24H: Team WRT finishes 1-3 on BMW debut at Dubai Autodrome
Team WRT has secured its third outright win at the Hankook 24H DUBAI on its endurance racing debut as a BMW M customer outfit. FULL Results here.
A frontrunner from the get-go, the Team WRT BMW M4 GT3 (#7, Mohammed Saud Fahad Al Saud / Diego Menchaca / Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer / Jens Klingmann / Dries Vanthoor) emerged on top of a race-long battle with the Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R (#91, Daniel Allemann / Ralf Bohn / Alfred Renauer / Robert Renauer) to secure victory by just 31 seconds. In a grandstand finish, the Herberth Porsche, having short-fuelled during the final round of pit stops to prioritize track position, led the WRT BMW by just 10 seconds heading into the final 20 minutes of the race, only relinquishing this position with a splash-and-dash in the closing 10 minutes.
Back in front, Dries Vanthoor then took the #7 BMW M4 GT3 across the line to complete 621 laps of the 5.39km Dubai Autodrome and secure outright victory. This marks Team WRT’s third event win following similar successes in 2016 and 2022, as well as the first overall win for a BMW at the Hankook 24H DUBAI since Need for Speed by Schubert Motorsport’s triumph in 2011. Vanthoor and Saudi Arabian teammate Mohammed Saud Fahad Al Saud also claim their second consecutive outright wins at the Hankook 24H DUBAI.
“The challenge was big!” Team WRT principal Vincent Vosse explained to radiolemans.com’s Joe Bradley. “We know how difficult this race can be, and in the end, you need a bit of luck, great strategy from the team, and faultless work from the drivers. It was a great race, and we did learn a lot at this race about the [BMW M4 GT3]. We are missing a bit of sleep, but we will find a way to celebrate!”
2nd overall for Herberth Motorsport from 13th on the grid represents a return to form for the 2017 Hankook 24H DUBAI winner after a difficult 2022 season. 3rd place meanwhile went to the second Team WRT BMW M4 GT3 (#46, Timothy Whale / Valentino Rossi / Sean Gelael / Max Hesse / Maxime Martin), despite a near-miss with the turn five barriers during the opening stages. The result secures MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi a maiden outright podium finish on his debut as a BMW M factory driver.
Less than two minutes behind the top three, the Grove Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R (#10, Earl Bamber / Brenton Grove / Stephen Grove / Anton De Pasquale) completed an impressive run to 4th overall on the event debut of two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, Earl Bamber.
HAAS RT Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II (#21, Maxime Soulet / Mathieu Detry / Olivier Bertels / Benjamin Mazatis / Frédéric Vervisch) rounded out the overall top five after a sensational comeback drive. The Antigua and Barbuda team started 43rd after missing one of the event’s four 15-minutes qualifying sessions, and even led the race outright in the opening stages, but ended up losing time with a puncture and a collision at turn 16 during the night.
Herberth Motorsport’s second Porsche 911 GT3 R (#92, Jason Hart / Elliot Skeer / Adam Adelson / Seth Lucas) capped off a strong weekend for the Bavarian team with a problem-free 6th overall, securing Herberth a 1-2 finish in the GT3 PRO-AM category. Two places further back on the road, the Heart of Racing by SPS Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#27, Ian James / Gray Newell / Roman De Angelis / Ross Gunn) ended a metronomic run to round out the GT3 PRO-AM podium. Sandwiched between the pair, the Team GP-Elite Porsche 911 GT3 R (#32, Lucas Groeneveld / Jesse van Kuijk / Daan van Kuijk / Thierry Vermeulen) took a strong 7th overall, in spite of changes to its driver line-up shortly before qualifying.
The CP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#85, Charles Putman / Charles Espenlaub / Joe Foster / Philip Quaife / Shane Lewis) finished a typically error-free run to finish 9th overall and claim GT3-AM victory. Following its win at last December’s Hankook 12H KUWAIT, the reigning Continents GT Trophy winner has now strengthened its place at the top of CREVENTIC’s new Middle East Trophy, set to be decided at next weekend’s Hankook 6H ABU DHABI.
After overcoming suspension and damper issues very early on Saturday morning, the 7TSIX McLaren 720S GT3 (#76, James Cottingham / Andrew Gilbert / Fran Rueda / Matúš Výboh) had been closing back in on the CP Racing Mercedes only for a turbocharger issue to strike on Sunday afternoon. The series debutant nevertheless completed sufficient race distance to be classified 3rd on the GT3-AM class podium behind the Saalocin by Kox Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R (#48, Nico Pronk / Stéphane Kox / Dennis Retera / Peter Kox / Tom Boonen), the latter having lost nearly an hour to a gearbox change at the very beginning.
Reigning European GT Trophy winner Phoenix Racing (#1, Michael Doppelmayr / Pierre Kaffer / Elia Erhart / Christer Jöns) finished an impressive recovery drive to round out the overall top 10. The Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II dropped out of the top 40 altogether during the opening four hours after a coming together at turn five with the Speed Lover Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (#979, Simon Balcaen / Steven Palette / Philippe Wils / Chris Maes). Both were able to continue after repairs, though radiator and suspension damage ended up costing the Porsche an hour in the box.
The pole sitting Al Manar Racing by HRT Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#777, Luca Stolz / Fabian Schiller / Axcil Jefferies / Martin Konrad) and the front row starting ‘sister’ Abu Dhabi Racing by HRT Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#4, Hubert Haupt / Khaled Al Qubaisi / Sébastien Baud / Jules Gounon) were among the most high-profile retirements from the event. The #4 Mercedes made heavy contact with the barriers during the fifth hour, the impact causing a flash fire. Not long after that, terminal suspension failure meant the #777 Al Manar Racing Mercedes was also retired before half-distance.
