Running one 24-hour race is often an ambitious enough task for any team, but for Franz Konrad, his small German outfit is taking on the unique challenge of competing in two grueling twice-around-the-clock enduros over the course of three weeks.
Nobody’s busier than Konrad Motorsport in the month of January, with the team debuting the new Lamborghini Huracan GT3 in both this weekend’s Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai as well as the Rolex 24 at Daytona later this month.
What’s more, both races, as well as last weekend’s Roar Before the 24, will be done with the same crew, including three of the same drivers.
Is there a reason behind this madness?
“It’s very simple. I like 24-hour races!” Konrad told Sportscar365. “I’ve done all the 24-hour races around the world.
“I think I’ve done Le Mans 24 times, Daytona 17 times, Nurburgring 18 times, Dubai twice, I’ve won at both Spa and Nurburgring and Bahrain. It’s really hard competition. I like it.”
Konrad, who is re-entering endurance racing full-time after a decade away in Porsche one-make cups, has acquired three Huracan GT3s for programs in both the Blancpain GT Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
But this weekend, the team is in Dubai to kick off its season, thanks to 2014 race winners and Konrad’s customers Mark and Rolf Ineichen.
“We wanted to do Daytona and then in the end, my drivers who have been driving for me for the last three years, Mark and Rolf Ineichen, wanted to go to Dubai again,” Konrad said.
“They didn’t want to go with their Porsche; they wanted to go with me with the Lamborghini. I was, ‘OK, let’s do it.'”
The commitment for a single Huracan GT3 in Dubai for the Ineichen brothers, plus Christian Engelhart, Lamborghini factory driver Fabio Babini and 64-year-old Konrad, resulted in a massive logistics operation.
“That’s very hard,” he said. “We’re a very, very small team. I only have nine [full-time] people working.
“All of the logistics and parts, I do by myself. I have one lady, Nadina, who does bookings for flights and all.”
It was particularly a challenge in getting from the Roar to Dubai, which were on back-to-back weekends, and on two different continents than the team’s German base.
“The Roar test was very, very hard for us,” Konrad said. “We stopped the test on Saturday night, loaded everything Sunday morning from 7-8:30 a.m., went to the [U.S.] workshop in Pompano Beach [Fla.].
“We then unload all the stuff, made quick notes of what we need for what we must order, and then flew back to Dusseldorf [Germany].
“We went home, changed clothes and bags, and went back to Dusseldorf and flew to Dubai.”
The team arrived in Dubai on Tuesday and has got quickly up to speed, having posted the second fastest lap time in Wednesday’s second test session, in the car’s debut on the Dubai Autodrome.
“I’m surprised how good the cars are running,” Konrad said. “We did a lot of testing and they’re reliable.
“There’s just small things like equipment, on what to have for a 24-hour race, such as data logging and [measurements].”
For Konrad, who has brought up rising talent such as Engelhart, Nick Tandy and the late Sean Edwards in Porsche Supercup, the goal has always been the same.
“I’m here to go for a win,” he said. “That’s the goal. I have three really good drivers in the car.
“Mark Ineichen is a little bit slower and he will not drive in the night. He’s a gentleman driver but I think there’s still a really good chance to win.”
Two weeks later, Konrad will also be looking for success in Florida, but this time with two Lamborghinis in the U.S. debut of the Huracan GT3.
Despite some differences in the two GT3-spec cars, such as tires, electronics and Balance of Performance, Konrad feels they will have an upper hand in data and experience in tackling the 24-hour double.
“We can learn a lot for doing 24-hour races,” he said. “We can see what the weaknesses may be on the car, or maybe something not so good. We can change this or this.”
With a busy season ahead for the Lamborghinis, which includes the remaining Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races, as well as the full Blancpain GT Series, Konrad isn’t about to slow down any time soon.
In fact, the Austrian is one of the most hands-on team owners in the paddock, constantly turning wrenches on his cars and also still getting behind the wheel for the big endurance races, that still excites him some 40 years after getting his start in the sport.
“I like it,” Konrad said. “I came from endurance and had only done that before. I think after this long time [away], for me, I like it more.”