(Motorsport-Total.com) – Belgium’s W Racing Team caused a stir with the BMW M4 GT3 from the start: at the 24 Hours of Dubai, WRT took first and third place with the new machine on the first serve. (Result 24h Dubai 2023)
WRT defended its 24 Hours of Dubai title with a new brand
Mohammed Saud Fahad al Saud, Diego Menchaca, Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer, Jens Klingmann and Dries Vanthoor took victory in WRT-BMW #7. Saud Fahad Al Saud and Vanthoor are defending the title at the start of the 24h Series, as is the WRT. However, in 2022 they won in an Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo.
For BMW, this is the fourth victory at the 24 Hours of Dubai. But it’s the first since the 2011 edition, when the race switched to GT3 regulations. At the time, Schubert Motorsport won with a BMW Z4 GT3. Duller Motorsport was responsible for the other two victories in the early days of racing in 2006 and 2007.
The #7 car, seen from the start as one of the big favorites for victory, came to the top after a dramatic initial phase in which, among other things, the two Mercedes-AMG GT3s withdrew from the main racing team.
Herberth fights to the end
But it was anything but “Smooth Sailing”, as the Herberth-Porsche #91 (Bohn/Allemann/R. Renauer/A. Renauer) took advantage of the night to reduce the gap from one lap to less than a minute. According to the pit stop, the black Porsche continued to take the lead for a short time.
Highlights of the 2023 24H Dubai race
The best scenes of the 24 Hours of Dubai, the start of the 2023 24h Series
As always in the 24h Series, it was important to use the Code 60 phases correctly in Dubai. Under code 60 you can stop, but only get half a tank of fuel. Depending on the situation, a stop under “Rose” is worthwhile. A light shower on Sunday morning also caused a short episode, which forced some vehicles to swerve.
Herberth delivered an enthralling run at WRT and proved to be a strong contender. It’s even more impressive considering that the Porsche 911 GT3 R (991.2 since the race was still contested with GT3 cars from 2022) was a Pro-Am car. So two amateurs had to sit in the car instead of one.
Herberth pulled out all the stops and even did a “short pitstop” in the final hour to get past the BMW. The last stop still due was in fact made under the expected code 60, but the ten-second lead was of course not enough to defend it.
Rossi-BMW on the podium after initial drama
In the end, 21.761 seconds made the difference. Herberth narrowly missed the second victory after 2017, which was also won with Ralf Bohn, Daniel Allemann and twin brothers Robert and Alfred Renauer. Brendon Hartley was the car’s fifth driver at the time. Of course, you take the top class victory in the Pro-Am class with you.
Third place was secured by the second BMW, the vehicle around motorcycle legend Valentino Rossi. The #46 WRT-BMW (Whale/Rossi/Gelael/Hesse/Martin) had a shock moment in the early stages when Timothy Whale slipped on a slick of oil after two and a half hours and hit the tire wall . It remained with minor ground damage.
After this very lucky scene, the BMW raced smoothly and was already on track for a podium finish after the first quarter. From then on, the quintet made no more mistakes and regained third place.
Behind, fierce battle between the Porsche EBM n°10 (Bamber/S. Grove/de Pasquale/B. Grove) and the Audi Haas RT n°21 (Soulet/Detry/Bertels/Mazatis/Vervisch). The Porsche registered “Grove Racing” won in a duel between Anton de Pasquale and Frédéric Vervisch in the penultimate hour. A mid-race puncture cost the Haas RT Audi a lot of time.
In sixth place overall, the #92 Herberth-Porsche (Hart/Skeer/Adelson/Lucas) completed a one-two finish for Herberth Motorsport in the Pro-Am class. Behind them, the Porsche #32 GP Elite (Groeneveld/J. van Kuijk/D. van Kuijk/Vermeulen). It was the second outing for a Porsche 911 GT3 R from the star Porsche Cup GP Elite team after the 12 Hours of Kuwait.
The top 10 was completed by the #27 SPS-Mercedes (James/Newell/de Angelis/Gunn) in third position in the Pro-Am category, the #85 CP-Mercedes (Putman/Espenlaub/Foster/Lewis/Quaife) in as the winner of the Am category and the #1 Phoenix-Audi (Doppelmayr/Kaffer/Erhart/Jöns), which lost ten laps in the opening stages due to a stop for repairs.
The dramas played out early
The race was relatively static for 18 hours after things really got going in the early stages. The Mercedes n°4 HRT (Main/al Qubaisi/Baud/Gounon/Stolz) made the most spectacular farewells. Sébastien Baud suffered a fire after five hours. So far, there is no statement from the team on whether the crash was caused by contact or a technical fault.
Things got even worse for the Haupt Racing Team, who had started the race among the favourites: Less than an hour after Baud’s accident, the HRT-Mercedes n°777 (Stolz/Jefferies/Schiller/Konrad) was out of the race with a defect. HRT was able to pack up after six hours.
At that time, Tresor by Attempto Racing was still trying to restart the Attempto-Audi #99 (Aka/Hutchison/Mukovoz/Pereira) which had already let up after three and a half hours. Another lengthy repair of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II followed, but after a lap it was left alone.
Next favourite, the Porsche Herberth n°911 (Müller/Malichin/Sturm/King) had to bury its hopes after seven hours. The Porsche, which debuted as “Pure Rxcing”, had to deal with a steering problem. The stop cost about 40 laps.
The No. 26 Sainteloc-Audi (Kelders/Gachet/Bastard/Doquin/Demoustier) fared even worse, being traded as a secret favourite. You lost ten laps at the start of the race. The ride finally came to an end after nearly ten hours when Erwan Bastard was pushed against a wall by a run-in Porsche and crashed onto a sidewalk.
The 24 Hours of Dubai kicked off the 2023 24h Series. Some teams will stay on the Arabian Peninsula and contest 6-hour races in Abu Dhabi next weekend. Dubai and Abu Dhabi also host the Asian Le Mans Series, which will hold four four-hour races in the Gulf from February 11-19.
Other 24h Dubai 2023 class winners:
992: Auto Tech Porsche Specialist #962 (Schwarzer/Rindone/ten Voorde/Hoffsummer/van Eijndhoven)
GT4: Dragon-Mercedes #408 (R. Goethe/O. Goethe/B. Goethe/Hall/Grogor)
GTX: Razoon-KTM #714 (Drexel/Pichler/Rosenberger/Bau/Kirchmayr)
TCR: AC Audi #188 (Perrin/Mettler/Born/Dejonghe)
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