It’s been incredibly busy so far in Dubai for DSC, with plenty of snippets coming from initial trips down the paddock ahead of the big race on Saturday at the Autodrome.
Hartley ready for Porsche GT3 debut
One of the first cars DSC came across of note was the Herberth Motorsport Porsche which is set to take on the A6 class with special guest Brendon Hartley. Just hours after being extracted from its shipment container, Hartley’s name and native flag had already been applied to the 991 GT3 R.
DSC also caught up with the Kiwi just before the first on-track session about his trip to Dubai.
“I’m a Porsche LMP1 driver, and I’ve never driven a 911, so it was a good opportunity for me to do just that!,” he told DSC when asked why he took up the challenge of racing in the Dubai 24. “I haven’t driven the car yet still, so it’s going to be a learning experience for me with the Herberth team. But it’s a good grid and a good event it seems so I’m looking forward to it.
“I last drove a GT3 at Bathurst in 2013 with United Autosports in an Audi, so it’s been a while. I’m eyeing up doing the Nurburgring 24 Hours in the future though, that’s a race I really want to do in a couple of years.”
On the livery front, the A6-Am WRT Audi R8 looks very smart in Saudi colours designed by Andy Blackmore for this one, breaking away from the standard WRT scheme we’ve become accustomed to over the years.
A car which hadn’t had its full livery applied when DSC stepped in its box was the V8 Racing Corvette C6 ZR1, which will look striking to say the least in this fresh paint scheme.
One of the drivers on double duty this weekend is Mike Simpson, who’s racing in both the 24H Prototype Series and 24H Dubai this week in two very different Ginettas! It was interesting to get his impressions of the new championship, after two hard-fought performances from the Brit in the Graff G57.
“It’s a good championship, it’s got a lot of potential,” he said to DSC. “For Ginetta too it’s great to have a good strong showing with lots of cars.”
He did however admit that there’s a few small niggles to iron out for the 24H Proto Series ahead of its first true competitive race. (The three hour races in Dubai are demos ahead of the season.)
“The schedule has been way too tight for everyone, and it’s meant everyone has even working flat out the whole time. Usually we’d spend all weekend working towards a three-hour race, here we’ve had three on the bounce with practice and qualifying too, in just two days. It’s meant everyone has had issues, some small, some not so small.
“The balancing has also not been great,” he admitted. “I think if you come here with a powerful car like a G57, you shouldn’t be pegged back to race against the CNs during the race. It doesn’t add anything to the races, the other cars may get the lead but it’s not on merit. They tried balancing different types of prototypes in VdeV this year, and it worked best when they just let everyone race, it made everyone happier and caused the grid to grow in size.
“Nevertheless it’s got potential, as I said, and I expect the grid to grow and more Ginettas to come along also.”
The Silver Sting returns
One of the charms of the Dubai 24 Hours is that entries from endurance racing “specials” are still welcome. One that DSC was particularly pleased to see in the flesh, was the #207 Brokernet Silver Sting run by Bovi Motorsport.
The 2006 vintage Porsche-based “special” last contested the Dubai 24 Hours in 2011, and is back this year and with Wolfgang Kaufmann taking to the wheel for the third time in this race, both previous runs for “Piranha” resulting in class wins in 2010 and 2011.
A very rapid Jaap van Lagen joins him together with Dane Hein Obo Frederiksen and team principal Kalman Bodis in SP2.
Enge in charge
The Reiter Engineering effort, with a pair of the distinctive KTM X-Box coupes, with a car apiece in SP2 and SP4, is being managed for the weekend not by Hans Reiter, but instead by motorsport newcomer Tomas Enge. Enge is particularly proud of his lanyard, which is bright orange, and says team manager on it.
He appears to be very happy to be in charge; he was far too busy today to talk to the DSC Ed, and tells us that he will “be even busier tomorrow.”
Joking aside, great to see Tomas in gainful employment, the extraordinarily rapid racer, now a key part of the Reiter set up.
Forch fastest in Private Test
This afternoon many of the teams opted to take to the Autodrome in a Private Test session ahead of the first Free Practice session tomorrow.
Topping the times in the session was Forch Racing’s A6-Am Porsche 991 GT3 R which this weekend has Robert Kubica driving in it. The team’s best time was a 2:00.490, just 0.0548 ahead of the Hofor Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 which ended up second fastest and 0.184 quicker than the #2 Black Falcon Mercedes that rounded out the top three.
Hartley Bathurst photo courtesy of brendonhartley.nz