While having been competitors on the track in Pirelli World Challenge, three of the championship’s KTM X-Bow GT4 drivers from 2016 have teamed up in pursuit of class victory in this weekend’s Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai.
Newly crowned PWC GTS champion Brett Sandberg, his ANSA Motorsports teammate Dore Chaponick Jr. and Mantella Autosport owner/driver Anthony Mantella have joined forces for the unique effort in the twice-around-the-clock Middle Eastern enduro.
It marks all three of their race debuts, sharing the wheel of a Reiter Engineering-run KTM X-Bow with German driver Benjamin Mazatis.
“We had some great battles throughout the year but always had a good relationship, sharing data and trying to achieve the same goal,” Sandberg told Sportscar365.
“To be with him now and to have Dore back in the car is really just awesome to come together and team up and work towards winning this thing, which I think we can do.”
“Why not take the best of what Reiter has to offer in North America and bring it abroad? We’ll do the best we can for Reiter, KTM and all of our brands,” Mantella added.
For Mantella, it marks the Canadian owner/driver’s first race overseas.
“When you grow up in Canada and you watch racing in the U.S., you think it’s the epitome,” he said.
“You’re influenced by IndyCar and NASCAR. But then when you get into the race car game, you realize the U.S. is very cool but Europe takes it very seriously. So it’s the next step.
“If North American drivers can do well here, it means all the effort and work is really paying off.”
The trio have been placed in a modified X-Bow, featuring a larger front splitter, revised rear wing, lower ride height and more power than the GT4-spec vehicle that took both Sandberg and Mantella to victories in the 2016 PWC season.
According to Sandberg, the X-Bow, which is competing in the SP2 class, is “quite a bit quicker” than the car in GT4 trim and will provide them with a chance to fight against the established cars in the category.
“This car is good on long runs and it’s definitely going to play a role here,” he said. “We’re planning to do at least an hour-and-a-half or two hours a stint.
“I’m really familiar and comfortable driving this car and we’ve done quite a bit of testing on a longer run. I think we’re all going to take that into our advantage.”
Sandberg claimed wins at Road America and Sonoma en route to the GTS title, in what marked a season-long fight with Roush Racing’s Nate Stacy and the Blackdog Speed Shop Camaro Z.28/R of Lawson Aschenbach.
Like Mantella, Sandberg’s ANSA Motorsports team received season-long support from Reiter, which helped make the one-off run in Dubai possible.
Sports car ace and Reiter factory driver Tomas Enge is serving as team manager for the team’s two-car effort this weekend, in the place of team principal Hans Reiter.
“It’s cool to see some familiar faces and I know Tomas and he’s the team manager this weekend,” Sandberg said. “He’s super quick [as a driver] so having him here to manage the team and having that driver/manager is pretty cool.”
While tackling a 24-hour race, complete with pit stops and driver changes, may be a 180-degree difference from their norm in 50-minute, single-driver PWC sprint races, Sandberg is optimistic about their chances of standing on the top step come Saturday.
“We’re going to go for the win,” Sandberg said. “We’re all extremely close in pace and are familiar with the car.
“I think if we all stay consistent, keep our nose clean and stay out of traffic, which is the most important part of the race, I think we can be right there at the end.”