Dubai, UAE, 14 January 2018: The #2 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3, with drivers Abdulaziz Al Faisal, Hubert Haupt, Yelmer Buurman and Gabriele Piana, racked up a historic fourth win for both team and manufacturer at the close of the 2018 Hankook 24H Dubai at Dubai Autodrome on Saturday (13 January).
No other team has dominated this iconic international endurance race like Black Falcon, now with an unprecedented four victories to its credit. This was also the fourth win by a Mercedes built race car, and only Porsche can boast more victories with five.
After the thirteenth running of the 24H Dubai, only German cars have ever won the overall race on the 5.39-kilometre Grand Prix Circuit at Dubai Autodrome. At the beginning of the twenty-four hour race, it appeared that an Italian car might finally break the dominance.
The #964 Lamborghini Huracán of GRT Grasser Racing Team, with Mirko Bortolotti behind the wheel, managed to nab pole position with a best lap time of 1m56.716s, setting a record qualifying lap.
At the race start, flagged into action by H.H. Sheikh Juma Al Maktoum and ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, it was Bortolotti in his Lamborghini Huracán that led a pack of 89 cars. However, his advantage was short lived; after nine laps he was forced to return to the pits to replace a punctured left rear tyre.
Two Black Falcon Mercedes jumped in to fill the void, with the #3 AMG GT3, with drivers Khaled Al Qubaisi, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Luca Stolz, and Manual Metzger, taking control of the race. Meanwhile the #964 Lamborghini Huracán, with drivers Mark Ineichen, Rolf Ineichen, Christian Engelhart and Mirko Bortolotti, recovered from the early setback and was chasing down the leaders.
On lap 502, in the early morning hours on Saturday, an unfortunate collision dropped the #3 Black Falcon Mercedes out of the race, leaving the sister car to carry on the fight.
After twenty-four hours and 606 laps of racing, Abdulaziz Al Faisal drove the #2 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 across the finish line, with H.H. Sheikh Juma Al Maktoum waving the honorary chequered flag. It was the second 24H Dubai win for drivers Buurman, Haupt and Al Faisal, following their first victory together in 2015 with Black Falcon.
“I can’t express how happy I am!” explained Al Faisal. “My thanks to my team and my teammates, it’s been an amazing job from everyone. I’ve done this for 11 years now, and finally I’ve won it for a second time. It was a bit harder this year, the competition has grown, but I’m really happy to be here!”
And for the second year in a row, the #12 Manthey Racing Porsche 991 GT3 R, with drivers Otto Klohs, Lars Kern, Mathieu Jaminet and Sven Müller, again just missed out on the top step of the podium, settling for second place silverware.
Right behind the Porsche, the #964 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 made an impressive comeback to claim the last spot on the podium, a maiden 24H Dubai podium finish for the Italian manufacturer.
Article: Aaron Meriwether
Photos: Darren Rycroft, Connor Rycroft, Aaron Meriwether & Arthur Rosales