The tenth edition of the Dubai 24 hours, heralding the arrival of a new sponsor in the shape of Hankook tyres, may not have been the edge-of-your-seat thriller of a race that we have become used to in GT3 races these days, but nevertheless, it provided a worthwhile curtain-raiser to the 2015 season.

In a nutshell, the Black Falcon Mercedes team did everything right – at least the crew of the no. 2 car did – and their win became, from the half-distance point onwards as inevitable as it was well-deserved. Hubert Haupt, Yelmer Buurman, Oliver Webb and Abdulaziz Al Faisal kept the car out of the way of trouble in a race that, with 89 starters, was always going to be a question of survival in the early stages.

The car was quick and the drivers stuck to their task well and it was a race in which the battle for second was the one that held the attention, once the Black Falcon car had established a two lap lead.

Unusually, the drivers shared the duties pretty evenly, cycling through in the same order: Buurman, Haupt, Al Faisal, Webb throughout the race; only the Dutchman getting an extra stint in order to bring the car home in its final stint. In terms of laps completed, the breakdown was as follows:

Driver Stint Percentage (laps):

Hubert Haupt 167 laps 27.6%
Yelmer Buurman 153 laps 25.3%
Oliver Webb 142 laps 23.5%
Abdulaziz Al Faisal 142 laps 23.5%

The drivers were pretty well-matched in terms of their lap times, too. The table shows the average lap time for each, based on the average of the best 20% of the ‘green’ (i.e. non-code 60) laps driven.

Driver Time:

Haupt 2m 02.022s
Buurman 2m 01.465s
Webb 2m 02.895s
Al Faisal 2m 02.902s

Apart from speed, the other key to winning a race like this was to keep the car out of the pits. The table shows the time spent in the pits for the leading cars:

No. Car Time in Pits (inc fuelling) No. of stops
2 Black Falcon Mercedes 1h 20m 37s 20
3 Ram Racing Mercede 1h 36m 56s 23
88 Dragon Racing Ferrari 1h 19m 41s 21
28 KPM Aston Martin 1h 36m 57s 22
23 Team RJN Nissan GT 1h 32m 58s 23
4 Scuderia Praha Ferrari 1h 44m 33s 22
99 Attempto Racing Porsche 1h 21m 34s 22

As I already mentioned, the race for second place was particularly enthralling, made more so by the fact that the Dragon Racing Ferrari was running in the “Am” category of the A6 class, unlike either the RAM Racing Mercedes SLS or the KPM Aston Martin Vantage. Creventic’s cleverly-constructed regulations allow cars in the Am category to run 30kg lighter and to take on 5 litres more fuel at each stop, but limit the cars in the class to a so-called “minimum reference lap time” of 2m 04s, under which they are not allowed to go.

With this in mind, it is interesting to compare the number of laps completed by each of the above-mentioned cars in each time bracket:

No. Car sub 2m 02s 2m 02s to 2m 04s 2m 04s to 2m 06s 2m 06s to 2m 08s
2 Black Falcon Mercedes 42 212 195 66
30 Ram Racing Mercedes 45 250 152 50
88 Dragon Racing Ferrari 5 3 350 125
28 KPM Aston Martin 74 192 143 81
23 Team RJN Nissan GT 1 4 244 165

The rules permit cars running in the Am category to use ten “jokers”, enabling them to go under the 2m 04s lap time: Dragon Racing (or perhaps more precisely, Matt Griffin) used eight of these. What is particularly impressive is the 350 laps run between 2m 04s and 2m 06s. Griffin did 11 laps (out of 135) over 2m 07s (not Code 60 or pit stop laps), Rob Barff just 7 out of 119. An astonishingly consistent performance.

Could anyone else than Black Falcon have won the race? Barring an unexpected incident affecting the progress of the no. 2  car, not really. Looking at the average of the best 20% of lap times is a good indicator of outright performance.

No. Car Average Lap Time
1 Stadler Porsche 2m 01.894s
2 Black Falcon Mercedes 2m 01.458s
3 Black Falcon Mercedes 2m 01.794s
4 Scuderia Praha Ferrari 2m 02.528s
12 Fach Auto Tech Porsche 2m 01.500s
19 V8 Racing Corvette 2m 02.473s
28 KPM Aston Martin 2m 01.485s
30 Ram Racing Mercedes 2m 02.029s

Whilst it is certainly true that all the cars that finished in the top six were worthy of their finishing positions, this table of average lap times shows how well the Creventic rules balance performance. Six different manufacturers’ cars comprise the top ten positions. And in terms of the average lap times, the fact that three-hundredths of a second per lap separates the top cars from Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Aston Martin is remarkable indeed.

Surely the first win for an Aston Martin in a 24-hour race for GT3 cars cannot be far away?

martijn AT sportscarglobal.com