The Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 with starting number 4 and drivers Khaled Al Qubaisi from the UAE, Ben Barker from the UK, Hubert Haupt and Manuel Metzger from Germany and Jeroen Bleekemolen from The Netherlands was confirmed as the winner of the 15th edition of the Hankook 24H DUBAI. For the first time in the event’s history, the full duration couldn’t be completed. Heavy rainfall and standing water prompted race control to red-flag the race after 7h17m. In spite of the best efforts by the staff and officials of Dubai Autodrome, continuing rainfall throughout the night and the morning prevented any further action. It was decided not to continue the race for safety reasons, a decision fully accepted and unanimously applauded by everyone in the paddock and pit lane.
From the moment the first team members and drivers arrived in Dubai, the weather had been the main talking point. Race week started in fine conditions, as usual in the United Arab Emirates, but rain was forecast for Friday and Saturday, the days on which the race was scheduled to take place. And quite a lot of rain, too, causing some worries among the teams from all over the world that had come to participate in the first international endurance race of the new calendar year. Tyre partner Hankook reacted quickly and had an additional supply of rain tyres delivered to Dubai Autodrome to be prepared for any conditions and to meet the increased demand from the participating teams.
The event officially started on Wednesday with a parade of the race cars from Dubai Autodrome to the nearby First Avenue Mall in Dubai’s burgeoning Motor City district with a large crowd in attendance. The traditional Welcome Barbecue was held on the start-and-finish straight of the circuit on Wednesday evening. Conditions were still fine for practice and qualifying on Thursday and after rain during the night also for the pre-race activities and the start of the race on Friday at 15.00 hrs local time.
The first part of the race saw entertaining on-track action, but after five hours, the intensity of the rain increased, leading to more and more water on the track and in the run-off areas. At 22.17 hrs, race control decided to interrupt the race with the red flag and all cars were parked on the main straight. Rain continued throughout the night, affecting not only the infrastructure of Dubai Autodrome, but also the city of Dubai and the rest of the Emirates. At 7.00 hrs, after thorough analyses of the situation, it was decided in mutual consent by race control, Dubai Autodrome and CREVENTIC not to resume the race on grounds of safety.
At the time the red flag came out, the Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#4, Khaled Al Qubaisi / Hubert Haupt / Ben Barker / Manuel Metzger / Jeroen Bleekemolen) was leading the race with 168 laps completed. Therefore, the German team was confirmed as the winner of the race, claiming its record fifth win in history of the Hankook 24H DUBAI after earlier success in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2018. It was also the fifth Dubai race win for Mercedes-AMG. Khaled Al Qubaisi, Hubert Haupt and Jeroen Bleekemolen now all are three-time winners of the event. Khaled Al Qubaisi, from the UAE, was behind the wheel when the race was stopped. “Conditions were extremely difficult, there were puddles everywhere,” he reported. “It is a pity we can’t continue, but there is no doubt that stopping the race is the right decision. Safety comes first.”
Two Audis, the Car Collection Motorsport entry (#88, Rik Breukers / Christopher Haase / Mike David Ortmann / Dimitri Parhofer / Markus Winkelhock) as last year’s Dubai race winner, and the MS7 by WRT car (#7, Mohammed Saud Fahad Al Saud / Michael Vergers / Dries Vanthoor / Christopher Mies / Rik Breukers), rounded out the top three, all on the same lap as the winning car.
Completing Mercedes-AMG’s clean sweep of success in the GT3 class, the MP Motorsport car (#19, Daniël de Jong / Henk de Jong / Bert de Heus / Jaap van Lagen) took the spoils in the GT3-Am class, two laps ahead of the Toksport WRT Mercedes (#70, Axcil Jefferies, Alexander Hrachowina / George Kurtz / Martin Konrad / Finlay Hutchinson) and three laps clear of the Dinamic Motorsport Porsche (#28, Roberto Pampanini / Ivan Jacoma / Maurizio Calamia / Stefano Monaco / Mikkel Overgaard Pedersen).
