While not having been the quickest car, it was Stadler Motorsport’s Porsche 997 GT3 R that proved to be the toughest, as the Swiss squad claimed victory in an attrition-filled Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai.
Rolf Ineichen took the 997-based Porsche across the line to claim the German manufacturer’s first overall victory in the around-the-clock desert in four years, sharing the winning machine with Mark Ineichen, Marcel Matter, Adrian Amstutz and Porsche Supercup ace Christian Engelhart.
PHOTOS: 24 Hours of Dubai
The No. 20 entry took over the top spot in the 18th hour when the then-leading No. 4 Fach Auto Tech Porsche of Sebastian Asch, which has dominated through the early morning hours, stopped on track with gearbox problems.
It was just one of many of A6-Pro class cars to hit trouble overnight, including the the No. 1 Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, which appeared to be en route to its third straight overall win before suffering electrical problems just before midnight.
Ram Racing’s Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Johnny Mowlem, Matt Griffin, Jan Magnussen and Cheerag Arya and the Bill Auberlen, Dirk Werner, Dane Cameron and Paul Dalla Lana-driven Team Schubert BMW Z4 GT3, which both led at stages, also dropped back due to separate accidents.
The various issues for the early contenders helped give the Stadler squad clear sailing in the end, cruising to a three-lap victory, despite having late-race gearbox issues.
It marked the team’s first major endurance class victory since the 1996 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Two of its winning drivers, Engelhart and Rolf Ineichen will be taking part in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season-opener later this month in a Konrad/Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 GT America GTD entry.
The No. 38 All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport Mercedes of Rob Huff, Marc Basseng and Rene Munnich, one of the few three-driver squads in this year’s race, finished second overall.
The trio finished two laps ahead of Black Falcon’s No. 2 entry, which saw a near-miss by Khaled Al Qubaisi, who spun the gull-winged car on the front straight with less than 30 minutes to go. The Emirati, along with Jeroen Bleekemolen, were entered in both of the team’s Mercedes stood on the podium despite their lead car not finishing.
A late charge by Pierre Kaffer and Marco Seefried helped give the No. 458 GT Corse Ferrari a fourth place overall finish, with the pole-sitting No. 21 V8 Racing Corvette C6.R completing the top-five after setting the race’s fastest lap in the hands of Nicky Pastorelli.
A6-Am class honors went to the No. 888 Dragon Racing Ferrari after the No. 19 GDL Racing Mercedes, which had been running as high as fourth overall, suffered a broken steering rack after colliding with another car with less than three hours to go.
Nissan scored a monumental SP2 class victory for its all-GT Academy driver lineup of Miguel Faisca, Florian Strauss, Stanislav Aksenov, American Nick McMillen and team leader Lucas Ordonez, in four of the five drivers’ 24-hour race debuts.
The No. 123 RJN Motorsport-run Nissan 370Z overcame late-race starter motor issues to finish 25 laps clear of the competition.
Other class winners included the Speedworks Motorsport Ginetta G50 (SP3), Forch Racing by Lukas Motorsport Porsche 997 Cup (997), JR Motorsport BMW E46 GTR (A5), Racing Divas Team Schubert BMW 320D (A3T), AD Racing/K-Rejser Renault Clio Sport (A2) and Recy Racing Team BMW 120D (D1).
Of note, the A2 class-winning Renault was co-driven by nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen’s brother, Jacob.
The 10th running of the Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai is set for Jan. 8-10, 2015.
RESULTS: Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai