MRS GT-Racing completed a “herculean” overnight job to prepare a Porsche 911 GT3 R for the P1 Groupe entry at the Hankook 24H Dubai after plans to enter a 992 GT3 Cup fell apart due to shipping delays.
The No. 43 car, set to be driven by Alex Vogel, Alex Sedgwick, Leon Kohler and Jukka Honkavuori, turned its first laps in the second half of Free Practice on Friday.
The GT3 field for the 24H Dubai was boosted from 20 to 21 cars early in the week when the team opted to switch its entry from 992 to GT3 Pro-Am, as Bronze-rated driver Vogel told Sportscar365 that the team encountered logistical difficulties.
“We were going to run a 992,” said Vogel. “One of the Cup cars was being shipped from the States and got stuck at the port in the Bahamas.”
Instead, MRS offered to bring in the GT3-spec 911 that last saw action in the inaugural Hankook 12H Kuwait under the Team Kuwait by MRS GT-Racing banner.
“MRS had just run in the Kuwait 12H,” Vogel said. “The GT3 R was sitting in Kuwait, right next door. The team said ‘hey, you could run the GT3 R if you want.’
“We said ‘Fantastic, let’s do that.’ So that was it. We just didn’t know that that was going to be stuck until the last minute as well.”
The arrival of the new car from Kuwait was similarly delayed, forcing the team to sit out all of Thursday’s testing sessions.
“All day yesterday, we sat around and saw that the boat was 5 kilometers off shore and would dock at 2 o’clock,” Vogel elaborated.
“It would take hours to get here. For a lot of yesterday, I was quite concerned that we wouldn’t have a chance to get it all done. So really an amazing effort from the team, none of whom slept all night, to get things rolling.
“It arrived at 10 p.m., I was watching them pull it off a shipping container.
“Engine, transmission, everything all redone and still with enough time to get out in Free Practice. Really herculean work by the team.”
Vogel noted that the extensive overnight rebuild on the car was necessary, as it was practically untouched since it had completed the twelve-hour enduro at Kuwait Motor Town in December.
“It was wrung out from Kuwait, so everything had to be redone and made fresh. Including a new engine and transmission.”
Similarly, the predominantly red and blue color scheme on the car needed to be replaced by the blue and white livery for the P1 Groupe entry.
The switch does mean that Vogel, who will embark on a full-season effort in GT America powered by AWS, will gain valuable track time behind the wheel of Porsche’s outgoing GT3 challenger.
“That was one of my arguments for doing it,” said Vogel. “I’m going to have this actual chassis all season long.
“They would have just shipped it from Kuwait back over to the U.S., but I get an extra 24 hours in it. All good.”
Ultimately, the car went out in the closing half of the sole practice session, with Koehler taking it out first and setting a best time of 2:00.736 before handing over to Vogel. The pair completed a total of 17 laps.
“I went out the end, during the last half hour,” he said. “I had code 60 for 15 [minutes] of it, but I got 20 minutes and got comfortable with the car. It feels good. There’s no shortage of track time this weekend.”
Vogel is making his 24H Series debut, also contesting his first race behind the wheel of GT3 machinery.
“I have done 24s at the amateur level, so I am used to staying up all night and doing that,” he said. “But this is my first one here and my first one in the GT3 R.”