Despite losing time early on during refueling, SPS automotive performance celebrated a “flawless job” at the Hankook 24H DUBAI that secured the German outfit not just 3rd overall but also 2nd in the GT3-AM category.
SPS automotive performance team principal Stephan Sohn has praised the “flawless job” by mechanics, engineers and drivers that proved pivotal to both of the team’s Mercedes-AMG GT3s finishing on the podium.
The German team, a former A6-Am class winner of the Hankook 24H DUBAI in 2018, ran an AMG GT3 under the ‘SunEnergy1’ banner in the top tier GT3 for Kenny Habul, Mikaël Grenier, Nürburgring 24 Hours winner Maro Engel, and 2017 ADAC GT Masters champion Jules Gounon. The sister #20 Mercedes entered in the GT3-AM category meanwhile was piloted by Valentin Pierburg, George Kurtz, Ian Loggie, and Saudi Arabia’s first female racing driver, Reema Juffali.
Consistent runs in qualifying saw the lead #75 Mercedes line-up 6th on the grid while the sister #20 AMG, having qualified 5th in-class, started from the 11th row, Mikaël Grenier and Ian Loggie taking on the respective opening stints. An impressive start from the Canadian meant the #75 maintained its 6th place overall until the first of an eventual 23 Code 60 caution periods was thrown to recover the stricken #223 Lamera GT.
Like most of the frontrunners, Grenier opted to pit for fuel under the purple flags, but costly complications in the refueling station saw the #75 AMG drop to 29th at the turn of the first hour. Strong stints thereafter by Grenier and Habul meant the #75 was already back into the top 10 one hour later, and, come the mid-point of the race, on the cusp of the overall top five.
Aided by retirement for the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini, which had been battling for the lead before a mystery electrical problem struck, and mixed pit strategies for Herberth Motorsport and Al Manar Racing by HRT, the #75 SPS automotive entry was up to 4th overall by hour 15 and in the mix for an overall podium, despite bodywork damage from an on-track collision. A late-race battle with the Haupt Racing Team, which also included a thrilling on-track fight for position between Engel and HRT’s Manuel Metzger, would eventually go the way of SPS when HRT made a splash-and-dash just four laps from home.
SPS’ overall top three marks the best outright finish yet at the Hankook 24H DUBAI since the Willsbach-based team finished 4th overall in 2018.
Like the sister #75 Mercedes, the #20 initially dropped towards the back of GT3-AM during the opening Code 60 scrambles, but was back up to 6th in-class by the second hour. By the third, the Mercedes was running 2nd in-class, a position Pierburg, Kurtz, Loggie, and Juffali held unchallenged through the flag courtesy of what the team calls “consistent and virtually flawless stints.”
“A great success for us!” team principal Stephan Sohn explains in an official team statement. “The team and drivers did a flawless job. The incident during fuelling is very frustrating, particularly as there was nothing we could do about it. The time we lost probably cost us an even better result. However, our strategy paid off and we are pleased with 3rd place. We are obviously also delighted with 2nd place in the GT3-AM class. All four drivers produced a magnificent performance and more than deserved this result.”
“A fantastic result at the end of a very tough race,” Maro Engle continued. “We had a few things that repeatedly set us back. From the middle of the night, we also had some slight damage to the car, as the result of a contact. However, we always kept fighting. Congratulations to Kenny [Habul, CEO of SunEnergy1], who did a great job. I am delighted that he was able to celebrate his first podium here in Dubai. Thank you to the SPS team, too. Together, we have made it through a tough week in Dubai. Rounding it all off with a podium makes it all the sweeter.”
In her overview of the 2022 Hankook 24H DUBAI, Reema Juffali also praised the team’s efforts, which saw the Saudi driver finish her maiden GT3 and maiden 24-hour on the podium. Impressively, she also
“I’m ecstatic about the result. It went beyond any expectations I had. Coming into this race, I had deliberately set the bar at a realistic level and, for me, that was finishing. But then, when we got to qualifying and saw the potential, at that point we knew that if we could stay out of trouble and finish every lap, we could get on the podium.”
Images – Petr Frýba, Daimler Media, and Reema Juffali