trio ended up third on the grid in class.
Vršecky took the start in the #416 car and made good progress during the opening lap, moving up a position to run second. For the majority of the first stint, Vršecky’s pace was strong, and he was regularly challenging the BMW in front for the class lead.
By the end of the first hour, the car was in the lead as the safety car was deployed following a spin by a GTX class Porsche on the exit of the final corner. After the driver changes, the top two positions changed frequently, with the #416 leading once again by the end of the second hour.
After the halfway point and as night fell, the race then turned on its head as the team made a bold strategic decision towards the end. With Koloc at the wheel, the car was firmly in the hunt for the victory but knew that a different approach would be key to jumping the leader.
The team therefore elected to not change tyres at the final driver change – where Vršecky jumped onboard – and only refuel. This saved the team significant time but force Vršecky to carefully manage the tyre life amid decreasing grip levels in the final stages. Unbeknown to the team, the rival #405 car was handed a two-minute penalty for overtaking under the safety car, handing Vršecky the lead. Even without the penalty for the #405, Vršecky and his team-mates would have won the race by just over half a second.
Speaking about the race victory, David Vršecky said: “It was really an amazing race for us, to be on the podium at the end of the six-hour race and to win it too. We started third and then moved up to second place and eventually pushing for first place. We made a good strategy call but only refuelling and leaving the tyres on for the next stint, saving time in the pits. And in this car, with these tyres, it was really hard finishing the race like this because there was no grip. It was a really nice weekend, thanks to Aliyyah and Adam, they did a really great job, we really enjoyed the track, the weekend, we shared the data and the emotion of the circuit.”
“David did something which is supposed to be impossible,” said Petr Hadaščok. “We took a big risk, before knowing that our main competitor had a penalty, but we had nothing to lose because we could only gain a position and not lose one. When Aliyyah was at the wheel, we extended her part to the last litres of petrol. Because we wanted David to use the maximum allowed stint time, which is 2 hours. He did a fantastic job because driving for 260km in 1 hour 59 minutes and 26 seconds with one set of tyres is really difficult. Keeping the correct lap times until the end and not making any mistakes, that was really a great performance from him.”
Team-mate Adam Lacko added: “It was the first race for us in Abu Dhabi, on a very nice circuit, very strange circuit and I think the whole team must be happy because we did a really good result, won the race, and led almost half the race. It’s not so easy because you need to make a really good strategy but at the finish we made it as the winners, so we must all be really happy.”