Having shown so well in practice and the qualifying races, Salih Yoluc completed a fantastic race weekend at Bahrain International Circuit, claiming the inaugural FIA GT Nations Cup for Turkey alongside teammate Ayhancan Guven in the #34 RAM Racing Mercedes GT3.
“It is an amazing result,” Salih said after the 60-minute race. “We got so much love from back home and the support from the Turkish people has been fantastic. I don’t think that even a win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans would have created such a response, so a great weekend of racing at this very first national event and I am very happy with how it went.”
The two-day race weekend got underway with two 80-minute practice sessions on the Friday, where Salih and Ayhancan shared the driving duties, setting the pace in the second session. Qualifying was split into two 20-minute sessions with Salih taking the first to qualify fourth (could have been second if there he hadn’t been blocked by the Argentina car) for the first qualifying race, while Ayhancan was third for the second, setting the scene nicely for the two one-hour races ahead.
With the results for the two qualifying races determining the grid for the Main Race on Saturday night, it was crucial to finish both events well and to achieve the best result possible; something the Turkish duo did in style.
The lights went out in the first race with Salih quickly gaining a spot from the Argentinian entry to run in third and set about closing the gap to the Hong Kong car ahead. Salih closed the gap and shadowed the Nissan but dropped down to third again after Mexico overtook him.
He made multiple attempts to pass Mexican entry but ended up being slowed down in the traffic, so the team pitted early for a driver change to giving Ayhancan a clear run. Ayhancan exited the pits and found himself in a battle with the UK entry and after a side-by-side moment at the first turn was able to take second position, one he maintained to the chequered flag.
The second qualifying race saw Ayhancan start third and make a brave move down the inside into the first turn to take the lead. He remained at the front before handing over to Salih, who in turn controlled the gap to the cars behind – despite a safety car closing up the field – to take a great win for Turkey and claiming the Pole Position for the Main Race.
Under the stunning floodlit circuit, Salih lined up in the number one position in the 18-nation field ahead of the UK, Russia and the rest of the field in what would be a closely fought contest. Salih made a great start, while the Belgian entry went for a wild ride into retirement at the first turn. Salih continued in the lead following the safety car period, battling wheel to wheel with the UK and Mexican Ferraris that clearly enjoyed a performance advantage under braking.
Battling for position, Salih lost out initially to the UK car but remained right in range ahead of the driver change. Ayhancan soon closed down the margin to take the lead and then control the pace from the front to a historical first victory in the FIA GT Nations Cup for the Turkish entry.
“RAM Racing prepared a great car as usual, even if we did not have the best brakes this weekend compared to some of our rivals, but it was our only issue on what was a great racing weekend,” Salih said. “The pass form the UK was a bit naughty with all four-wheels over the white line, but perhaps it was right on the limit – hard racing – and that is fine.
“For us, it all worked out at the end and Ayhancan did an excellent job, he has the talent and the pace and couldn’t have done more really and I’m very proud of him and this result for Turkey.”
Salih now returns to Asian Le Mans Series duties this coming weekend with United Autosports at Fuji Speedway. With a podium last time out in Shanghai and the Nations Cup victory in Bahrain, confidence is high for his second trip of the year to Japan.