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Dubai Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s notebook on the eve of the 18th Hankook 24H Dubai…

Photo: 24H Series

***Mercedes-AMG captured its first pole position for the Hankook 24H Dubai since 2020, when it also scored a 1-2 with Toksport WRT beating Black Falcon. Two of the drivers aboard the No. 777 Al Manar Racing car, Luca Stolz and Martin Konrad, were also part of Toksport’s polesitting lineup three years ago.

***Similarities between the two outcomes go even further as this year’s third-placed Pure Rxcing car is entered by Herberth Motorsport, which also qualified third overall under its own name in 2020.

***The No. 488 Dragon Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Leonidas Loucas, Rhea Loucas, Bradley Ellis and Charles Hollings has been withdrawn from the event. The car suffered heavy front-end damage following a crash in Private Testing 2 on Thursday.

***The No. 226 Team Sorg Rennsport Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CS has also been removed from the entry list. It reduces the entry to 52 cars and brings the TCX class back to a single car: the sister No. 227 Porsche for Benito Tagle, Christoph Krombach, Daniel Gregor and Patrik Gruetter.

***The QMMF by HRT Suhail Qatar team has opted to switch to a spare Porsche 922 GT3 Cup for the No. 930 entry driven by Abdullah Al-Abbasi, Ibrahim Al-Mannai, Abdulaziz Al Jabri and Daniel Ros. Al Jabri damaged the original car with a crash during Free Practice on Friday morning.

***The No. 21 HAAS RT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II will undergo an overnight engine change after encountering issues during Night Practice. It missed the two Night Qualifying sessions and looks set for a back-of-the-grid start.

***Audi’s Evo II variant of the R8 is represented by four cars for its first Dubai outing. The second evolution of Audi’s GT3 platform was absent from the race in 2022, when Team WRT used the first Evo specification and took a dominant 1-2 victory.

***Last year, the Ingolstadt manufacturer had all of its motorsport products present in the race, but that is not the case this time. Both the GT2 and GT4 versions of the R8 are absent, although both generations of the RS 3 LMS are entered into the TCR class. Former World Touring Car champion Rob Huff is amongst the drivers for the No. 117 Wolf-Power Racing RS 3 LMS TCR.

***Similar to previous years, Audi has one of its European-based parts trucks present in the Dubai paddock. It is once again one of the very few transporters at the event, with almost all teams working out of shipping containers. In the case of some teams, these containers also serve as makeshift work stations for engineers.

***Team GP-Elite has made a late change to its driver lineup for the No. 32 Porsche 911 GT3 R, with Max van Splunteren replaced by Thierry Vermeulen. Even with the alteration, the all-Dutch crew is the only team in the GT3 class fully consisting of FIA Silver-rated drivers. Creventic introduced lineups entirely made up of what it labels as ‘Semi-Pro’ drivers in 2021. All 20 other GT3 entries feature at least one Bronze driver.

***Two teams are campaigning the new-for-2023 BMW M4 GT4 in the race. In addition to a previously announced effort from Century Motorsport, fellow British squad Simpson Motorsport has entered a single car for James Kell, Keith Kassulke, Cameron MacLeod, David Holloway and Vasily Vladykin. 

***Holloway told Radio Show Limited’s Joe Bradley after completing the first leg of qualifying: “We’ve just got it here this week, so there’s been lots of different things going on. A few different tweaks and challenges that we had to overcome, which the team has done an amazing job [at]. Today it felt really good in qualifying. Tires [switched] on in the first lap and it was a good lap.”

***A number of drivers competing in the Dubai 24H have a busy few weeks ahead with ten drivers either taking part in the Rolex 24 at Daytona or Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour. So far, Jules Gounon, Earl Bamber, Ian James, Roman De Angelis and Ross Gunn have been confirmed for back-to-back weekends of action at Dubai and Daytona. Dries Vanthoor, Anton de Pasquale, Brenton Grove, Stephen Grove and Valentino Rossi were named as part of the 28-car entry list for Bathurst earlier this week.

***Of note, Maxime Martin looks set to tackle all three events. The newly minted BMW factory driver makes his brand return with Team WRT at Dubai and will then join Paul Miller Racing at Daytona before linking back up with WRT in Australia.

***Martin told Sportscar365: “It’s tough, it’s definitely a lot of races but I think there’s definitely nothing better than to race. Especially to be able to race that early in the year with different teams with different tires in different series is a perfect way to learn the car and the perfect way to start to evolve with BMW.”

***Martin has not raced at Dubai before. “The sand is specific to here,” the Belgian added. “If it is windy, the track can become very sandy. That is quite typical to here, but the main thing is definitely the traffic. It’s going to be more like a Nordschleife experiment than Spa. But it’s interesting to see. When you go out there for Free Practice, a lot of traffic and a lot of cars but that’s also part of the fun of it.”

***Mercedes star Gounon will have no less of a busy schedule, telling Sportscar365 that he plans to fly to Valencia immediately following the conclusion of Sunday’s race to take part in development work for the Mercedes-AMG GT2. He will then get on another flight to attend the Roar Before the 24 with WeatherTech Racing.

***The Mercedes-AMG factory driver expressed concern about the relative lack of difference in straight line speed between the GT3s and Porsche 992 GT3 Cup cars that make up the 992 class. “For me it’s the biggest worry, because the guys in the Cup cars are also young and they want to show and fight GT3s because they want to have a bit of fun and maybe want to drive GT3s in the future,” Gounon noted. “So it’s maybe the category that we need to watch out for the most and try to overtake clear without much risk, avoiding incidents.”

***Six out of ten class winners from last year have returned for the 18th running of the event. These include Team WRT (overall), CP Racing (GT3 Am), MP Motorsport (GT3 Pro-Am), Team GP-Elite (992, stepped up to GT3), HRT Performance (992 Am) and Dragon Racing (GT4). Winners in GTX (PK Carsport), TCR (BBR) and TCX (Les Deux Arbres) have not returned, while the 991 class for last-gen Porsche Cup cars has been disbanded after it was won by NKPP by Bas Koeten Racing in 2022.

***Creventic has introduced revised regulations for refueling under Code 60. Under the new rules, cars that have crossed the pit entry line before a Code 60 is called will only be permitted 50 percent of their allocated fuel allowance if they then reach the refueling area after the track has been neutralized. This brings them level with cars that pit once a Code 60 is already in place.

***Under previous rules, a team that was already in the pits by the time a Code 60 was called could benefit from a full fuel tank, thus presenting them with a significant strategic advantage over cars that pitted later. According to the series, this effect has now been lessened with the revised rules.

***Dubai Autodrome has undergone a number of renovations since last year. One of the notable changes is the addition of a new viewing area for spectators at Turns 15 and 16, which has been named ‘Apex Garden.’

***Full live coverage of the Dubai 24H is available on the 24H Series YouTube channel, with commentary from the Radio Show Limited team led by John Hindhaugh. The race kicks off at 3 p.m. local time (6 a.m. ET).

Davey Euwema is Sportscar365's European Editor. Based in The Netherlands, Euwema covers the FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, among other series.

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