Frustrating ELMS finale for Ajlani at Estoril

09:00 AM in 2014 ELMS

  • Karim still pleased with racing return

Karim Ajlani’s European Le Mans Series campaign came to a premature end at Estoril last weekend (October 18/19) when the ART Grand Prix driver clashed with AF Corse’s #55 Ferrari 458 Italia in Portugal’s season-ending contest.

Alongside regular team-mates Alex Brundle and Ricardo Gonzalez, it marked the first race of 2014 that the #99 McLaren 12C GT3 failed to score points.

Despite struggling last time out at Paul Ricard, the trio quickly adapted to the former grand prix venue and immediately showed competitive pace. After continuing to unlock further speed in Saturday’s qualifying session, they secured sixth on the GTC class grid for Sunday’s four-hour race.

A change in strategy from the French squad saw Ajlani replace usual starter Gonzalez for the opening stint. The Swiss-Syrian made a promising getaway, although this was quickly neutralised on lap eight when Duncan Cameron’s #55 LMGTE-entered Ferrari 458 Italia dived inside Karim into turn one.

With the Geneva-based driver already committed, contact was inevitable as his McLaren’s front right corner clashed with Cameron’s left rear, severely damaging one of the 12C GT3’s uprights and forcing Karim to limp back to the pits for repairs. Despite some quick work from ART to get Ajlani back out, further damage to his ABS quickly became evident and with no guarantee of safely covering the 70% race distance required to score points, the #99 machine was retired on lap 23.

“Finishing the season with an accident was extremely frustrating, especially as the team has put in a tremendous effort,” admitted Karim afterwards. “I didn’t expect the Ferrari to make a move there as I’d already started to turn in. But that’s racing.”

Although he had envisaged a better end to 2014, Ajlani remains satisfied with his racing comeback, which included three top-five finishes and resulted in a strong fifth for ART in the GTC Teams’ Championship.

“I’m delighted to have joined such a professional and competent team as ART Grand Prix for my first full season in GT machinery,” Karim added. “I’d like to extend my warmest thanks to Sébastien Philippe and Frédéric Vasseur for their trust, while acknowledging the incredible work put in by the entire team throughout the year. Everyone made me feel comfortable from day one, which helped us to secure some promising results early on even if we always knew it would be a tough challenge.

“I’d also like to thank my team-mates, Alex [Brundle] and Ricardo [Gonzalez], with whom I get along extremely well, although it’s unfortunate that they were unable to race last Sunday. It was always going to be tough fighting for podium finishes in the Teams’ standings due to an unfavourable Balance of Performance, but it’s been a positive year overall.”