· CP Racing battling Team GP-Elite for overall lead.
· Polesitter Team Kuwait still in podium contention in 4th.
· 992 class leader Red Camel-Jordans.nl amongst the front-runners.
· razoon-more than racing leads GTX; Century Motorsport heads GT4.
· BBR on top in TCR; trouble for early leader AC Motorsport.
DUBAI (14 January, 2023) – HAAS RT holds the slimmest of leads over 2022 event winner Team WRT at the 2023 Hankook 24H DUBAI after an action-packed opening four hours.
Having started 43rd thanks to an engine issue hampering the series debutant during qualifying, the HAAS RT (#21, Maxime Soulet / Mathieu Detry / Olivier Bertels / Benjamin Mazatis / Frédéric Vervisch) was already up to 12th overall when the first of three Code 60 caution periods thus far was called, deft use of pit strategy thereafter allowing the Antigua and Barbuda team to remain among the frontrunners.
HAAS RT was able to leapfrog the Team WRT BMW M4 GT3 (#7, Mohammed Saud Fahad Al Saud / Diego Menchaca / Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer / Jens Klingmann / Dries Vanthoor) during the latest round of pit stops, though last year’s outright winner still lies just six seconds adrift of the lead.
After a similarly impressive climb from 13th on the grid, the Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R (#91, Daniel Allemann / Ralf Bohn / Alfred Renauer / Robert Renauer) is currently 3rd overall, a further nine seconds behind the leaders. The Bavarian team is currently the highest-placed GT3-PRO/AM runner, and, fittingly, is just over one minute down the road from the BMW M4 GT3 of nearest category rival, Poulsen Motorsport (#14, Kristian Poulsen / Roland Poulsen / Kasper H. Jensen / Gustav Birch).
Team WRT’s second entry, with whom nine-time motor cycle World Champion Valentino Rossi is making his event debut this weekend, rounds out the top five thus far. The Belgian team had a heart-in-mouth moment 2.5 hours in when the BMW M4 GT3 (#46, Timothy Whale / Valentino Rossi / Sean Gelael / Max Hesse / Maxime Martin) was sent into the barriers after running through oil that had been dropped at turn six. Amazingly, the BMW looks to have survived its close call with only minimal damage.
Having started from the front row, polesitter Al Manar Racing by HRT (#777, Luca Stolz / Fabian Schiller / Axcil Jefferies / Martin Konrad) and Abu Dhabi Racing by HRT (#4, Hubert Haupt / Khaled Al Qubaisi / Sébastien Baud / Jules Gounon) held their positions across the opening laps, despite the best efforts of a pursuing Team WRT. Time lost refueling area though means the Haupt Racing Team-operated Mercedes-AMG GT3s have now dropped back from the frontrunners to 6th and 9th respectively.
The pair bookend the Team GP-Elite Porsche 911 GT3 R (#32, Lucas Groeneveld / Jesse van Kuijk / Daan van Kuijk / Thierry Vermeulen), which has already overcome a driver line-up affected by injury and multiple time penalties, and the Pure Rxcing Porsche 911 GT3 R (#911, Sven Müller / Aliaksandr Malykhin / Joel Sturm / Harry King), the latter of which ran 3rd overall during the opening stages.
The Saintéloc Junior Team Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II (#26, Christian Kelders / Simon Gachet / Erwan Bastard / Antoine Doquin / Gregoire Demoustier) currently rounds out the top 10.
Having prioritized track position over refueling during the first Code 60 caution period, the Tresor Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II (#99, Alex Arkin Aka / Finlay Hutchison / Andrey Mukovoz / Dylan Pereira) led much of the opening two hours, but has since dropped to the tail of the field after stopping on-track with suspected drivetrain issues.
Similarly, reigning European GT Trophy winner Phoenix Racing (#1, Michael Doppelmayr / Pierre Kaffer / Elia Erhart / Christer Jöns) had worked its way into the top 10 from 15th on the grid, but lost more than 25 minutes in the pits when contact on-track – instigated by the same fluid spill that befell the #46 WRT BMW – caused damage to the Audi R8’s rear alignment. The German team has returned to the track, but has slipped out of the top 40.
