This weekend’s Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai is set to be the biggest yet, with a capacity grid of 100 cars reached for the first time in the event’s 11-year history, and among them a number of new GT3 cars set to tackle the longest-running endurance race in the Middle East.
The opening round of the 24H Series powered by Hankook will feature a diverse grid, headlined by the 29 entries in the GT3-based A6 class that will battle for overall honors.
ENTRY LIST: Hankook 24H Dubai
Among them will be three Mercedes-AMG GT3s, which will make its 24-hour race debuts in the hands of Black Falcon and Ram Racing, along with new GT3 machinery from Audi and Lamborghini as well.
Jeroen Bleekemolen, Khaled Al Qubaisi, Hubert Haupt, Indy Dontje and reigning FIA GT World Cup champion Maro Engel will drive the team’s Abu Dhabi-backed Mercedes-AMG GT3, with defending race winners Abdulaziz Al Faisal and Yelmer Buurman among the drivers in the No. 3 entry alongside Bernd Schneider.
UK-based Ram, which won the 2015 A6 Teams’ Championship, will also debut the new car with drivers Paul White, Tom Onslow-Cole, Stuart Hall, Roald Goethe and AMG factory driver Thomas Jaeger.
For the first time, Audi has turned out in force to Dubai, with six of the new-generation R8 LMS cars for Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, C. Abt Racing, Car Collection Motorsport, Land Motorsport and Optimum Motorsport.
Among the notable drivers in the V10-powered cars include Frank Stippler (Optimum), Marc Basseng, Christopher Mies and Connor De Philippi (Land) and Markus Winkelhock (Car Collection).
Lamborghini, meanwhile, is set for its second 24-hour race for its new Huracan GT3, with entries from both Konrad Motorsport and HB Racing, as well as a Huracan Super Trofeo entered by Leipert Motorsport.
Konrad, which will field factory driver Fabio Babini and former race winners Rolf Ineichen and Christian Engelhart, will attempt two 24-hour races in a three-week period, with two additional Huracn GT3s entered for the Rolex 24 at Daytona later this month.
There’s also a mix of tried-and-trusted GT3 machinery, including no fewer than eight Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3s, three Ferrari 458 Italia GT3s, a handful of previous-generation Porsches, including a 911 GT America and a Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 from MRS GT Racing.
The A6 class, divided into Pro and Am subclasses, also features a few other non-GT3-spec cars, such as the Renault RS01 and a GT2-spec Corvette C6.R that scored overall pole with V8 Racing in 2014.
A total of 17 cars are entered in the Porsche 991 Cup class, with variety in both the SP2 and SP3 classes, as well as the various touring categories, including the new-for-2016 TCR class, which debuts this weekend.
Track action begins on Wednesday with a private test, followed by practice and qualifying on Thursday. The Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai gets underway Friday at 2 p.m. local time (5 a.m. ET) with flag-to-flag coverage on MotorsTV and Radio Le Mans.