Year of Endurance 2017: A Last-Minute Preview of the 24 Hours of Dubai

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Endurance racing has grown immensely in recent years. In addition to the “big” races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring, I have counted no fewer than 30 long (more than six hours) professional endurance races and, being the jerk that I am, I plan to preview all of them this year for Hooniverse. As the first big endurance race of the year, however, the 24 Hours of Dubai snuck up on me a bit so this one is a bit more haphazard than you’ll find. Nonetheless, the race starts Friday somewhere around 4 a.m. eastern time so there’s a good chance that the race will be partially done by the time this runs. Oops. Well, read on while you follow the race.

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About the 24 Hours of Dubai

The 24 Hours of Dubai is run by Dutch promotional company Creventic, a family-run business that also runs the 24H Series and its spin-off, the Touring Car Endurance Series (TCES). We’ll have previews of these races, but the top class in the 24H Series is A6, which is basically series-specific code for FIA GT3 cars. If you’re familiar with Formula 1’s “Virtual Safety Car,” this practice was first established at the 24 Hours of Dubai with their “Code 80” system, wherein all cars must maintain 80 kilometers per hour either in a particular area of the track or throughout the whole course.
The race takes place at Dubai Autodrome, a snaking Herman Tilke-designed circuit, that gets surprisingly dark in the vicinity of nearby Dubai’s bright lights. The 24H Series has some interesting rules, including minimum lap times for A6-Amateur class drivers and fueling on pitlane only with pumps. That removes the danger of in-pit refueling and with a lot of cars on the track and a limited number of pumps, forces teams to consider fuel strategy carefully. The closing speeds can be immense, also, with GT3 cars sharing the track with Renault Clio Cup cars and other small hatchbacks in the slowest A2 Class.
For this preview, I’m only taking a look at the GT3 cars (including the subclass for lineups with mostly amateur drivers) and a couple of other of potential Hooniverse interest because of time constraints (I’m actually writing this after qualifying). Because it’s me, I can’t just make it straightforward; instead, I’ve written the team previews as rushed movie synopses, complete with genre, running time, and rating. If you’re not a fan of such silliness, you can read the entry list here and see the qualifying results here.
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#2 & #3 Black Falcon (Mercedes AMG GT3) – Gritty three-time winners led by GT extraordinaire Jeroen Bleekemolen will start from pole in the lead (#2) with international unproven young stars Patrick Assenheimer and Manuel Metzger alongside. Can they regain their form after a bad 2016 race? Or will they be eclipsed by a less-bombastic but steadier veteran lineup in the #3 car? Drama, 127 min., R.
#4 Belgian Audi Club WRT (Audi R8 LMS) – After team leader Laurens Vanthoor leaves for another partnership, Christopher Mies must see if he can enjoy a budding new partnership with Enzo Ide, Stuart Leonard, and Robin Frijns. Romance, 108 min., PG-13.
#963 & #964 GRT Grasser Racing (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) – After Lamborghini’s embarrassing disqualification at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in 2016, Grasser sets out to redeem themselves with a warm-up at Dubai before this year’s Rolex. Stars Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart in both cars. Action, 111 min., R.
#911 Herberth Motorsport (Porsche 991 GT3R) – A kids classic, the unassuming white Porsche, fails to stand out in a crowd of exciting cars. Can a young New Zealander (played by Brendan Hartley) help the Porsche sneak past flashier cars for the win? Kids/Adventure, 79 min., PG.
#21 Konrad Motorsports (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) – GT stalwart Franz Konrad brings his stacked lineup of relative unknowns to the United States for the Rolex 24, but first he must discipline them with a race in Dubai. Featuring soon-to-be-stars Jules Gounon, Marco Mapelli, and Luca Stolz alongside character actor Marc Basseng. Sports/Action, 133 min., PG-13.
#28 GP Extreme (Renault RS01 GT3) – This documentary exposes the flaws in the FIA’s GT3 homologation program, whose regulations allowed in a car not built on any roadgoing grand-touring platform. Will this be the tipping point in GT? Jean-Eric Vergne and Nicky Pastorelli, among others, tell the tale. Documentary, 65 min., PG.
#12 Manthey Racing (Porsche 991 GT3R) – A college basketball coach race team owner (Nick Nolte Olaf Manthey) is forced to break the rules in order to get the player driver (Shaquille O’Neal Sven Muller) he needs to stay competitive. Drama/Sport, 108 min., PG-13
#29 Forch Racing (Porsche 991 GT3R) – Robert Kubica and Wolf Henzler anchor a team whose name rhymes with the correct pronunciation of the car they drive. Comedy, 96 min., PG-13.
#14 Optimum Motorsport (Audi R8 LMS) – Audi factory driver Christopher Haase is hired to whip into shape a team of English drivers that include someone named Flick Haigh. Comedy, 95 min., PG-13
#7 HB Racing (Lamborghini Huracan GT3) – Norbert Siedler falls in love with a girl, but it turns out she’s really a golden retriever. British Touring Car Championship driver Sam Tordoff makes an appearance as Siedler’s goofy limo-driving friend. Romantic Comedy, 86 min., PG.
#76 IMSA Performance (Porsche 991 GT3R) – A French art film that explores the dynamics of sexy exhaust notes, faithfulness, and probably some weiners, too. Foreign/Drama, 109 min., Not Rated.
#16 SPS Automotive Performance (Mercedes AMG GT3) – A classic reworking of the Steve McQueen classic Le Mans, except set in Dubai with a Mercedes instead of GT40s and Porsche 917s and actually, it’s pretty much not the same at all. Action, 141 min., PG-13.
#33 Car Collection Motorsport (Audi R8 LMS) – A compelling documentary on extremely boring-but-typical sports car team names. Documentary, 77 min., Not rated.

