Series returnee Buggyra ZM Racing picked up its maiden win with CREVENTIC at last weekend’s Hankook 6H ABU DHABI, doing so after recently completing the Dakar Rally and after a bold strategic call in the closing stages of the event paid off.
Words – James Gent
Images – Petr Frýba / Buggyra Racing
Buggyra ZM Racing has applauded a “perfect start to the circuit racing season” after its GT4-class win at the 2023 Hankook 6H ABU DHABI, just one week after the team faced, and completed, the formidable Dakar Rally.
In Abu Dhabi, Buggyra made its first start in the 24H SERIES since last year’s Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, doing so less than six days after team staple Aliyyah Koloc completed her maiden Dakar Rally in the T3 Lightweight Prototype category. A fortnight of competition in the Saudi Arabian desert for Dubai-born Koloc and David Vršecky, plus the added complication of teammate Adam Lacko having no previous racing experience at the Yas Marina Circuit, meant the UAE team was hindered from the get-go. Consistent pace and a bold strategic call in the closing stages though ultimately proved the secret to GT4-class victory.
“I am so proud of this team,” team principal Martin Koloc explains in an official statement. “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 [Vršecky] and Aliyyah have been so tired after the month in the desert; Adam [Lacko] came prepared and did a great job. The whole team worked great, the strategy was good and how we adapted the strategy helped us win.”
Having dedicated much of Free Practice to tyre data, heavy traffic during the team’s qualifying runs meant the #416 Mercedes-AMG GT4 started 3rd of the three GT4 runners. Strong pace during Vršecky’s opening stint though meant Buggyra was quickly up to 2nd after the opening lap, and, after a close fight with the leading Simpson Motorsport BMW M4 GT4, eventually swept through to take the lead after 33 minutes. The UAE team retained the GT4 lead thereafter during Lacko’s first stint, albeit by just 17 seconds after two hours.
Buggyra was handed some luck during the second half of the race, first when the Ram Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 was ordered back to the pits to secure an open fuel filler cap, and later penalized two minutes for overtaking another car during a full-course yellow. Simpson Motorsport meanwhile ended its race prematurely after 47 laps when the BMW M4 sheered its alternator belt.
That left Buggyra with a handy advantage heading into the final stages, but, unaware of Ram Racing’s penalty and looking to create more of a cushion, the Czech team – racing under a UAE license – opted against changing the Mercedes’ tyres at the final driver change. This meant Vršecky had to nurse the #416 Mercedes to the chequered flag, a decision team race engineer Petr Hadaščok cites as crucial to the team’s maiden class win with CREVENTIC.
“David did something which is supposed to be impossible,” Hadaščok explains. “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 two 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.”
“It was really an amazing race for us,” Vršecky continues. “We made a good strategy call by 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.”
“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,” Aliyyah Koloc concludes. “It was a really good race, but difficult at the same time. It was really tight with the other GT4 [Ram Racing], and there 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 has expressed an interest in further outings in the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook in 2023, including the European season opener – the Hankook 12H MUGELLO – on 25-26 March, and a return to the Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS on 6-7 May.