Victory for Land Motorsport Porsche
It couldn’t have been closer: after 24 hours of racing at the Dubai Autodrome, only 49.676 seconds separated the first- and the second-placed car in the fourth running of the TOYO TIRES 24H of Dubai. After a thrilling final hour of the race that saw no less than three changes of the lead, the Porsche 997 GT3 Cup, entered by German team Land Motorsport and driven by Carsten Tilke, Gabriël Abergel, Andrzej Dzikevic and Niclas Kentenich, came out on top, only just defending its lead from the charging Al Faisal Racing Team’s BMW Z4 M Coupé that was shared by Abdualziz Al Faisal, Paul Spooner, Claudia Hürtgen and Stian Sorlie. Third place was taken by another Porsche, the Besaplast Racing Team entry of Martin Tschornia, Franjo Kovac, former DTM-champion Kurt Thiim and the father-and-son pairing of Roland and Sebastian Asch.
All the experts and race fans agreed that this year’s fourth running of the TOYO TIRES 24H of Dubai was the most fascinating and exciting to date, the battle for victory going right down to the wire after 24 hours of spectacular motor racing action at the 5.43 kilometres long Dubai Autodrome, the state-of-the-art motor sports facility in the United Arab Emirates that hosted the event, organised by Dutch agency CREVENTIC in close co-operation with the Dutch National Racing Team.
The Autorlando-Porsche, which started from pole-position with Richard Lietz behind the wheel, and the identical Land Motorsport entry, driven by Marc Basseng, were able to pull a gap over Claudia Hürtgen with the Al Faisal Racing BMW Z4 on the first few laps. On lap seven, there was the first lead change as Basseng managed to overtake Lietz. But many of the pre-race favourites encountered trouble in the first few hours of the race already. The Equipe Verschuur’s Renault Mégane Trophy (Bernhard ten Brinke, Hoevert Vos, Harrie Koolen) and the Khaleji Motorsport-Porsche (Cabell Fisher, Tarek Elgammel, Jason Yates, Karim Ojjeh, Karim Al Azhari) became involved in a collision on the third lap already.
Later on, the Autorlando-Porsche lost about 45 minutes in the pits when the rear section of the car needed repair after another driver had run in to it. In the evening, the drivers of the Land Motorsport Porsche with starting number 41 (Hermann Tilke, Marc Basseng, Christian Land, Dirk Adorf) were left sidelined when their car caught fire at 22.50 h, causing the third of a total of six neutralisations of the race, in which a maximum speed of 60 km/h applied for all drivers. This so-called “code 60” is a particular feature of the TOYO TIRES 24H of Dubai and was well received by teams and drivers as it doesn’t affect the margins that have been built up during the race.
There was a close battle between the Al Faisal Racing BMW and the ARC Bratislava Porsche (Miroslav Konopka, Jiri Janak, Mauro Casadei, Rudiger Klos) for many hours during the night. Around 05.00 h, the BMW took the lead, partly as a result of its slightly better fuel-efficiency, and stayed there for the next couple of hours, with the ARC Bratislava-Porsche and the Porsches of the Besaplast Racing Team and Land Motorsport following closely.
Later in the morning, when the circuit was in bright sunshine again, the battle between the Al Faisal Racing BMW and the ARC Bratislava Porsche heated up again. With 1.10 hours remaining the BMW came into the pits with a puncture and resulting damage to the right rear bodywork of the car, which handed the lead to the ARC Bratislava Porsche. That team stayed in front for a while and looked on its way to victory, especially as the BMW team were given a one lap penalty because of taking a shortcut, which was necessary to make it back to the pits in time after the puncture.
However, with 42 minutes remaining, the Porsche came in for another fuel stop and soon after that came in with apparent suspension problems, losing more valuable time and dropping back to fourth.
At that time, the Land Motorsport Porsche found itself in the lead with Niclas Kentenich behind the wheel, but the young German was put under massive pressure by Claudia Hürtgen in the Al Faisal Racing BMW, who was lapping up to twelve seconds per lap faster than the Porsche. Eventually, Kentenich drove the victory home for the Land Motorsport Porsche team, finishing just 49.676 seconds ahead of the BMW. The Besaplast Racing Porsche finished third, although finishing driver Sebastian Asch had to overcome massive brake problems in his final stint.
Niclas Kentenich (1st place, Land Motorsport Porsche): “It was quite close as I really had to be conservative with my fuel in the final laps and I also was having brake problems. Claudia was pushing very hard, but fortunately, I was able to bring victory home. Winning this race is a very special feeling, it hasn’t really sunk in yet, but that will come.”
Claudia Hürtgen (2nd place, Al Faisal Racing BMW): “Too bad. This could have been my maiden overall win in a 24 hour race and I really wanted that, but it wasn’t to be. I was aware of the problems the Land Motorsport Porsche was having, so I pushed as hard as I could, but the race was just a few minutes too short.”
Sebastian Asch (3rd place, Besaplast Racing Team Porsche): “In the closing stages, I had massive brake problems and I even spun once. I had to drive very carefully to bring our car home, but I am glad we have succeeded. Driving with this team has been great fun, I really enjoyed it!”