Abu Dhabi Racing and Al Manar Racing secured 4th and 5th overall at the 2022 Hankook 24H DUBAI with HRT, but felt mechanical problems and a late pit stop probably cost the German team an overall podium.
Team management at the Haupt Racing Team have praised a strong start to the 24H SERIES season in Dubai, despite delays and a late-race pit stop costing the German team a possible podium finish.
HRT, the eponymous outfit of three-time Hankook 24H DUBAI winner Hubert Haupt, began its weekend strongly with a front row start courtesy of Raffaele Marciello and 2020 event winner Manuel Metzger posting the second fastest laps in their respective 15-minute qualifying sessions. The sister Al-Manar Racing by HRT entry (#777) meanwhile started from just one spot further back on the grid, Luca Stolz having posted the fastest lap of his 15-minute qualifying session.
Come the race proper, the #4 Abu Dhabi Racing by HRT Mercedes shadowed eventual race winner MS7 by WRT before Marciello took the overall lead on lap eight, the Italian holding the top spot until lap 21 when the first of an early succession of Code 60 neutralizations sent most of the field to the pits for their first round of fuel stops. Unfortunately, a puncture just four laps after Marciello returned to the track ended up dropping the #4 almost out of the top 30. With the frontrunners now split on fuel strategy, the sister #777 Mercedes, driven by Stolz in the early stages, also dropped back to the tail of the top 20.
Fast stints and flexible pit strategy meant both HRT Mercedes were back in the top four one hour later, the former flanking the latter by less than 20 seconds until fuel pump issues struck the #777 entry on the cusp of the sixth hour. Though Stolz, Indy Dontje, Martin Konrad, and Oman’s Al Faisal Al Zubair were able to recover lost time during the night (conditions of which appeared to suit the Mercedes in particular), the quartet were unable to pull back the three laps lost in the early going, and were eventually forced to settle for 5th overall.
The #4 meanwhile looked on-course to take the final spot on the podium behind the WRT Audis, Metzger eventually coming out on top of a superb battle with SPS automotive’s Maro Engel inside the closing two hours. A late race splash-and-dash with just four laps to go however eventually handed the position back to SPS automotive, HRT falling just under 19 seconds adrift of the overall top three at the chequered flag.
Despite its misfortunes, HRT team managers and drivers were nevertheless pleased with two top five positions at the Hankook 24H DUBAI.
“When I look at the week as a whole, I am happy,” team owner Hubert Haupt explains in an official team statement. “Overall, we had a very good car and performed strongly. It would have been difficult to win on our own merit. In the end, we had to stop to refuel again, which meant we narrowly missed out on the podium. Despite this, the week was still enjoyable.”
“We had a fantastic car all weekend, which also looks awesome in our Bilstein colours,” Khaled Al Qubaisi continues. “The pace was good from the start and we were able to secure 2nd place in qualifying. All in all, we can be very happy with the performance of the whole team, even though we just missed out on the podium.”
“The race was a very good one, definitely a tough one.” – Al Faisal Al Zubair – “Coming into the [GT3] category, we knew there was going to be a lot of tough teams. But from practice and qualifying, my team did a really great job. We really felt that we had a chance for the win but we had fuel pump issues and lost three laps. From then on, the chance of victory had gone. Definitely a tough one, but finishing 5th out of 82 cars, in the PRO category, and in my first [Hankook 24H DUBAI] is something I feel proud of.”
“Unfortunately, we were not quite able to achieve what we might have done with the speed we had.” – Raffaele Marciello – “The additional fuel stop cost us a position. Nevertheless, we performed strongly all week and are now determined to do even better over the coming year.”
Though the Haupt Racing Team was unable to replicate its GT3-AM victory from last year, Hubert Haupt and Khaled Al Qubaisi still hold the record for most outright wins at the Hankook 24H DUBAI with Jeroen Bleekemolen. The Dutch driver added to his podium haul from the event by finished 3rd in the newly-introduced 992-PRO class with Red Camel-Jordans.nl.
- Images – Haupt Racing Team, and Media Daimler