Black Falcon recorded a commanding victory in the tenth annual Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai, marking the team’s third overall win in four years at the season-opening enduro.
The #2 Mercedes SLS AMG of Abdulaziz Al Faisal, Hubert Haupt, Yelmer Buurman and Oliver Webb dominated the race with a metronomic performance, finishing four laps ahead of the #30 Ram Racing Mercedes driven by Cheerag Arya, Thomas Jaeger, Tom-Onslow Cole and Adam Christodoulou.
Haupt inherited the lead in the second hour and following a steady run through the night the Black Falcon team emerged as runaway winners. While the #2 car was cruising at the front, the #3 Abu Dhabi Racing backed sister car experienced terminal damage in the fourth hour when World Endurance Championship regular Khaled Al Qubaisi tangled with the Renault Clio of Franck Traynard.
Mercedes was the dominant force throughout the race, and a 1-2-3 finish was on the cards until the #33 SPS Automotive Performance entry crashed at the crack of dawn.
Another high profile retirement was the 2014 race-winning Stadler Motorsport Porsche, which exited the race early on after suffering inoperable suspension damage.
The pole-sitting FACH Auto Tech Porsche was also a casualty of the Dubai Autodrome’s high attrition rate. The #12 car was impressive in the early running but soon dropped down the field before coming to a stop on track at around 6 PM.
The 89-strong entry list meant that heavy traffic caused problems for the GT3-spec A6 cars, with many of the high-profile retirements being attributed to traffic-related incidents. One notable example was a heavy crash involving the #9 Hofor Racing Mercedes and a Seat Leon Supercopa during the second hour, which prompted one of thirteen Code 60 caution periods – a new record for the Hankook 24 Hour Series.
At the front, an intense stare-off ensued during the night hours between the Ram Racing Mercedes, the KMP Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3, the Triple Eight-entered BMW Z4 GT3 and the A6-Am leading Dragon Racing Ferrari 458 Italia. The Aston Martin crew of Johnny Adam, Stefan Mücke and Paul White was trading fastest laps with the leading Mercedes until a wheel-hub issue bogged them down in the pits in the second half of the race. Meanwhile, the Dragon Racing A6 Am car surmounted its Am-class laptime bracket to challenge for an overall podium, with Saudi Arabian driver Mohammed Jawa in particular providing a gutsy performance despite being around two seconds slower than the surrounding A6-Pro machinery.
Elsewhere in A6-Am, the Nissan GT Academy entry that featured four gamers turned endurance racing rookies scored a remarkable fifth place overall following a reliable run, just thirteen laps behind the winner.
The other classes also featured some intense racing action, especially in the Porsche Carrera Cup 997 class. The #26 Black Falcon Porsche of Anders Fjordbach, Keita Sawa, Saud Al Faisal and Andreas Weishaupt saw off a surging run from sister car in the final hour to take a relieving victory.
In SP3, the British-based Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 of Euan Alers-Hankey, Salih Yoluk, Bradley Ellis and Adrian Barwick dominated the class, winning by over ten laps.
SP2 was won by the #91 MARC Cars Australia Focus, while RacingDivas by Las Moras won the CUP Class in their BMW M235i.
A2 honours went to the VDS Racing Adventures squad in their Honda Civic Type-R EP3, and the A3T turbo hatchback class was won by the Memac Ogilvy Racing Seat Leon Supercopa, featuring an all British lineup.
The A5 category rounded out the list of class winners, with the green and blue BMW E46 M3 Coupe of Hofor-Kuepperracing coming 34th overall and winning the class by a comprehensive margin.