The best-placed GTX car was the Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo of UAE-based team, Dragon Racing (#788, James Geddie / Glyn Geddie / Adam Balon / Phil Keen), seven laps ahead of the QSR Racing Mercedes-AMG (#754, Jimmy de Breuker / Michiel Verhaeren / Olivier Bertels / Johnny de Breucker / Dimitry Gvazava). Another six laps down, the VDS Racing Adventures MARC II V8 (#758, Raphaël van der Straten / Hary Putz / Nick Geelen / Patrick Asnong / Jake Camilleri) took third in class.
Porsche 991 Cup class honours went to MRS-GT Racing (#989, Jukka Honkavuori / Gosia Rdest / John Hartshorne / Ollie Hancock), followed by race:pro motorsport (#996, Bertram Hornung / Matthias Jeserich / Christian Voigtländer / Max Weering / Larry ten Voorde), one lap in arrears, and DUWO
Racing (#909, Andrey Mukovoz / Sergey Peregudov / Stanislav Sidoruk / Dylan Pereira), two laps down on the class winners.
In GT4, meanwhile, Korean team Atlas BX Motorsports had made it all the way up with the Mercedes-AMG GT4 (#403, Steven Cho / Jongkyum Kim / Masataka Yanagida / Jaesung Park) from last on the GT grid to class victory. On the same lap as the class winners, British team Century Motorsports saw both its BMW M4 GT4s rounding out the GT4 podium, the car with starting number 430 (#430, Angus Fender / Brett Strom / Ben Hurst / Daren Jorgensen / Nathan Freke) just ahead of its sister car (#429, Nathan Freke / Ben Hurst / Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke / Angus Fender / Daren Jorgensen) with an almost identical line-up.
AC Motorsport Audi takes Hankook 24H DUBAI TCE honours in the rain
Belgian team AC Motorsport claimed its maiden Hankook 24H DUBAI TCE division win in a race that was shortened to 7h17m due to torrential rain. After the decision not to continue the race for safety reasons, the team’s Audi RS 3 LMS (#188, Stéphane Perrin / Vincent Radermecker / Tom Boonen / Gilles Magnus / Matthew Taskinen) was classified as the winner. Having been on TCE pole already twice in Dubai, the team finally celebrates its maiden division win in the Hankook 24H DUBAI. For Audi, it was the second touring car success in Dubai after the brand’s maiden TCR win in 2017. The result also means the first major international motor racing success for Tom Boonen, a multiple cycling champion.
“Conditions out there were simply unbelievable. I was driving really slowly, but there was even aquaplaning on the straights,” Canadian Matthew Taskinen, who was behind the wheel of the class-winning Audi when the red flag came out, commented. Next to the win in the TCE division, the AC Motorsport team also came out on top in the TCR class, followed by two Volkswagen Golf GTI TCRs, the Lestrup Racing Team car (#111, Hannes Morin / Martin Öhlin / OIiver Söderström / Marcus Fluch) and the Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing entry (#112, Alberto Vescovi / Roberto Ferri / Miklas Born / Constantin Kletzer / Yannick Mettler), both two laps behind.
With TCR cars locking out the overall top ten of the TCE division, TCX class honours went to the Team ACP – Tangerine Associate BMW M240i Racing Cup car (#321, Catesby Jones / Ken Goldberg / Damon Danieli / Dr Jim Norman). The TCE pole-winning CWS Engineering Ginetta G55 (#278, Colin White / Bradley Scorer / Jean-François Brunot / Fraser Robertson / Adam Hatfield) finished second in class, followed by the Nordschleife Racing Ligier JS2 R (#226, Guillaume Roman / Thierry Blaise / François Riaux / Michel Sallenbach). The only finisher in its class, the Team Avia Sorg Rennsport BMW M240i Racing Cup (#351, Skip Woody / Johan Schwartz / Benito Tagle / Mark Brummond) won the TC class.
The next race in the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook will see teams and drivers heading to the world-famous Autodromo Nazionale Monza in Italy for the inaugural Hankook 12H MONZA (27-28 March), the season opener of the 24H SERIES Europe powered by Hankook.
Source. Creventic/Photo. Petr Frýba