Hankook 24H DUBAI staple FACH AUTO TECH ends a stellar weekend in the UAE with 1st (#962, Alexander Schwarzer / Gabriele Rindone / Larry ten Voorde / Matthias Hoffsümmer / Huub van Eijndhoven) and 2nd (#961, Peter Hegglin / Jan Klingelnberg / Christof Langer / Alexander Fach / Christopher Zöchling) in the 992 class. So swift was the Swiss team’s duo of Porsche 911 GT3 Cups, the pair were still battling for the lead heading into the closing three hours, and finished just a few laps shy of the overall top 10.
2015 24H SERIES Overall Champion Duel Racing by Toro Verde (#995, Ramzi Moutran / Nabil Moutran / Sami Moutran / Philip Keen) made a successful return to the 992 class with 3rd place ahead of early leader Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors (#955, Fabrizio Broggi / Sergiu Nicolae / Sabino de Castro), the latter having lost time to broken front left suspension during the night. Behind the lead quartet, Huber Racing (#925, Stefan Aust / Hans Wehrmann / Klaus Rader / Steffen Görig / Nico Menzel) was the highest-placed of the 992-AM runners following a race-long battle with the QMMF by HRT Thuraya Qatar Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (#929, Abdulla Ali Al Khelaifi / Ghanim Al Ali / Ibrahim Al Abdulghani / Julian Hanses).
HRT Performance’s second ‘Qatar Motor and Motorcycle’ entry (#930, Abdullah Al-Abbasi / Ibrahim Al-Mannai / Abdulaziz Al Jabri / Daniel Roos) was also among the 992-AM frontrunners in the early stages, though the Porsche was eventually retired after hitting the barriers at turn 14 on Sunday morning.
The razoon-more than racing KTM X-BOW GTX (#714, Daniel Drexel / Leo Pichler / Kris Rosenberger / Bob Bau / Ernst Kirchmayr) romped home to a commanding win in GTX from pole position – despite a brief issue with the KTM’s rear valance – ahead of the first of two Vortex V8s (#701, Philippe Bonnel / Philippe Gruau / Lionel Amrouche / Tom Pieri). The French independent looked on course for a double podium until an engine bay fire brought the sister 702 1.0 (Philippe Fertoret / Lucas Sugliano / Nicolas Nobs / Miguel Moiola) to a halt on-track. Significant damage to the ignited rear canopy meant the 702 Vortex could not continue.
The ROFGO with Dragon Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 (#408, Roald Goethe / Oliver Goethe / Benjamin Goethe / Stuart Hall / Jordan Grogor) secured the UAE team its fifth class win at the Hankook 24H DUBAI, albeit after two related collisions at turn 16 during the night. Having been tipped into a spin by the #46 Team WRT BMW M4, the Dragon Racing Mercedes then made heavy contact with the unsighted Team Sorg Rennsport Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CS (#227, Benito Tagle / Christoph Krombach / Daniel Gregor / Patrik Grütter) as it rejoined, costing the latter almost an hour in the pits.
Behind Dragon Racing, Simpson Motorsport (#438, James Kell / Cameron McLeod / Keith Kassulke / David Holloway / Vasily Vladykin) secured its brand-new second-generation BMW M4 GT4 its maiden class podium. Also running the new BMW, Century Motorsport (#429, Michael Johnston / Christopher Salkeld / Carl Cavers / Lewis Plato) took 3rd after losing time to three separate on-track clashes. In a particularly bitter blow, the sister RHC Jorgensen-Strom by Century BMW M4 GT4 (#450, Daren Jorgensen / Brett Strom / Nathan Freke / Jeroen Bleekemolen) retired on the same lap with a broken sub-frame.
After suffering two driveshaft failures in practice, a conservative setup for the AC Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS (#188, Stéphane Perrin / Yannick Mettler / Miklas Born / Sam Dejonghe) ultimately proved the key to the Belgian team’s second TCR class victory at the Hankook 24H DUBAI, and its first since 2020.
Were recurrent engine and gearbox issues not enough to contend with, both Wolf-Power Racing Audi RS 3 LMS’ also suffered on-track collisions en-route to 2nd (#117, Marcus Menden / Marlon Menden / Rob Huff / Peter Posavac) and 3rd (#121, Jasmin Preisig / Ivars Vallers / Calle Bergman / Andreas Höfler) in TCR. The former made contact with a GT3 frontrunner during the night, while the latter, which also had to replace multiple broken driveshafts, ended up in the turn 14 barriers early on Sunday morning after a coming-together with the HRT Performance Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (#931, Holger Harmsen / Fidel Leib / Mikaeel Pitamber / Gregg Gorski).
Splitting the pair, TCX class winner Team Sorg Rennsport took a hard-earned 3rd on the overall TCE podium, despite its incident with Dragon Racing at turn 16 during the night. The 700 Miles Volkswagen Golf GTi (#106, Thierry Chkondali / Marc Girard / Michel Sallenbach / Jordan Mougenot / Fabian Duffieux) meanwhile fought back from a full engine and gearbox change, as well as seat mounting issues, to finish 5th in TCR, just ahead of the second AC Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS (#199, Andy Yan / Tommy Ku / David Lau / Shaun Thong). The latter was eventually classified 5th in TCE, albeit only after losing eight hours to a full engine change.
CREVENTIC endurance racing action in the United Arab Emirates continues with the third annual Hankook 6H ABU DHABI on 21-22 January at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
On 25-26 March, the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook travels to the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello in Italy for its first European round of the year, the Hankook 12H MUGELLO. Further details regarding the 2023 24H SERIES calendar and championship standings can be found at 24hseries.com.