SunEnergy1 by SPS Automotive Performance driver Jules Gounon believes they have to “maximize everything” as a team in order to have a chance of victory in this weekend’s Hankook 24H Dubai.
The Mercedes-AMG factory pilot has joined the German outfit as a fourth driver alongside fellow works ace Maro Engel, Mikael Grenier and Kenny Habul, who are coming off last weekend’s Gulf 12 Hours as a driving trio.
Gounon, who is making his first 24H Dubai appearance since 2017, said time and traffic management will be crucial for success.
“I think we have an amazing lineup,” he told Sportscar365.
“Mik [Grenier] is doing a superb job. Maro, we don’t have to introduce him as he’s top GT driver in the world [for] many years and Kenny is one of the best Ams out there.
“SPS is a well-established team. They’ve been winning a lot of races, especially in Pro-Am.
“We have the full package to do well. Eighty cars during 24 hours in the middle of the desert, you need to be lucky, you need to have everything.
“Yesterday we were doing a strategy meeting and we saw and discussed that we’re going to need around 2,000 liters of fuel for this race.
“This means 40 minutes at the fuel station because the fuel station is a pump.
“You have to maximize everything, don’t get stuck and be lucky on Code 60s. It’s a very difficult race to win but we are ready for it.”
Engel added: “We have everything in place to go for a really good run here.
“As we know, it’s a big race with lots of cars and lots of things can happen so I think the key will be to get through as smooth as possible.
“If we do, I think we have a good chance of winning this.”
While having dropped out of contention of a podium result in Abu Dhabi due to a broken shock in Segment 1, Engel believes their run in the Gulf 12 Hours helped build momentum heading into the twice-around-the-clock 24H Series enduro.
“It’s two separate races but nonetheless it’s always great to get in the swing of things,” he said. “It’s the same team, same structure.
“Obviously for this event, it’s the same three drivers just Jules coming in [as a fourth].
“It was unfortunate [in Abu Dhabi] but nonetheless, for the things that were within our control we did a really good job. It’s a good build-up for here.”
Engel said Bronze-rated Habul has been impressive in getting up to speed at both Yas Marina Circuit and the Dubai Autodrome, two tracks which have been new for the U.S.-based Australian.
“Kenny is one of the strongest Ams in the world,” Engel said. “He’s picked up both tracks really quickly. It’s a challenge but he’s done really well.
“I think that’s an important thing and a key to having a good race.”
Habul: Traffic Management Key in Dubai
Having competed around the globe, Habul, a former Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli Am class champion, said the Middle East has been a region that he had yet to race in.
“I’m always chasing the win and this is one part of the world I haven’t raced,” Habul told Sportscar365. “I wanted to try it. I’ll be back and keep coming back until we get to ride a camel.”
After having experienced Wednesday’s Private Test sessions on a track with nearly 80 cars, Habul echoed Gounon’s comments on their common goal for the weekend.
“This race is not really a race in the sense that I know racing,” he said. “This is all about just avoiding traffic and finding a way through the traffic.
“You never really get a clear lap, which is interesting because you may well have a Bronze driver that’s faster than a Platinum because it’s not about outright speed.
“It’s about how you get through traffic and not getting held up at every corner and being safe.
“The cars that will be on the podium are the ones that avoid the trouble. It’s so easy to hit someone here.”