Dunlop 24Hrs – January – 15/16th 2010
Where else in the world would you have the opportunity to watch acclaimed drivers from Nascar such as Michael Waltrip and Marcus Ambrose squaring up against Drifting champions like Tanaguichi and Orido from Japan, where a nimble Clio can do battle against the exclusive marques such as Aston Martin and Ferrari, none other than the now ‘celebrity filled’ Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai.
This endurance race is one of the favorites in the annual calendar for many reasons, loved by drivers, teams and the organizers it certainly has its main attraction of a favorable climate compared to snowstorms and freezing temperatures back home for most of the European teams that had entered.
This year the endurance race is in its fifth year, it has come a long way in development since those early days in 2005, now featuring a field of 80 cars, with more than 26 nationalities representing 21 countries. Even in these tough economic times it demonstrates the strength of the championship and how it has grown to be an all inclusive race, welcoming various makes of racecar, giving most rookie endurance drivers a fast-track opportunity to test their metal, quite literally. This year the rain stayed away and the unusually cool temperatures made the 24hrs highly enjoyable for the supporters and drivers alike.
The rumble coming down the main straight at 2:00pm local time, caused vibrations across the Emirate of Dubai. Cars ranging from 600 horsepower ‘specials’ to 125 saloon cars, shook the foundations of the newly built nearby apartments.
The practice qualifying sessions are spilt into daytime and evening practice, there were a few new local teams from Dubai who entered the race for the first time, and of course they were no strangers to Dubai night traffic and proved to do quite well.
It was a three car battle from the outset, between the Porsche and BMW teams who took a solid grasp on the race from the outset. The Porsche 997 GT3 RSR from French IMSA Performance Matmut 1 Team, swept the leader board from the outset in Practice, Qualifying and during the race they. Drivers Raymond Narac, Patrick Pilet and Marco Holzer, reveled in their Dubai debut. The inefficient fuel consumption of the car, meant more fuel stops at every 50 minutes compared to almost 2 hours for Cup cars and 4 hours for the diesels, but this was neutralized by their super efficient three driver strategy which never saw them drop below third place during the entire race, taking over all victory after 608 laps, with driver changeovers happening in 48s or less.
The first of many “Code 60” flags (a maximum speed flag for all competitors of 60kph on track used instead of the pace car) came out only one hour into the race when the Red Camel Racing Saker sports car (Krant, Sauriol, Breukers, Thijsen, Verkoelen) spun off.
During the next hour, the Gravity Racing Mosler, SP2 class (Loris de Sordi, Vincent, Radermecker, Gerard Lopez, Eric Lux) originally had qualified second, but was relegated to the back of the grid after not all of the team’s drivers had been able to complete the mandatory number of laps in the dark in night practice due to an engine blow-up. However, less than one hour into the race, with Radermecker at the wheel, the car already showed in the top ten, having passed 60 cars, finally finishing 3rd in class.
A variety of technical hitches, racing incidents and on track spins beset a number of top teams with varying consequences, only 10 hours into the race the AF Corsa Ferrari F430 GT with Waltrip at the wheel was involved an unavoidable head on collision with the Hungarian Zengo team in their Seat Leon Supercopa, both cars had to retire. Hungarian driver Tamas Horvath was rushed to the medical center, with a broken collarbone, Waltrip escaped unharmed.
The 24hr endurance races are invariably extreme forms of motorsport, testing man and machine to the limits, the onus would be on teamwork, consistency, and most importantly stamina throughout the rigors of the 24hr event. One local team who had all this in measure was LAP57 Racing in their Honda Civic Type R (Omran Al Owais, Khan, Al Mehairi, Mohd Al Owais) proud to fly the UAE flag, in their understated home built racing car. Although not the most impressive car on the lineup, it surprised many as it limped home in the end to give the team the finish they so rightly deserved. Having started from the pit lane due to a qualifying error, and suffering several gearbox failures throughout the race, the team struggled through even posting a fastest lap time for their class in A2.
Team DXB Racing also from Dubai, campaigned their well prepped Aston Martin GT4, (Gaillard, Simmonds, Griffin, Quaife,.Barff) suffered various driveshaft misfortunes, they had hoped to repeat their outstanding performance of a class win last year, but could only manage fourth in the SP3 class behind another local Abu Dhabi team, AUH Motorsports 2 (Al Masaood, Kapadia, Prophet, Charles) in their unmistakable colorscheme, finishing first in SP3 class, and 16th place overall.
Also impressing in their debut in the 24 Hours of Dubai were locally based Duel Racing Team who drove their Renault Clio to second place in the Class A2 with their drivers the Moutran brothers Sami, Ramzi and Nabil along with Bahraini Shaikh Salman bin Rashid Al Khalifa, taking a second place in the A2 class.
The Saudi Arabia’s Al Faisal team are regular faces all over the Middle East region, cleaning up in most race series they enter, at the Dubai 24hrs it was no different as they peeled their way through the grid, having campaigned the past two years, coming in second place overall last year, the Al Faisals were confident of a repeat performance. Running two BMW cars this year, the Z4 (Al Faisal, Huertgen, Hartung, Al Faisal) and the Team 2 car BMW M3 GT4 (Al Faisal, Viebahn, Spooner, Al Mouri) that came home in 17th place and 2nd in the SP3 class.
Having maintained the third place throughout the race, this year the close family team were denied the second position by another BMW Z4 of the Petronus Syntium team 1 (Taniguchi, Yanagida, Hairuman, Stuck,Yoshida), the battle for second place came down to the wire until only a few hours from the finish when Khaled Al Faisal had to retire due to a rib injury.
With the end in sight and the IMSA Porsche team comfortably in the lead with a 2 lap cushion the French team had enjoyed an unbeatable flag to flag victory in their Dubai 24hrs debut.
The top three:
1. Narac/Pilet/Holzer (F/F/D), Porsche 997 GT3 RSR, 608 laps in 24.01.34.668
2. Taniguchi/Yanagida/Hairuman/Stuck/Yoshida (J/J/MAL/LIE/J), BMW Z4, 3 laps
3. Al Faisal/Hürtgen/Hartung/Al Faisal (KSA/D/D/KSA), BMW Z4, 5 laps
The class winners:
A2 # 89 Team Sally Racing Renault Clio
A3T # 74 Sunred 1 SEAT Leon Supercopa
A4 # 88 Team Black Falcon 2 BMW Z4 Coupé
A5 # 40 Petronas Synthium Team BMW Z4 Coupé
A6 # 66 IMSA Racing Performance Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
D1 # 112 Marcos Racing International 1 BMW 120D
D2 # 33 BMW Team Hungary with E.D. BMW 120D
SP1 # 168 Bovi Motorsport Brokernet Silversting
SP2 # 111 Team Black Falcon 1 BMW M3 E92
SP3 # 122 AUH Motorsports 2 Aston Martin Vantage GT4