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Mixed fortunes for Team Abu Dhabi

24 Hours of Dubai champions go from serious crash to pole position

Gulf News

Dubai: Defending Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai champions Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcons went through a frantic time ahead of this year’s race at Dubai Autodrome — starting with their Mercedes car crashing into a wall during free practice and ending with them claiming pole position.

After the crash, the team, consisting of Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen, Briton Sean Edwards, German Bernd Schneider and Emirati driver Khaled Al Qubaisi, managed to source a car from a rival team, rebuild it to their specifications and get it on out on track for qualifying.

Bleekemolen then stormed around the autodrome to set the fastest lap of 1min 59.104sec in qualifying for the eighth running of the race, beating 80 other teams in the process.

As a result, Al Qubaisi became the first Emirati driver to be part of the pole-winning team at the Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai, which runs from Friday afternoon through to Saturday.

“My feelings at the moment of the incident, compared to right now after taking pole position for the race, are totally opposite. After we saw the damage and realised it was major, I was not happy, but an hour later we made the decision not to give up and find a way back into the race,” Al Qubaisi said.

Al Qubaisi became the first UAE driver to win the race when he and Team Abu Dhabi Black Falcons were victorious last year.

He added: “You need an element of luck and we were lucky as we found another team with a spare Mercedes like ours. So we got hold of that, put all our bits and pieces from our wrecked car into the substitute car. We also worked on the set-up so it was more suited to our style and needs.

“It was an amazing job from everyone in the team. The mechanics worked throughout the night to rebuild the car to our specifications.”