Abu Dhabi: The UAE’s Khalid Al Qubaisi believes lessons learnt from Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcons’ triumph in last year’s Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai can help his crew defend its title and claim a second successive victory in this weekend’s event.
“Although we won last year, we weren’t perfect. We could have done even better by avoiding a few mistakes and implementing a better race strategy,” said Al Qubaisi, prior to a busy day of free practice and qualifying ahead of the marathon motorsport race’s start at Dubai Autodrome on Friday afternoon.
“The whole team absorbed a lot from that experience and we hope to heed those lessons and perform better this time. We need to improve if we want to retain the title; it will be very difficult but we can do it.”
To boost his bid for a repeat success, Al Qubaisi, the first UAE driver to sample outright victory in the Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai, will get behind the wheel of the expanded team’s two Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 cars.
With both cars carrying the branding of Abu Dhabi Racing (ADR) — a new company aiming to bolster the emirate’s presence in global motorsport and reinforce Emirati participation in various international disciplines and series — Al Qubaisi sees the Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai as a key domestic platform in realising its grassroots objectives.
“Winning the title last year in only my second 24 hours race was a phenomenal experience and I’m in a very fortunate position to be able to try to do it again,” he said.
“One of the key objectives of Abu Dhabi Racing is to provide more Emirati drivers with the chance to compete at the highest levels of motorsport. We are working to open young drivers’ eyes about the range of opportunities that await them and I’m looking forward to nurturing our national talent in the years ahead.”
Al Qubaisi will share driving duties in the lead Abu Dhabi by Black Falcons car with Sean Edwards and Jeroen Bleekemole — teammates from last year’s winning Dubai squad and colleagues from the Emirati’s time in the Porsche Supercup series. Five-time German Touring Car champion Bernd Schneider completes the first car driver line-up. In the second car, Al Qubaisi will team up with Andreas Simonsen, Steve Jans, Sergei Afanasiev and Simon Knap.
“Anything can happen in the 24 hours race and 90 per cent of success is down to preparation: You need to make sure you have the right team of drivers, a car with a realistic chance of winning and operate a solid strategy,” said Al Qubaisi, who is aware of potential threats to his crown.
“After that you need to have a bit of luck to stay away from problems. Our car is not the fastest, but it has a good combination of speed, consistency and reliability. We know the BMWs will be quite fast this time. The Ferraris are fast too but maybe not as reliable as the German cars.
“We’ve been working to improve the car, we’ve developed a good strategy and we’re feel well prepared. It’s going to be tough but we have the experience to retain the title.”