Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has claimed victory in the Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai, giving the German manufacturer its first victory in the around-the-clock Middle Eastern enduro.
Laurens Vanthoor took the No. 19 Audi R8 LMS to a commanding 5-lap victory over the No. 16 Black Falcon Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3, having outpaced and outlasted the competition, following a high rate of attrition for new-generation GT3 machinery.
WRT, in its 24H Dubai debut, held the lead from the overnight hours after the No. 28 Land Motorsport Audi ran out of fuel and lost five laps. It fell to sixth at the time after a strong early run.
While having rebounded to second, Connor De Phillippi — who put in a starring drive through the night and morning hours — was forced to retire the Land entry with less than three hours to go with gearbox failure.
It gave clear sailing for the defending Blancpain GT Series champions after a near-flawless effort for Vanthoor and co-drivers Michael Meadows, Stuart Leonard and Alain Ferte.
“It’s a fantastic success for our team, for Audi and for ourselves,” Vanthoor said. “With so many cars on track, it was a difficult race, probably the most difficult I have ever driven. But that is making the success feel even better.”
With both of the debuting Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3s running into early trouble, it was the team’s SLS AMG GT3 that flew the flag for the German squad, remarkably a backup chassis that only took to the track for the first time in warmup.
Adam Christodoulou, Oliver Webb, Oliver Morley and reigning Pirelli World Challenge GTA champion Frankie Montecalvo were joined by car owner Abdulaziz al Faisal for the runner-up finish, less than 48 hours after its primary car burned up in a fire during practice.
The No. 4 C.Abt Racing Audi of Christer Jons, Andreas Weishaupt, Isaac Tutumlu, Matias Henkola and Daniel Abt completed the podium in third, benefiting from a late-race engine failure for the No. 26 Konrad Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
Rolf Ineichen held a one-minute advantage over pole-sitter Jons prior to Konrad’s retirement with less than 25 minutes to go. The Lamborghini had battled power issues since sunrise, and prior to that, ran out of fuel while running in second place.
The No. 10 Hofor Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 of Christiaan Frankenhout, Kenneth Heyer, Roland Eggimann and Chantal and Michael Kroll took A6-Am class honors with a fourth place overall finish.
It was a challenging 24-hour debut for the new Mercedes-AMG GT3, with the No. 30 Ram Racing entry the highest-placed in 21st overall after being delayed by a broken oil cooler in the 7th hour.
The No. 3 Black Falcon Mercedes stopped on track with gearbox issues in the third hour, before later retiring with mechanical gremlins, while Jeroen Bleekemolen took the No. 2 car out of contention after contact with a lapped car in the sixth hour.
Another contender, the No. 11 Scuderia Praha Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, crashed out of the lead in the 10th hour, which resulted in one of more than a dozen Code 60s in the accident-filled race.
The No. 40 Lechner Racing Middle East Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car claimed top honors in the 991 class, while the No. 64 Porsche Lorient Racing Porsche 997 Cup S took the SP2 class win.
Other class winners included the No. 229 Century Motorsport Ginetta (SP3), No. 1 Memac Ogilvy Duel Racing Seat Leon Cup (TCR), No. 208 Team Altran Peugeot (A3) and No. 165 Besaplast Racing Mini Cooper S JCW (A2).
RESULTs: Hankook 24H Dubai