The Red Camel-Jordans.nl Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (#909, Ivo Breukers / Rik Breukers / Luc Breukers / Fabian Danz) holds a narrow advantage in the 992 ranks over category polesitter Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors (#955, Fabrizio Broggi / Sergiu Nicolae / Sabino de Castro) and early leader FACH AUTO TECH Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (#962, Alexander Schwarzer / Gabriele Rindone / Larry ten Voorde / Matthias Hoffsümmer / Huub van Eijndhoven). On its return to the Porsche-only class, 2015 24H SERIES Overall Champion Duel Racing by Toro Verde (#995, Ramzi Moutran / Nabil Moutran / Sami Moutran / Philip Keen) has been harrying the podium contenders and currently runs 5th in-class.
The opening Code 60 of the race was flown when one of the five HRT Performance Porsche 911 GT3 Cups here this weekend (#932, Michael Blanchemain / Franck Leherpeur / Stephane Adler / Jérôme Da Costa) made heavy contact with the tyre barriers at turn five. Incredibly, despite significant damage at both the front and rear, the Porsche was able to tour back to the pits, though it has not yet re-emerged after more than three hours in the garage.
The incident came incredibly close to eliminating current GT3-AM class leader CP Racing (#85, Charles Putman / Charles Espenlaub / Joe Foster / Philip Quaife / Shane Lewis), though the Mercedes-AMG GT3 was somehow able to avoid the stricken Porsche. The 2022 GT Continents Trophy winner, and last year’s GT3-AM class winner, is currently 19th overall.
Series newcomer 7TSIX (#76, James Cottingham / Andrew Gilbert / Fran Rueda / Matúš Výboh)
had been the lead GT3-AM runner during the opening stages only to lose time in the pits with a damper issue. The field’s only McLaren 720S GT3 is working its way back through the field and has already recovered to 29th.
The razoon-more than racing KTM X-BOW GTX (#714, Daniel Drexel / Leo Pichler / Kris Rosenberger / Bob Bau / Ernst Kirchmayr) has controlled the GTX class from the get-go, and now holds a three-lap advantage over the two entries from Vortex V8. The French team’s #702 sports car (Philippe Fertoret / Lucas Sugliano / Nicolas Nobs / Miguel Moiola) currently heads the sister #701 (Philippe Bonnel / Philippe Gruau / Lionel Amrouche / Tom Pieri) after the latter lost in the garage with suspension issues.
A sensationally close fight in GT4 during qualifying has continued into the race proper, with the Simpson Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 (#438, James Kell / Cameron McLeod / Keith Kassulke / David Holloway / Vasily Vladykin) leading the pole-sitting ROFGO with Dragon Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 (#408, Roald Goethe / Oliver Goethe / Benjamin Goethe / Stuart Hall / Jordan Grogor) by just over two minutes. The RHC Jorgensen-Strom by Century BMW M4 GT4 (#450, Daren Jorgensen / Brett Strom / Nathan Freke / Jeroen Bleekemolen) lies 3rd.
Wolf-Power Racing’s #117 Audi RS3 LMS TCR (Marcus Menden / Marlon Menden / Rob Huff / Peter Posavac) bounced back from a wretched qualifying session to work its way into the lead of TCR, holding that advantage throughout the opening four hours. Pitting just before the fourth hour ticked by means the AC Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS (#188, Stéphane Perrin / Yannick Mettler / Miklas Born / Sam Dejonghe) has now moved to the front of the class. Wolf-Power’s second entry (#121, Jasmin Preisig / Ivars Vallers / Calle Bergman / Andreas Höfler) lies 3rd in-class after an electrical issue caused delays early on to the Volkswagen Golf GTi of nearest rival, 700 Miles (#106, Thierry Chkondali / Marc Girard / Michel Sallenbach / Jordan Mougenot / Fabian Duffieux).
The 2023 Hankook 24H DUBAI will continue to run uninterrupted throughout the night, with the chequered flag scheduled to be flown 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