The 2021 Hankook 24H DUBAI will mark the 24H SERIES debut of McLaren’s highest performing track-car, the 720S GT3, as part of an entry fielded by former event class winner, Optimum Motorsport.
McLaren’s “extreme performance” 720S GT3 is set to make its first start in the 24H SERIES at this week’s Hankook 24H DUBAI under the tutelage of Optimum Motorsport, a former class winner at the event.
The McLaren 720S GT3, first unveiled in August 2018, is the racing iteration of Woking’s ‘Super Series’ 720S, sharing as it does the hypercar’s carbon fibre MonoCage II chassis and a “race-prepared” version of the 4-litre ‘M840T’ twin-turbo V8 (admittedly, 90 percent of the componentry is either new or modified in the GT3). Since its official maiden competitive showing in 2019, the 720S GT3 has achieved wins and podiums across four continents, and even took class victory at Mount Panorama on its Bathurst 12 Hours debut last year.
The 16th annual Hankook 24H DUBAI though, set to take place this week across the 14-15-16 January, marks the first time the 720S GT3 will compete in the 24H SERIES. Woking’s most extraordinary racer since the F1 will line-up in the 17-strong GT3 category alongside Herberth Motorsport, Car Collection Motorsport, and the Haupt Racing Team, to name just a few of the event’s anticipated frontrunners.
The 720S will be prepared and run in Dubai by Britain’s Optimum Motorsport, now into its second season as McLaren Customer Racing team. A 24H SERIES regular since 2012, the Yorkshire-based outfit made a successful series debut at that year’s Hankook 24H DUBAI, by securing ‘SP3’ class victory first time out the blocks with Lee Mowle, Gary Simms, George Murrells and Joe Osborne. Optimum Motorsport has since repeated that class win in Dubai on two occasions, both with a Ginetta G55: Adrian Barwick, Bradley Ellis, Euan Hankey and Salih Yoluç took SP3 victory in 2015, while Barwick (again), Stewart Linn, William Moore, and Daniel O'Brien collected ‘SP3-GT4’ honours in 2017.
2021 marks Optimum Motorsport’s first entry in the 24H SERIES since Dubai 2019, but, interestingly, will not be the first time the British team has competed at the event in the GT3 class: between 2016 and 2018, Optimum raced an Audi R8 LMS in the then-A6-Pro class, finished an impressive 4th overall in 2017.
In what Optimum calls an “additional benefit of continuity”, the McLaren 720S GT3 will be driven by team regulars Brendan Iribe, Ollie Millroy, Nick Moss and Joe Osborne.
“We have enjoyed a great deal of success in Dubai and after missing the event last year, we are really looking forward to racing and pushing for another victory,” explains team principal, Shaun Goff. “We have a great deal of fond memories from this event, even those years where we didn’t win our class. I’m sure that with our strong driver line-up, we’ll be right up there.”
"This is a unique race in the fact that there are so many cars in so many classes on the grid!” continues Joe Osborne. “The differentiation in pace across the field and the various classes is something to always keep in mind. We have a strong driver line-up, optimised to the rules with two super-good Am racers joining forces with myself and Ollie [Millroy]. My teammate Nick [Moss] is really good; I really enjoy working with him, both in and out of the car. He knows what he wants and pushes for that out of the car and in the car, he is right on it!"
The 2021 Hankook 24H DUBAI will be the third time in four years that a McLaren has competed at a 24H SERIES event. At last year’s COPPA FLORIO 12H Sicily, the McLaren 570S GT4 entered by Las Moras by Equipe Verschuur was classified 3rd in GT4, while ALFAB Racing competed with its own example in Dubai in 2018. McLaren’s most successful 24H SERIES event to-date though remains the 2012 Hankook 24H BARCELONA, at which Lapidus Racing collected overall victory with its MP4-12C GT3.
Optimum Motorsport has confirmed that it will also enter the non-championship Hankook 6H ABU DHABI, which, it was recently confirmed, it will now take place one week after the Hankook 24H DUBAI on 22-23 January.
- Images courtesy of Optimum Motorsport and Petr Frýba