Dubai 24 hours 2015
The 10th edition of the 24H of Dubai saw a record number of 97 entries, promising to make this race particularily challenging. Weather was ideal with temperatures in the low 20's and no wind. Good news all around.
The GC team came well prepared this year with a significantly upgraded SP2 car. Last year they had over expended themselves with three cars and learned a lesson in the process.
The cars handling and balance was further improved since I last drove it two years ago. 40 more HP and a paddle shift transmission coupled with a further improved suspension set-up allowed us to use the full range of power available without having to over expend ourselves. Excactly the way one wants a car to be set up for a 24 hour race.
Regarding the driver line up I will say it was one of the best in a long time. Alban Varulffi a semi professional who has been running the GC 10.2 all year was able to set a blistering pace from the very start, managing to break into the top class . I tried hard to get myself down to his lap times (2 seconds off his pace) however there is no placebo for practice, practice and more practice. As the last time I sat in a race car was 7 months ago I consider my performance very honorable. In fact at night my average lap times were less than a second off of Albans! Our other two drivers, Lionel Amrouche and Mathieu Pontais were running between 2 and 4 seconds off my pace. That having been said this made for a a very good average for 4 drivers. It was evident we all had the same goal, make it to the end without a scratch, so after qualfiying was over we were all very pumped up!!
After an uneventful start from row 7 we very quickly worked our way into the lead managing to stay with the pace of the top class, running a cool 1st in class, eventually 17th overall with a ten lap lead over our next competitor by about 1:00AM. I was one lap from the end of my midnight stint, powering out of one of the slowest turns on the track next to slower entry to my left and a Porsche RSR to my right when all hell broke out. Three cars abreast out of a turn was a reoccuring happening throughout the race so at the outset I had no concern. That was not counting on the Porsche all of a sudden loosing traction on exit. His rear swerved into my front right. I tried to avoid contact as I saw it coming but I was sandwiched between the slower entry and the Porsche. In a split second the outcome of our race was decided....my front end was damaged, loosing the front right wheel , rim, hub, brakes and brake line. In no time I had no brakes but still managed to limp back to the pits. 45 minutes later we were back in the running in P3. A big sigh of relief by all we settled back into our race pace. Until 4:00 AM everything was looking good having managed to get back into P2 when bad luck struck again in the same turn and in the same manner with our Nr. 3 driver!! This time while he also managed to make it back to the pits on his own power it took over two an half hours to get us back on track. We even had to wait an agonizing 45 minutes for the track officials to find our ' missing wheel assembly' for the team to complete the repair not having enough spares!!!
From that moment on it was clear a podium finish was not in the cards. Team stayed committed however and put in a stellar performance to the bitter end. We ended up 6th in class in terms of number of laps completed however on the last lap our fuel pump gave up so we did not cross the finish line so not classified.
Needless to say a very dissappointing end to the race!! That having been said we all felt pretty good about ourselves and the teams overall performance. With a bit of better luck next time a strong podium finish should be in the cards!!
Dubai 24 hours 2014
The 9th edition of the Dubai 24 hours has just come to a close. Conditions were ideal (20 deg C) with the exception of a 15 minute freak rain shower around mid night. A record 90 entries took to the start with an oversubscribed number of A6 class competitors. We competed in the class just below, 997 class. Long story short....we ended up 7th in class and 37th overall.
Race was punctuated by many many accidents which called for numerous 'code 60' sessions while track was cleared of cars, debris and safety barriers rebuilt.
Qualifying for our team was a disaster as we had a high speed tire blow out and were T-boned on two separate occasions requiring extensive repairs. With very little track time I managed to qualify way back in the field ( 53rd ).
For race day I did the start (only one who stayed out of trouble during practice!) and handed over to nr. 2 driver while 4th in class and 21st overall!. Through dusk and into the early hours of the night we hovered around 6th and 7th place without any incident. Then around midnight during a freak 20 minute rain we were involved in an incident with another competitor. With nowhere to go we sustained substantial damage; displacing the engine, ripping off the rear exhaust as well as body work (see pics)!! After two and half hours in the pits and some stunning team work by the mechanics Nr. 41 was back in the running!! From then on it was BTW to the finish!!
A podium finish was unfortunately out of reach having spent too much time in the pits. However we made it to the end in a race with close to 50% attrition rate!!
Special recognition goes to our mechanics without whom we would have retired early. Needless to say I had a blast while I was behind the wheel managing once again to stay out of trouble and driving a total of 5 stints!! Finally for the first time I ran with a 'cooled suit' helping to keep me from overheating.
PS. The 3.6 liter, 450 HP 997 Cup S Porsche weighs in at 1100 kgs. A very balanced and fantastically competitive car in the right hands!.
