Dubai 24 hours 2021
Following a sabbatical year in 2020 it was back to the season opener in Dubai Jan16 -17th for the Creventic 24 hour race. 55 Entries this time around in spite of Covid-19.
Having taken the decision to team up with Leipert Motorsports, a team that had contacted me several years earlier, the learning curve was to be considerably steeper than in the past. Reason being the 620 HP Lamborghini required adapting my driving style. A car that has great top end speed but much less aerodynamic downforce, requires considerably higher braking pressures (100 -120kg of brake pressure) and trail braking to help the car turn in. This meant typically lower cornering speeds, using the power and torque to power out of each the turns. A very much more physical driving approach that definitely tested my endurance.
My co-drivers were Fidel Leib, Greg Gorski, Gerhard Watzinger, Oscar Lee. All with previous Lambo experience! Seeings I was the only one of the 5 drivers assigned to the race that had never driven the Lambo before imagine getting all of 5 laps in during free practice before it was time to qualify the car!!
Long story short we qualified 2nd in class by our lead driver Fidel Leib. I was originally assigned to 2 double night stints of 2 hours each and 1 stint of 1 hour during the day. So my only option was to come to grips with the cars handling during my first night stint. Needless to say it was a huge challenge. While I did spin twice it was without consequence during my 1st double stint and handed over the wheel absolutely exhausted. The good news was my lap times improved considerably and it was quickly evident as per feedback from our team manager that my previous experience was playing to my advantage.
A little side note here. I was originally due to start my 1st stint at 21:30 and so was track side around 19:30 just in case. Well the 'just in case' paid off after about 2 minutes arriving in the pits. Our other driver was not managing well in the dark and during a Code 60 phase team decided to make a driver change. I was not fully ready and had to quickly suit up and was only just ready to hop in the car as it arrived in the pits. What happened though was I forgot my driving glasses!! So not only did I have to 'learn the car', get acquainted with night driving again after a full year of hibernation I was also slightly vision impaired (thankfully it is only a very minor correction). Lap times improved over the stint so all was not lost!!
Having been very exhausted after my first stint I asked myself how would I do during the next stint about 5 hours later during the grave yard shift?! Again I showed up at the track way ahead of my allotted driving slot and again was asked to step in earlier! This time nothing was left behind and I ended up having an action packed and fun 2nd double stint, only a bit over 1.5s off Fidels' lap times. And this time having stocked up on hydration and amino acids/B12 vitamins I went the full distance without any significant fatigue. In fact I learned the younger drivers seemed to have considerably more fatigue issues than I had experienced. In the past my forte was always driving at night. So I am pleased to say that at this advanced age I am still able to get the job done.
Up until this point we had no mechanical or driving incidents and were running neck and neck with another Lambo in our class. Some laps we were in the lead , then they would take it back and so it went for several hours. This was once again turning into a sprint race over 24 hours!!
I need to mention a few words regarding the Leipert Motorsports team. I have rarely witnessed the level of professionalism as I did with this team. They left nothing to chance. Their attention to detail was exemplary. Walking us drivers through every step of the game regarding ideal lines, pit entry speeds (60kph) in paddock (40kph) and refuelling area (20kph). We practiced driver changes for a total of 2.5 hours to get average change times down to 30 seconds. We also had IT to help us review our laps, braking zones, shift points, acceleration and cornering speeds such that it was very easy to isolate where time was lost or gained for each driver. They certainly have upheld the German reputation of 'Deutsche Gründlichkeit' . For me it was a real pleasure and the kind of environment that gets the best out of me.
My last stint was to be 1 hour only. However for reasons I can only suspect I was clocking very regular lap times and so towards the end of my stint they asked if I would mind adding another 15minutes. I laughed and said that's why am here so sure. These 15 minutes were then subsequently extended another 30 minutes!! When I handed over we were leading our class but only just. From then on we pushed and pushed and finally the P2 car disappeared from the results with engine failure. We were sorry to learn this as this is never the way you want to win a race but then again to 'finish first you first have to finish'!! And that's what we managed this time.
A fantastic result for all involved!!