· Al Manar Racing by HRT pips Abu Dhabi Racing by HRT for maiden pole position.
· MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi starts 8th on 24H SERIES debut.
· Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors overcomes gearbox woes for 992 pole.
· razoon-more than racing on GTX pole; 0.03s decides the GT4 front row.
· Wolf-Power Racing seals TCR pole; AC Motorsport hits trouble.
DUBAI (13 January, 2023) – Haupt Racing Team has locked out the front row for the 18th edition of the Hankook 24H DUBAI, the German’s team collaboration with Oman’s Al Manar Racing by HRT securing pole position over the sister Abu Dhabi Racing by HRT Mercedes by less than three tenths of a second.
Qualifying for the Hankook 24H DUBAI was split into four 15-minute sessions, with the average of each team’s best laps across each session being used to assign their grid spots. This weekend’s event though features a revised format, with two 15-minute sessions being run during the afternoon and a further two organized after official Night Practice.
The Al Manar Racing by HRT Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#777, Luca Stolz / Fabian Schiller / Axcil Jefferies / Martin Konrad) was among the pacesetters from the get-go, setting the fastest lap during Q3 and falling an agonizing 0.018s shy of the quickest time in Q1. Heading into the final session of the day, the #777 Mercedes was just over one tenth up on the Abu Dhabi Racing by HRT Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#4, Hubert Haupt / Khaled Al Qubaisi / Sébastien Baud / Jules Gounon). A gap that, despite a succession of quick laps from the latter, proved just enough for the Omani-German team to secure its maiden outright pole position in the 24H SERIES.
Al Manar Racing by HRT is the fourth different team to secure outright pole position in as many years at the Hankook 24H DUBAI. The front row meanwhile will feature three previous outright event winners courtesy of Khaled Al Qubaisi (winner in 2012, 2013, and 2020) Hubert Haupt (2015, 2018, and 2020), and Axcil Jefferies (2021 and 2022).
“It’s a great team job by everyone to have a 1-2. It’s fantastic!” a jubilant Axcil Jefferies explained to radiolemans.com’s Joe Bradley. “On our car, all four of us did a good job, keeping it clean. Now we just have to get through tomorrow.”
Asked how much Al Manar Racing staple Al Faisal Al Zubair, who sadly had to withdraw from the event through illness, would be missed this weekend, Jefferies continued: “It’s a shame we couldn’t have Faisal with us, but we’re going to do our best to make him proud.”
Behind the HRT front row, the Porsche 911 GT3 R of 24H SERIES newcomer Pure Rxcing (#911, Sven Müller / Aliaksandr Malykhin / Joel Sturm / Harry King), which set the fastest lap during Q1, will start 3rd ahead of the first of two Team WRT BMW M4 GT3s (#7, Mohammed Saud Fahad Al Saud / Diego Menchaca / Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer / Jens Klingmann / Dries Vanthoor). Both Al Saud and Vanthoor go into the race as defending Hankook 24H DUBAI winners.
Nine-time motor bike World Champion Valentino Rossi meanwhile makes his 24H SERIES debut this weekend as an official BMW M factory driver aboard the second Team WRT BMW (#46, Timothy Whale / Valentino Rossi / Sean Gelael / Max Hesse / Maxime Martin), and will start 8th.
Australia’s Grove Racing (#10, Earl Bamber / Brenton Grove / Stephen Grove / Anton De Pasquale) recovered from a tough Q1 to seal 5th on the grid, the Porsche 911 GT3 R having fallen just 0.009s shy of the second row. Behind the Tresor Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II (#99, Alex Arkin Aka / Finlay Hutchison / Andrey Mukovoz / Dylan Pereira), the Heart of Racing by SPS Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#27, Ian James / Gray Newell / Roman De Angelis / Ross Gunn) was the fastest of the GT3 PRO-AM runners. Roman De Angelis even set the fastest lap of any session around the 5.39km Dubai Autodrome with a 1m 59.313s.
The Team GP-Elite Porsche 911 GT3 R (#32, Lucas Groeneveld / Jesse van Kuijk / Daan van Kuijk / Max van Splunteren) and the returning Visiom Ferrari 488 GT3 (#2, Jean-Paul Pagny / Romain Iannetta / Jean-Bernard Bouvet / Christophe Tinseau / Dino Lunardi) round out the overall top 10 on the grid.
The Mercedes-AMG GT3 of reigning Continents Trophy winner CP Racing (#85, Charles Putman / Charles Espenlaub / Joe Foster / Philip Quaife / Shane Lewis) will start 18th, four places behind the McLaren 720S GT3 of the fastest GT3-AM entrant, 7TSIX (#76, James Cottingham / Andrew Gilbert / Fran Rueda / Matúš Výboh). Having won December’s Hankook 12H KUWAIT outright, CP Racing will be keen to extend its lead in CREVENTIC’s new Middle East Trophy.