Dubai 24 hours 2013
4th place SP2 class Dubai 24 hours 2013
Just back from the 7th running of this years 24 hours of Dubai. Objective this time was to do even better than last year (3RD in SP3 class)! I chose to drive for the same team as last year but this time in a more powerful prototype, a 6.2 liter, 550 HP GC 10 SP 2 Protoype.
The driver make up this year for the nr. 131 GC 10.2 included Marco Deutsch, Gunter Deutsch, Jean Pierre Lequeux and David Prusa.
The race weekend started quite well with yours truly once again posting fastest qualifying time of the teams five drivers for a 6th in class place on the starting grid in a field of 87 entries. 0.5 sec separated 1st from 5th place in our class promising a very competitive race ahead. I was the chosen lead man to to do the start. After an uneventful start I had a very good first stint , finding a good rhythm in the process. I handed over to my fellow driver in 6th place.
Throughout the late afternoon stints we held our position in the field, staying out of harms way. Things were looking good as we headed for the night or so we thought!
As dusk settled we suffered several 'self inflicted' accidents by two of the teams more seasoned drivers. First incident required a two hour pit stop to rebuild the front of the car. Second incident around midnight required another 3 hour pit stop annihalating our chances for a podium finish. Finally in the early hours of the morning yet another driver error required replacement of the front left hand suspension replacement and sequential gear box repair.
It turns out the our two ' seasoned drivers' struggled with keeping the tires at operating temperatures with subsequent loss of grip and loosing control of the car.
As is often the case in endurance racing the misfortune of some plays into the hands of others. Although we lost many hours inthe pits we finally ended up 4th in class and 58th overall. A special thanks to our team of mechanics who got us back on the track when everything seemd lost!!
Dubai 24 hours 2012
3rd place SP3 class Dubai 24 hours 2012
Just back from a very eventful Dubai 24 hr race weekend!! where we managed to pull off a 3rd place podium finish with team GC Automobiles, running a sport prototype (SP3 class).
In contrast to last year where we went the full distance in a Turbo diesel powered BMW finishing 5th in class this year saw me secure a ride in a very different type of race car, a Silhouette prototype car. While it looks like a Scirocco it has nothing to do with a VW. A first for me and might I say a fantastic new experience.The Race car, called a GC 10.2 (GC = Gomez Competition), designed and produced by the Gomez brothers, is built up around a space frame, sporting a 350 HP V6 Nissan engine, coupled to a 6 speed sequential gear box. Stopping power comes from a set of absolutely fantastic Brembo brakes. Car weighs in at 900 kg's and while it has a Scirocco shell it is anything but a Scirocco!
Free practice saw us battle the first and only technical issue, an electronic glitch with the sequential gear box forcing us to go back to manual mode (not fun let me tell you when you had to throw all your weight into down shifting!!). Yours truly qualified 16th out of 19 in the SP3 class (one of the larger classes with a larger spread of weights and HP's).
Night qualifying saw us post the 20th best time overall, testament to the great handling of the car. I had an absolute ball behind the wheel! It should be said here that early on I was running about 2 secs quicker than the other team drivers having adapted very quickly to the handling of the race car, very reminiscent of that of the Formula cars I drove earlier in my career.
Race day was a very hot one. Having been selected to start the race I was hydrating myself hours before the start in anticipation of very demanding conditions. 50` deg track temps meant in-car temps of around 70` deg shortly after the start. Needless to say while I managed to make up ten positions during my initial stint I did not pace myself very well. After an hour and 15 minutes I started experiencing the first effects of dehydration and had to abort my stint by 20 minutes or risk passing out in the car from heat stress. It turned out pretty much everyone else came in early as well so no real time lost.
Thankfully as the day wore on temperatures cooled. we then started making ground on several of the stronger cars in the field moving steadily up the field. At one time we were actually running 2nd in class only to be penalized on two separate occasions for speeding in the pit lane!! The pressure was on.
Through the night our team of drivers did an excellent job staying out of harms way and managed to keep a solid pace. During my second night stint (the graveyard shift) I clocked our fastest lap of the race , without a doubt another great moment as this was on a set of tires on their third stint. I would say it was also during a time where I had some great free laps and could totally focus on getting the most out of the car! As we neared the 20 hour mark we were running 5th, just a few laps behind 3rd and 4th place runners.
During my last stint I picked off 4th place thanks to our sheer speed and then were handed 3rd place when one of the front runners crashed out. During the dying moments of the race while Gunter Deutsch was driving we were now being chased by 4th placed competitor. At the time they were lapping about 15 seconds quicker per lap however having a 5 lap advantage we held on to our 3rd place right through to the end. A fantastic result for all involved. We managed 541 laps or a total distance of 2900 kms. Not bad for 24 hours say!!