Costas Papantonis was crowned 2012/2013 NGK Racing Series Class 1 champion in May, adding to his impressive collection of awards in UAE motorsport. The Gulf Petrochem backed driver looked back on the season past while also looking forward to the new season which got underway in October.
The modest 51 year old Greek, who has lived in Fujairah for many years, gave an assessment of his title winning season in the Mouhritsa Racing Team Seat, “The feeling is familiar but still great. A championship title is the ultimate reward for the driver, team and sponsors for all the efforts, hard work and team work for a whole season.”
“Unfortunately Class 1 was not the most popular one this season. So, there were not so many challenges to deal with. It was a smooth season for me where I mainly concentrated on improving the car and driver,” pointed out Papantonis.
Papantonis’ son Alex Annivas was one of the leading lights in the tightly contested Clio Cup – race within a race in the NGK Series – which went down to the wire.
And it is the battle for this title that was the highlight for the team said Papantonis, “The highlight of the year for our team was the battle of my son Alex for the Clio Cup and Class 2 championships. The title was decided at the last race in the very last corner by 0.13 sec. These stats prove the close and competitive racing. Well done to Alex and to his fellow competitors for the exceptional driving and congrats to all the champions.”
It seldom rains in Dubai, but when it does it can be daunting especially on a race day. For Papantonis Round 2 of the series at Dubai Autodrome was memorable for the fact that it was unusual and raised many unusual questions.
He recalled, “The day started with all kinds of uncertainties: ‘was it going to rain? Were we going to race? What about wet tyres?’ But it turned out to be a good day for my son Alex and I. We locked out the front row of the grid and in the end we had a win apiece, a nice present on my birthday!”
The off-season is a chance for drivers and teams to regroup, but right now – with a month to go to the before engines fire up in anger once again – plans are being drafted for the 2013/2014 UAE racing season.
“After the season it was back to work and drawing board for the this next season. Summer holidays helped us relax and recharge the batteries,” said Papantonis. “Although final decisions are not yet made, it is likely that I will defend the title in Class 1.”
Although in the lower classes the grids were bigger and very competitive, in Class 1 the field was thin and at times Papantonis was the sole entry.
Asked how he, as a very experienced campaigner, would boost grids on the local UAE motor racing scene, particularly in touring cars format.
“Without doubt single make series offers the most competitive racing and if managed sensibly can be very affordable. It is great to notice that the Clio Cup grid is growing fast and I would do my best to support it. Our team runs two of these cars already. However, I would never neglect the other classes within the championship. We must try hard and bring back to the track all these touring cars which we know are lying idle in the garages around the UAE,” ventured Papantonis.
Motorsport is a team sport, where the driver is one very important element of an outfit which includes sponsors, mechanics, engineers, friends and family. Papantonis is quick to acknowledge the input of the unsung heroes in the success he has had on track.
“I would like to thank Gulf Petrochem for their trust and support for our team for this season. They are not just sponsors for us. They are great supporters of our efforts and they are active part of our team. We couldn’t have managed without them. Many thanks to Dubai Autodrome for one more successful racing season, and looking forward to many more. Last but not least we wish to thank Phoenix Motorsport for their outstanding race engineering.”
The opening round of the 2013-2104 NGK Racing Series took place at Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi on Friday Oct 18th 2013 and reigning NGK Racing Series Class 1 champion Costas Papantonis at the wheel of the Gulf Petrochem SEAT powered to victory in both races unchallenged. His expected rival Brian McGinley, in the Phoenix Motorsport Opel Astra, failed to make it on to the grid.
In Class 2 Alexandros Annivas (Gulf Petrochem Renault Clio) and Rupesh Channake (Lap57 Honda) shared a win apiece. Annivas qualified on pole and made the most of his early pace in race one to take the win. Channake recovered from brake cooling issues in the first race to snatch victory in race two.
In the UAE Clio Cup – race within a race – it was Annivas who took top honours in both races ahead of Gulf Petrochem teammate and brother Konstantinos Annivas in second place and Jonathan Mullan third.