Dubai: The UAE national anthem echoed around the Dubai Autodrome victory lane for the second year in a row as Emirati driver Khalid Al Qubaisi led the Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcons Mercedes to victory in the eighth edition of the Dunlop 24 Hours at Dubai Autodrome.
Last year Al Qubaisi made history by becoming the first Emirati driver to win the race and this year he made history again by being part of the first team to ever to score back-to-back wins in the 24 Hours of Dubai.
Dubai Autodrome chairman Ali Fardan Al Fardan waved the chequered flag at 2pm on Saturday to bring the race to an end, with the Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcons Mercedes with Al Qubaisi at the wheel crossing the line to take top honours. The squad, which included Briton Sean Edwards, German Bernd Schneider and Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen completed 600 laps of the Dubai Autodrome Grand Prix configuration circuit on their way to victory.
Al Qubaisi, with a UAE flag draped over his shoulders, was overcome with emotion after receiving the winner’s trophy on the podium, and took half an hour to compose himself and face the media.
He said: “This is one of the toughest races I have been through; starting on Wenesday, when we had an incident with the car, right through to the very last lap, there was pressure and tension throughout. I needed time to rest and be alone as everything sunk in. Still I cannot explain my feelings, which are the best I have ever had.”
“I must thank the everyone in the team, and I dedicate this victory to Abu Dhabi because without them we would not be here.”
The eighth running of the Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai was an emotional roller-coaster ride for the members of the Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon. On Wednesday, one of their two Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG cars was damaged beyond repair after a crash in testing. The team bought a spare car from the British Preci Spark outfit and converted that to endurance racing specifications, but that meant the mechanics had already worked two nights before the race even got underway.
In the race, the car was in the top five for almost all of the 24 hours and, as various other contenders either lost time or retired with numerous incidents and accidents, the SLS AMG gradually moved up through the ranks and went on to win.
“An incredible feeling,” said Al Qubaisi, who was transported to the podium on a camel as is the tradition of the event. Al Qubaisi, Bleekemolen and Edwards now all have two overall wins to their name in the race, whereas Schneider added his maiden win in the endurance event to his already impressive achievement list, which makes him the most successful driver in the eight-year history of the Dunlop 24 Hours.
The attrition rate in this year’s race was unusually high. Among the many retirements were the two BMWs of the Saudi Falcons Team, run by the German Schubert Motorsport outfit, overall winners in 2011.
The Italian AF Corse team also lost one of its two Ferraris early in the race, but saw its sister car finish in second place overall.
The battle for third place was a close call between the Fach Auto Tech-Porsche and the Craft Racing AMR Aston Martin, with the latter coming out on top. The Fach Auto Tech team saw both its cars finishing fourth and sixth overall and first and third in the A6-Amateur class.
Fifth place overall and second in A6-AM was taken by the British Preci Spark team, with family members David, Godfrey, Morgan, Philip and Gareth Jones all driving the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.
UAE-based teams enjoyed their best-ever Dunlop 24 Hours with LAP57 Racing winning class A2 with a Honda shared by Emirati drivers Mohammad Al Owais, Omran Al Owais, Saeed Al Mehairi and UAE-based Umair Khan and Rupesh Chanake.
Al Mehairi summed up his team’s race: “It was really fantastic to be on the podium after a tough race on our home track. The team did a great job throughout the race. Like in any 24 hours, we had several incidents but we dealt with them and never gave up. The result for us is amazing.”
D1 class honours also went to UAE-based team, SVDP Racing, with the BMW 120D with Jonathan Mullan, Spencer Vanderpal, Wubbe Herlaar, Jason O’Keefe and Kris Budnik doing duty in the cockpit.
Team boss Vanderpal said: “This is really a wonderful feeling. We are an amateur team made up of guys with regular jobs. We all work on the car and prepared it for the race. We had our problems over the past few days, including a blown engine. But we stuck at it and the reward is most satisfying.”
He added: “I have been on the podium before here at Dubai Autodrome, but to be on it after an international race of this stature is very, very special.”
The ninth running of the Dunlop 24 hours of Dubai is scheduled to take place from January, 9-11, 2014, at Dubai Autodrome.
Pos Team Car Make Class Laps
1 Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon 1 Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 A6-Pro -- 600 laps --
2 AF Corse SRL 2 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 A6-Pro -- 598 laps --
3 Craft Racing AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 A6-Pro -- 594 laps --
4 FACH AUTO TECH 2 Porsche 997 GT3 R A6-Am -- 594 laps --
5 Preci-Spark Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 A6-Am -- 587 laps --
6 FACH AUTO TECH 1 Porsche 997 GT3 R A6-Am -- 582 laps --
7 Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon 2 Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 A6-Pro -- 580 laps --
8 JLOC Lamborghini Gallardo LP600 A6-Pro -- 579 laps --
9 Stadler Motorsport Porsche 997 GT3 R A6-Am -- 568 laps --
10 Lapidus Racing McLaren MP4-12C GT3 A6-Pro -- 565 laps --