Despite leading 11 of the opening 15 hours a broken shock absorber ultimately costs AC Motorsport TCE victory at the 2022 Hankook 24H DUBAI.
But for a broken shock absorber mount during the latter half of the Hankook 24H DUBAI, AC Motorsport might well have taken its second 24H SERIES TCE win in succession and its second at the Dubai Autodrome according to team patriarch Stéphane Perrin.
The French team qualified 5th in TCE as the third fastest TCR runner, and though the #188 RS 3 LMS initially dropped to 8th during a Code 60-heavy opening hour, AC Motorsport was already back up to 3rd by the second hour and leading by the third.
Such was the pace of the new RS 3, AC Motorsport led TCE outright with a one-lap advantage until the halfway point, whereupon the fight for the lead incorporated the BBR CUPRA TCR and the polesitting Les Deux Arbres Ligier JS2 R.
Regrettably, AC Motorsport’s chances of a second victory at the Hankook 24H DUBAI were dealt a crucial blow at two-thirds distance when the Audi suffered a broken shock absorber mount, the repairs costing the French team eight laps. Though Mathieu Detry and Perrin managed to catch and re-pass the Les Deux Arbres Ligier JS2 R for 2nd place during their closing stages, the #188 Audi was unable to haul in the BBR CUPRA.
"I can tell you that, on the track, it was far from easy for the TCR cars," Stéphane Perrin explains in an official team statement. “The GT division is bigger than ever, and on the straights, our cars are clearly not the fastest on the field. It is therefore necessary to ride with a permanent eye on the rear view mirror, while maintaining a high pace, deploying a perfect strategy, and above all [else], avoiding any risk of contact or fault. The four drivers and the team did not experience the slightest error, and everything was looking good.
"[The mount] is typically the kind of piece that rarely weakens. After Sebring and Dubai, she finally gave in, overcome by wear. Blame it on bad luck, really.
“But we got back into the fight, and as soon as the BBR CUPRA TCR, which had taken the lead following our stop, didn't weaken, it was 2nd place overall. They didn't make a mistake, congratulations to them!”
While Perrin and Mathieu Detry continued their on-going partnership, the pair were joined in the #188 Audi for the first time by former 24H SERIES Continents Overall TCE Drivers’ champions Yannick Mettler (2019) and Miklas Born (2020), the latter as a late-replacement for 2016 TCR BeNeLux champion Stéphane Lémeret, who was sidelined through illness. Ironically, both Mettler and Born most recently competed in the 24H SERIES for AC Motorsport’s long-time rival, Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing. The duo also contested two of the three 15-minute TCE qualifying sessions.
Despite the frustration, Stéphane Perrin was full of praise for his Dubai teammates, and maintains that the team’s run at the 2022 24H SERIES season opener can only be considered a positive preview for the season ahead, one in which the Belgian team once again hopes to compete for the Overall TCE Teams’ title.
“It is important to underline the excellent state of mind that reigned within the team from one end to the other of the [Hankook] 24H DUBAI. Yannick Mettler and Miklas Born are not only very fast drivers – all four of us were lapping in the same second per lap! – but they display a positive attitude. With them, we have started the season well, which is ultimately very promising.”
AC Motorsport will next compete at the Hankook 12H MUGELLO on 25-26 March at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello, an event at which the French team took the first of five podium finishes during its 2021 campaign.
- Images – Petr Frýba