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#1 Hofor Racing (Mercedes AMG GT3) – The 2016 Series champions return with their regular lineup.
#25 HTP Motorsport (Mercedes AMG GT3) – A second very competitive Mercedes will include the ageless endurance wonder Bernd Schneider and Carsten Tilke, whose pop designed the track.
#5 Belgian Audi Club WRT (Audi R8 LMS) – Former Audi LMP1 driver Marcel Fassler anchors a team that includes two members of the Al Saud family.
#17 IDEC Sport (Mercedes AMG GT3) – The Lafargues, a father and son team, are joined by prototype ace Nic MInassian.
#18 V8 Racing (Chevy Corvette C6-ZR1) – The Dutch sure love their big American engines.
#66 Attempto Racing (Porsche 991 GT3R) – Man, what a terrible team name.
#34 Car Collection Motorsport (Audi R8 LMS) – Also still a terrible team name.
#22 Gravity Racing (Mercedes AMG GT3) – Another terrible team name.
#27 GP Extreme (Renault RS01 GT3) – [Crosses forearms] XTREME!

Other stuff of interest

SPX Class – #19 Eurotrac (Dodge Viper CC) – Can I get a “Hell Yeah!” for this Dutch team running an an old Competition Coupe?
991 Class – #85 PROsport Performance (Porsche 991 Cup) – The American trio of Charles Putnam, Charles Espenlaub, and Joe Foster had their race ended early at Dubai with a huge crash in 2016. That may have cost them the 991-class championship in the 24H Series, but they’re back with former Corvette and Cadillac factory driver Andy Pilgrim.
In the SP3 class with GT4 cars, Americans will be driving in a couple of Porsche Cayman Clubsport GT4s and there’s one more car of (prurient) interest.
#249 Newbridge Motorsport (Cayman GT4) – American drivers Matthew Keegan, Jeffrey Stammer, and Derek Welch
#250 Rotek Racing (Cayman GT4) – American team with a pair of American drivers (James Maguire and John Schauerman)with French driver Nico Rondet and very quick Englishman Ian James
#777 Schwede Motorsport (Cayman GT4) – [Balls joke]
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Watch the 24 Hours of Dubai for free on the series’ site with Radio Le Mans commentary.
Listen to the Radio Le Mans commentary only on the RLM site.
Follow live timing on the 24H Series site.
Look up results on the 24H Series site.
View the entry list with photos.
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Upcoming Endurance Races:

January 28-29: IMSA 24 Hours of Daytona
Feburary 3-4: Bathurst 12 Hours
March 17-18: IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring
March 17-18: 24H Series’ 12 Hours of Mugello (Italy)
March 31-April 1: Touring Car Endurance Series’ 24 Hours of Silverstone
[All photos courtesy 24H Series]

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4 responses to “Year of Endurance 2017: A Last-Minute Preview of the 24 Hours of Dubai”

  1. mdharrell Avatar

    “If you’re not a fan of such silliness, you can read the entry list here and see the qualifying results here.”
    Fortunately I am a fan of such silliness, because there’s no here either here or here.

    1. The Rusty Hub Avatar
      The Rusty Hub

      They’re at the bottom of the article anyway and I’m too lazy to go fix them in their proper places. Meh.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        What, now I’m expected to read things through to the end? That hardly seems reasonable. Or realistic.

    2. Vairship Avatar

      There, there!