Dubai: Qatari driver Amro Al Hamad secures historic Podium finish in Hankook Dubai 24hr with MARC Cars team
Doha, Monday 12th January, 2015-In a historic result for Qatar, Amro Al Hamad has secured a second place podium finish in his first ever endurance race, during the Hankook Dubai 24hr.
On the 10th anniversary of this endurance event, 89 cars took to the track at the race start, on Friday 10th at 2:00pm. Amro was part of a four man team in car #92 alongside Australian V8 super cars enduro driver Dean Fiore, James Kaye the former BTCC champion from UK, and touring cars masters driver Tony Karanfilovski, also from Australia.
Entered alongside two sister MARC cars in the SP2 class, the 500 BHP Ford Focus 5.0Ltr V8, was up against some fierce competition in a field of top International drivers and teams.
Starting in the middle, James Kaye took the start, and after only two laps into the race there was the first of thirteen Code 60 flags that reduced the speed of the field to 60kph during an incident, most opting to come into the pits for fresh tyres or to make adjustments.
Maintaining position in the SP2 class, Amro got his first stint in the car after around 2 hours, still during daylight, he took over from James Kaye. By the race end Amro would complete six hours of driving over three stints, during sunset, night time and early morning.
“I couldn’t believe the field of cars racing all together, I’m used to up to 20 cars in general so it was a big shock racing with so many cars all at different speeds, although we are running in the SP2 class we were still racing for overall position and alongside the GT3 cars our laps were faster than half the grid. I just tried to focus on staying on line and watching out for potential contact, as all cars were dicing with each other at every corner. The faster leading cars flash their lights to warn you they are approaching which helps a little but you need to have your eyes wide open to avoid any incidents,” commented Amro after his first stint.
The race wasn’t without its incidents as during the 1st night stint with James Kaye behind the wheel, the car had to come to the pits to repair damage in the suspension rocker that gave way after it held for so long after contact on the rear rim by a Porsche in the first few laps of the race. Then the car went out with Tony behind the wheel and took a hit in the right rear side breaking a rim and rear suspension coming out of turn 16. When it was time for Dean’s night stint the car came back to the pits with a broken gear linkage and the team worked with that very efficiently and the car was out again.
When it was time for Amro’s night stint he received the car in the 34th position and took it all the way to 24th, taking the car to P1 in class, since the beginning of the race and stayed there till around 9am.
At around 9am on the Saturday morning, Amro was in the car when the team took their first big crash, in turn 7 Amro’s car struck an oil patch from another damaged car and without any steering control he slid into the barrier causing damage to the front of the car. Amro returned to the pits to assess the damage, which was thankfully mainly cosmetic and the team patched up the bodywork to return to the race, this took 45mins to fix.
“I just can’t describe how gutted I felt when I hit the wall this morning, I really thought I had very bad damage to the car and was worried it would be race ending. Fortunately I and the car were able to race again. I just hit the oil patch and lost control in the turn, I was a passenger in the car and couldn’t do anything to stop,” said Amro.
After 498 laps of the 5.3km Autodrome circuit, Amro’s #92 MARC team claimed their much deserved second place podium position in the SP2 class, just losing out to sister MARC car #91 by only four laps, and ahead by 8 laps on their nearest rivals in the Boutsen Ginion Maserati GT. The third MARC car #93 also made the finish line in 63rd place after a total time of 6hrs in the pits to repair damage.
With both MARC team cars on the podium it was a very good result for the team who worked tirelessly throughout the two days of continuous competition without sleep.
“This is a historic result for both myself and my country of Qatar, I am the first Qatari driver to enter this international race and also to take a podium position just on my race debut, I feel very proud for Qatar and I want to thank my sponsor Qatar Shell for the support to do this race. I’m so thankful to the entire MARC team who did a truly amazing job, the car was fantastic throughout and the set up was perfect, even with the unfamiliar right hand drive, and the night time racing.”
“I still managed to keep a good pace with the top drivers so I am really happy that I performed well for the team, we were really looking to take the win but we just couldn’t close the four laps with our sister car, but what a great result, to even make the finish line is a great achievement in this race, it is real test of man and machine for drivers and the team, I can’t wait to go again. In fact I have been invited by James Kaye to join him to compete in the Silverstone 24hrs in UK, I hope with the right support I can achieve this result again for Qatar,” enthused Amro after the race.