Image credit: 24H SERIES.
German car manufacturer Audi has finally added victory in the Hankook 24H DUBAI to its already impressive list of achievements in the world’s major endurance races.
With their Audi R8 LMS (#19), run by Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, drivers Alain Ferté, Michael Meadows, Stuart Leonard and Laurens Vanthoor racked up a total of 588 laps of the 5.399 kilometres long Dubai Autodrome, equalling a total of 3,174.612 kilometres. Belgian driver Laurens Vanthoor drove the winning car across the finish line. “A fantastic success for our team, for Audi and for ourselves,” he commented. “With so many cars on track, it was a difficult race, probably the most difficult I have ever driven. But that is making the success feel even better.”
After impressive progress from last place on the grid, the Black Falcon team finished second with its Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 (#16, Abdulaziz Al Faisal/Oliver Webb/Adam Christodoulou/Oliver Morley/Frank Montecalvo), five laps down on the winners. Another three laps down, the C. ABT Racing Audi R8 LMS (#4, Christer Jöns/Andreas Weishaupt/Isaac Tutumlu Lopez/Matias Henkola/Daniel Abt) finished third.
With a record field of 98 cars on track, the race saw numerous incidents, particularly during the first 12 hours. Some of the front-running teams were also affected. Former Dubai race winners Black Falcon saw both its Abu Dhabi Racing Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#2, Khaled Al Qubaisi/Hubert Haupt/Jeroen Bleekemolen/Maro Engel/Indy Dontje) and its Black Falcon-Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#3, Abdulaziz Al Faisal/Hubert Haupt/Yelmer Buurman/Bernd Schneider/Michal Broniszewski) retired with damage incurred in separate collisions.
The Scuderia Praha Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 (#11, Jiri Pisarik/Peter Kox/Matteo Malucelli/Matteo Cressoni) ran in the top three for most of the first half of the race and led for 76 laps, but retired in the tenth hour due to a collision with the Primus Racing Ginetta G55 (#51, Thomas Martinsson/Johan Rosen/Marcus Fluch/Peter Larsen/Magnus Holmström). That handed the lead to the Land Motorsport Audi (#28, Marc Basseng/Christopher Mies/Carsten Tilke/Connor de Phillippi) that led for over 100 laps before losing some time due to running short on fuel early on Saturday morning.
With two and a half hours remaining, the Land Motorsport Audi retired with gearbox failure. A total number of 193 laps in the lead and the fastest race lap time of 1:58.712 minutes, set by Christopher Mies on lap three, were the only tangible results for the team. But drama didn’t end there: in the final 30 minutes, both the SPS automotive-performance Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 (#27, Alex Müller/Tim Müller/Lance-David Arnold/Valentin Pierburg) and the Konrad Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (#26, Mark Ineichen/Rolf Ineichen/Fabio Babini/Christian Engelhart/Franz Konrad) retired while on course for a podium finish.
In the A6-Am class, victory went to Swiss team Hofor-Racing with its Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 (#10, Christiaan Frankenhout/Kenneth Heyer/Roland Eggimann/Chantal Kroll/Michael Kroll), three laps ahead of the similar car from Preci-Spark (#22, David Jones/Godfrey Jones/Morgan Jones/Philip Jones/Gareth Jones). German team Car Collection Motorsport finished third with its Audi R8 LMS (#34, Ingo Vogler/Elmar Grimm/Max Edelhoff/Gustav Edelhoff/Dr. Johannes Kirchhoff). Team Lechner Racing Middle East scored a 1-2 in the Porsche 991 Cup class with its two fastest cars (#40, Saeed Al Mehairi/Bashar Mardini/Sven Müller/Hasher Al Maktoum/Jaap Van Lagen and #81, Hannes Waimer/Wolfgang Triller/Edward Jones/Christopher Zöchling/Charlie Frijns) in first and second place respectively, from Black Falcon Team TMD Friction (#61, Saud Al Faisal/Manuel Metzger/Gerwin Schuring/Saeed Al Mouri/Anders Fjordbach).
Two French teams came first and second in the SP2 class with victory for Porsche Lorient Racing with its Porsche 997 Cup S (#64, Frédéric Ancel/Christophe Bourret/Pascal Gibon/Jean-François Demorge/Philippe Polette) and the Vortex V8 GC Automobile GC 10 V8 (#203, Lionel Amrouche/Alban Varutti/Cyril Calmon/Mathieu Pontais) in second place. Belgian team Speedlover finished third with its Porsche 991 Cup (#85, Jean-Michel Gerome/Vic Rice/Richard Verburg/Dries Vanthoor/Yves Noel). British sports cars locked out the top three in the SP3 class with victory for Century Motorsport (#229, Nathan Freke/Anna Walewska/Aleksander Schjerpen/Tom Oliphant) from CWS 4×4 (#178, Colin White/Stephen Fresle/Matthew Nicoll-Jones/Hunter Abbott), both with Ginetta G55 GT4s, and the JW Bird Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT4 (#221, Rory Butcher/Jake Giddings/Liam Griffin/Kieran Griffin) in third place.
Moving into the TCR class, victory went to the reigning 24H SERIES teams’ champions, Memac Ogilvy Duel Racing with its SEAT Leon Cup Racer (#1, Ramzi Moutran/Nabil Moutran/Sami Moutran/Phil Quaife) from Zest Racecar Engineering (#130, Andrew Hack/Daniel Wheeler/Kane Astin/Lucas Orrock) and NKPP Racing (#125, Gijs Bessem/Harry Hilders/Roger Grouwels/Bert de Heus), also with SEAT cars. French Team Altran Peugeot won the A3 class with its Peugeot 208 GTi (#208, Stéphane Ventaja/Thierry Blaise/Guillaume Roman/Kim Holmgaard) from the two SEAT Leon Supercopa cars run by RKC/TGM (#99, Gavin Spencer/David Drinkwater/Wiliam Gannon/Thomas Gannon/Ricky Coomber) and RTG by Gladysz Racing (#21, Adam Gladysz/Marcin Jaros/Robertas Kupcikas/Jerzy Dudek/Simon Larsson).
The CUP1 class for BMW M235i Racing cars brought victory for QSR from Belgium (#148, Jimmy de Breucker/Mario Timmers/Luc Moortgat/Pieter Vanneste/Dylan Derdaele), followed by Duwo Racing from Luxemburg (#235, Jean-Marie Dumont/Maurice Faber/Frédéric Schmitt/Nicolas Schmitt/Thierry Chkondali) and Bonk Motorsport from Germany (#145, Philip Bethke/Volker Piepmeyer/Axel Burghardt/Michael Bonk/Liesette Braams).
German team Besaplast Racing won class A2 with its Mini Cooper S JCW (#165, Friedhelm Erlebach/Henry Littig/Fredrik Lestrup/Franjo Kovac) from UAE-based LAP 57 Racing Team with a Honda Integra Type-R (#57, Mohammed Al Owais/Abdullah Al Hammadi/Nadir Zuhour/Junichi Unemoto/Rupesh Channake) and Danish team K-Rejser with its Peugeot RCZ (#171, Jan Engelbrecht/Jacob Kristensen/Thomas Sørensen/Claus Bertelsen/Jens Mølgaard).