Black Falcon has scored its fourth Dubai 24 Hours victory, in the 13th running of the annual Middle-Eastern endurance race, its #2 Mercedes AMG GT3 of Yelmar Buurman, Abdulaziz Al Faisal, Hubert Haput and Gabriele Piana finishing two laps clear of the field at the end after 606 laps of racing.
The #2 AMG GT3, while not necessarily the fastest car in the field, had the cleanest run of the A6 GT3 entrants, with its only notable incident an emergency brake change in the closing stages. While everyone else fell by the wayside, the four drivers drove a metronomic race in the second half, emerging as the clear leader in the 19th hour and taking a comfortable win.
“I can’t express how happy I am, I have to thank the team and my teammates!” Al Faisal exclaimed after the race. “I’ve done this 11 years now and have won it a second time. The competition is amazing, I’m happy to be here.
“It’s harder than my first win, the level of competition of the race has improved as has the number of cars.”
As well as it being Black Falcon’s fourth Dubai 24 win, it’s also Mercedes’ fourth victory, Buurman, Al Faisal and Haupt’s second win after taking the victory back in 2015 and the AMG GT3’s first win in the event.
In the end, while the lead battle calmed down in the latter stages of the race, the duel for the remaining overall podium spots lasted until the checkered flag between the #964 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and #12 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R, the two cars finishing just 5.2 seconds apart.
After a dramatic fight, the Porsche took second after losing valuable time queuing for fuel in its final stop.
“It was a really hard finish, I was pushing 100%, I gave everything I had. We deserved this one,” Jaminet said.
While Grasser Racing will be pleased with its result, the whole team will leave wondering what could have been. The crew ended up fighting back for almost the entire race, after losing five laps in the opening hours of the race after suffering three punctures, which dropped them to 66th overall.
To finish on the podium is remarkable, but the crew of Rolf Ineichen, Mark Ineichen, Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhardt were often the fastest on track, and would surely have been the winners had poor luck not struck the team early on.
“I’m really proud of everyone, we did a massive job, it’s just a shame that we lost five laps due to the bad luck at the beginning,” Bortolotti said after his final stint. “To finish third is a massive result.”
“It’s a shame, I pushed too hard,” Rolf Ineichen admitted, “I had a spin in the end and I couldn’t re-catch him (Jaminet), so we decided to just settle for third.”
Grasser Racing was not the only other team that could have won though, as Herberth Motorsport, the sister #3 Black Falcon Mercedes (which crashed out after a collision with the Hofor Mercedes in the closing hours after losing the lead due to a brake issue), third place Manthey Porsche and #777 MS7 WRT Audi all spent time in the lead, but suffered various issues.
Behind the Manthey Porsche, and off the overall podium, was eventually the #16 SPS automotive performance Mercedes of Lance David-Arnold, Tim Muller, Valetin Pierburg and Dominik Baumann, which in turn won the A6 Am class.
It was a surprise result in many ways, in part because the #25 HTP Motorsport AMG GT3 led the class for much of the race after the Herberth Porsche’s mechanical issues before suffering a fuel cap failure, but mainly because the #777 WRT Audi suffered a gearbox issue in the final 20 minutes with Mohammed Bin Saud behind the wheel, which robbed the Saudi-flagged, Belgian-run squad of fourth.
The WRT crew had been in the running for the win at times, the gearbox issue adding to the list of small niggles, which ultimately cost it a podium.
The car’s issue also promoted the #9 BWT Mucke Motorsport Audi to fifth, a fine result for the ADAC GT regular’s first 24-hour race, in which it had a steady run.
Eventually the WRT Audi limped home after multiple stops out on track seventh.
Behind, and further down the order, the A6 AM podium was completed by the #25 HTP Motorsport Mercedes which recovers to second and the Herberth Porsche which salvaged third.
Then there were the other key GT classes in the race.
SPX was won by the Tsunami Porsche 991 Cup of Come Ledogar, Andrii Kruglyk, Oleksandr Gaidai and Alessio Rovera. The Ukrainian outfit had a faultless run, climbing the order, eventually finishing sixth overall.
And GT4 was won by Phoenix Racing, the Hong Kong-flagged team finishing 1-2 in the class with its #247 leading the #248. However, after the race the #247 was handed a two-lap penalty and demoted to second. The GT4 class was competitive, but rarely led by anyone other than Phoenix, its Audi R8 GT4s proving near-bullet proof in the race.
The final podium spot was claimed by the Besagroup Racing Mercedes AMG GT4, which was always in the mix, but in the second half couldn’t challenge the Audis in the attrition-hit class.
For this year’s edition of the Dubai 24 Hours, there was a separate overall winners trophy given to the highest place 24H TCE Series team. On this occasion, the TCE order was dominated by TCR runners, after the SP3 class top brass all hit trouble throughout the race.
In the end, the Liqui Moly Team Engstler Volkswagen Golf TCR of Luca Engstler, Florian Thomas, Benny Leuchter and Jean Karl Vernay completed 556 laps and won the topsy-turvy TCR class, which saw many of the early challengers hit trouble.
“It was a great fight during the 24 Hours, thanks to everyone at the team, they did a great job, I’m really happy,” Karl Vernay said. “We were lucky at the beginning with Code 60s, but we made it to P1 in this tough weather. We only had problems at the end, the engine and gearbox was overheating, it was close to the edge.”
Behind the #129 LMS Engineering Seat Leon TCR finished two laps back in second, 11 laps ahead of the Bonk Motorsport Audi which completed the TCR and TCE podium, despite a late scare when the car picked up a puncture in the penultimate hour.