Endurance racing is a war of attrition. That was certainly the case for the GT Academy team at last weekend’s Dubai 24H race, as the #123 car was met with numerous setbacks en route to an eighth-place finish in-class.
When we last checked in with the team around the 12-hour mark, the 370Z (piloted by Jann Mardenborough, Ricardo Sanchez, Romain Sarazin, and Johnny Hamui) was sitting in 13th position in the SP3-GT4 class. Starting the race in second, Mardenborough had built up a lead before a suspension gremlin during Sanchez’ first stint knocked the team to the pits.
As the sun began to set some hours later, 2016 GT Academy champion Guindi would get his first tour of duty in the Nissan. On cold tires, Johnny accidentally turned off the ABS, which caused a high-speed wheel lock-up and contact with a Porsche, forcing the car back into the pits to repair the damage to the door.
Additional alternator issues throughout the race dashed any hopes of a podium finish. The GT Academy team did get a small victory in the form of the fastest lap in the class though, showing that the car, niggles aside, was competitive.
The SP3 win fell to British brand Ginetta (which just announced its entry for the 2018 WEC season), securing a one-two finish with the #231 Optimum Motorsport (Stewart Linn, Ade Barwick, Dan O’Brien, and William More) and#229 Century Motorsport (Nathan Freke, Aiden Moffat, Jack Mitchell, Ben Green) cars. Rounding out the class podium was the #267 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR (Jonathan Hui, Frank Yu, Antares Au, Kevin Tse).
The mid-pack finish did little to dampen the newest recruit’s mood, however. The GT Academy alumnus brought the car home—lights flashing—and was in tears when exiting the car, having completed his first ever endurance race.
Up in the top class, Herberth Motorsport took the 2017 Dubai 24H race win, racking up 578 laps at the Dubai Autodrome in the process. 2015 WEC champion Brendon Hartley brought the car over the line, securing the first 24H win for the new model alongside teammates Robert Renauer, Alfred Renauer, Ralf Bohn and Daniel Allemann. The team enjoyed a relatively smooth ride to finish the race with a two-lap advantage over the Manthey Racing sister Porsche driven by Porsche works driver Sven Müller, Porsche “Young Professional” Matteo Cairoli, Otto Klohs and Jochen Krumbach.
Three-time Dubai 24H winner Black Falcon saw its Mercedes-AMG GT3 snatch the final podium spot. Its sister car, the #2 Mercedes, started on pole and enjoyed a lead early on, but was forced to retire after sunrise when local hero Khaled al-Qubaisi spun and crashed into the #963 car of GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini, forcing both cars to retire from the race.
Elsewhere, the two former Formula 1 drivers taking part in the race didn’t have the best of times either, as Robert Kubica’s Forch Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R, and Jean-Eric Vergne’s GP Extreme Renault RS01 (both racing in the A6-Pro category) failed to make it to the end.
The 24H SERIES resumes March 17-18 at Mugello for the Hankook 12H.