Reigning European Trophy GT winner Phoenix Racing (#1, Michael Doppelmayr / Pierre Kaffer / Elia Erhart / Christer Jöns) similarly starts in the mid-pack in 15th after a troubled opening qualifying session. This despite Pierre Kaffer setting the fastest lap overall of Q2.
A strong start to qualifying sadly came to naught for series newcomer HAAS RT (#21, Maxime Soulet / Mathieu Detry / Olivier Bertels / Benjamin Mazatis / Frédéric Vervisch). The Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II posted the sixth fastest laptime in Q1, but was unable to complete qualifying after an engine issue struck during Night Practice.
Even with niggling gearbox issues, the Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (#955, Fabrizio Broggi / Sergiu Nicolae / Sabino de Castro) will start from 992 class pole position ahead of FACH AUTO TECH (#961, Peter Hegglin / Jan Klingelnberg / Christof Langer / Alexander Fach / Christopher Zöchling) and Red Camel-Jordans.nl (#909, Ivo Breukers / Rik Breukers / Luc Breukers / Fabian Danz). Speed Lover (#979, Simon Balcaen / Steven Palette / Philippe Wils / Chris Maes) was the quickest of the 992-AM contenders.
Despite a bizarre moment for Kristopher Rosenberger when the KTM’s clamshell popped open during Q1, the razoon-more than racing KTM X-BOW GTX (#714, Daniel Drexel / Leo Pichler / Kris Rosenberger / Bob Bau / Ernst Kirchmayr) will start tomorrow’s event from GTX pole position. The Austrian team will be flanked by two entries from Vortex V8. The French independent team’s #701 ‘1.0’ (Philippe Bonnel / Philippe Gruau / Lionel Amrouche / Tom Pieri) will lead the sister #702 Vortex (Philippe Fertoret / Lucas Sugliano / Nicolas Nobs / Miguel Moiola) away from the grid.
The ROFGO with Dragon Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 (#408, Roald Goethe / Oliver Goethe / Benjamin Goethe / Stuart Hall / Jordan Grogor) emerged on top of a phenomenally close-fought fight for GT4 pole with the RHC Jorgensen-Strom by Century BMW M4 GT4 (#450, Daren Jorgensen / Brett Strom / Nathan Freke / Jeroen Bleekemolen): the average best times of both teams were split by a microscopic 0.03 seconds! Ironically, Dragon Racing bookended GT4 class qualifying when the sister Mercedes (#488, Leonidas Loucas / Rhea Loucas / Bradley Ellis / Charles Hollings) suffered a heavy crash during Free Practice and could not take part.
Behind the top two, Simpson Motorsport (#438, James Kell / Cameron McLeod / Keith Kassulke / David Holloway / Vasily Vladykin) and Century Motorsport (#429, Michael Johnston / Christopher Salkeld / Carl Cavers / Lewis Plato) will share the second row of the GT4 grid. Both teams have entered the second generation BMW M4 GT4 for the Hankook 24H DUBAI.
Across in TCR, three-time Overall TCE Teams’ champion Wolf-Power Racing has secured its third category pole position in Dubai in as many years after a storming run for the #121 Audi RS 3 LMS (Jasmin Preisig / Ivars Vallers / Calle Bergman / Andreas Höfler). Bizarrely, the Swiss team was fastest in just one of the four 15-minute sessions, but pulled a significant gap during Q2.
Wolf-Power Racing’s qualifying sessions did not get off to the best of starts, however. The Swiss team’s #117 Audi (Marcus Menden / Marlon Menden / Rob Huff / Peter Posavac) set the fastest TCR time during Q1, but suffered brake failure at the end of the rear straight during Q2, fortunately without incident. The repaired #177 Audi recovered to 4th on the TCE grid.
TCX polesitter Team Sorg Rennsport (#227, Benito Tagle / Christoph Krombach / Daniel Gregor / Patrik Grütter) was the second quickest of the TCE field, the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CS having outpaced the returning 700 Miles Volkswagen Golf GTi (#106, Thierry Chkondali / Marc Girard / Michel Sallenbach / Jordan Mougenot / Fabian Duffieux).
AC Motorsport endured a difficult qualifying session in Dubai. The Belgian team’s #188 Audi RS 3 LMS (Stéphane Perrin / Yannick Mettler / Miklas Born / Sam Dejonghe) was recovered back to the pits after stopping on-track during Q1 while the sister #199 Audi (Andy Yan / Tommy Ku / David Lau / Shaun Thong) ended its evening in the barriers at turn 9. The fastest TCR lap though – a 2m 10.105s set by Miklas Born during Q3 – did help AC Motorsport recover to 5th.
The 18th annual Hankook 24H DUBAI is set to begin on Saturday 14 January at 15.00 hrs local time at the Dubai Autodrome. 24 uninterrupted hours of racing will be drawn to a close when the chequered flag is unfurled at 15.00 hrs local time on Sunday 15 January. The action will be live with commentary from radiolemans.com on the official 24H SERIES YouTube channel. Regular updates will also be published on Twitter (@24HSeries), Facebook (24H Series) and Instagram (24H Series). Further information can be found HERE