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Dubai Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ Thursday notebook from Dubai…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

***Rotek Racing will be on track with a spare Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR, from Black Falcon, following an accident by Roy Block in Thursday’s Free Practice 1. The No. 50 SP3-GT4 entry missed the majority of today’s action but took part in Thursday’s night practice. Block will share driving duties with Nico Rondet, Ian James, John Schauerman and Aero Paint CEO Jim Maguire.

***An accident by Wim de Pundert also sidelined the No. 25 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 in FP1, with the German squad working to rebuild the car, which sustained heavy front-end and underfloor damage.

***One car that’s already been ruled out of the weekend is the No. 240 Fach Auto Tech Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport after Philipp Schnyder’s heavy crash in Wednesday’s Private Test. Schnyder was transported to a hospital for further treatment but was said to be alert and awake but having sustained multiple injuries.

***The No. 29 Forch Racing powered by Olimp Porsche 911 GT3 R has been moved to the A6-Pro class, following the late nomination of Robert Kubica in the Polish squad’s lineup. The ex-Formula One driver joins Porsche factory driver Wolf Henzler, Mexican driver Santiago Creel and Poles Robert Lukas and Marcin Jedlinski at the wheel.

***Americans Charles Espenlaub, Charlie Putman and Joe Foster have switched from MRS-GT Racing to ProSport Performance for 2017, and have been joined by GT racing ace Andy Pilgrim in Putman’s Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.

***In addition to a full-season 24H Series program in the 991 class, the quartet are also set to take to take part in next month’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour and Nürburgring 24, both in a Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR.

***Remarkably, the team’s lineup consists of three Bronze-rated drivers (Pilgrim, Foster, Putman) and the Gold-rated Espenlaub. Foster told Sportscar365 the team’s traditional American flag livery will return at the next 24H Series race.

***The new 24H Proto Series will accept LMP2 machinery, series organizers have confirmed, in the wake of its pilot Dubai 3×3 race earlier this week. All 2016 or older cost-capped prototypes are understood to be eligible, although it’s unclear if they will be adjusted to LMP3 performance levels. The 2018 Proto Series will kick off with a 12-hour enduro in Dubai next January.

***Following launches by McLaren, Ford and BMW, look for Audi to be the next major manufacturer to announce plans for a GT4 car. It’s understood an Audi R8 GT4 is already in the works, with plans for a race debut before the end of the year.

***Of note, a 2014-spec Audi R18 is on display in the Dubai Autodrome Welcome Center. The German manufacturer is an official sponsor of the circuit and regularly hosts track days.

***In addition to Rik Breukers, Brandon Gdovic is also pulling triple duty this weekend, between the Proto Series, TCR Middle East and the 24H Dubai, where the American will be at the wheel of a Ginetta G55 GT4. “It’s more of a thing for me to broaden my horizons in the sports car racing world,” the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver told Sportscar365.

***Gdovic, who has completed the last two seasons in the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America series, said he’s also planning to make his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut in DAC Motorsports’ new Lamborghini Huracan GT3, although a schedule has not been finalized.

***BRM Watches has created a “challenge cup trophy” that will be awarded to each three-time overall winner of the 24 Hours of Dubai, beginning this year. Black Falcon has already earned three victories (2012, 2013, 2015), with Duller Motorsport (2006, 2007) being the only other multi-time winner in the event’s 11-year history.

***Eric Paradis, the VP of Business Development of Circuit of The Americas, is on-site this weekend, as part of a recon mission for Creventic’s inaugural U.S. round at COTA in November. The 24 Hours of COTA, a non-points paying round of the 24H Series, is set for Nov. 9-11.

***An effort is underway to recruit U.S.-based teams for the race, varying from GT3 and GT4 machinery to various touring and sports cars. It’s understood a large contingent of Mazda MX-5 cars are poised to take part.

***Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke and Jonas Krauss, head of BMW Customer Sport sales manager, are among the motorsport executives on-site this weekend.

***Newly crowned Pirelli World Challenge GTS champion Brett Sandberg, who is making his 24H Dubai debut this weekend, is finalizing plans to move up to the GT class next year with a to-be-announced GT3 program.

***Sandberg’s co-driver in Dubai, Anthony Mantella, meanwhile will return to PWC again with a planned two-car KTM X-Bow GT4 program, but will also expand his horizons to Europe. “I’m hoping to jump into a LMP3 in Europe and maybe do a full effort in 2018,” he told Sportscar365.

***There will be a moment of silence on the grid tomorrow in remembrance of the five diplomats of the United Arab Emirates who were killed in a bombing in Pakistan on Wednesday. Flags at the circuit are also in half-mast.

Rene de Boer contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John


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