Close racing, dense traffic, and Code Sixties have been the stories of the 2013 Dubai 24 Hours through the first few hours.
A Pro-Am Porsche led the race after three hours, a few minutes before the third Code Sixty of the race slowed the entire field and brought in many cars for fuel, tires, and driver changes.
Marco Seefried in the Pro-Am #20 Stadler Motors Porsche led before the purple Code Sixty flag waved, leading Takayuki Aoki in the JLOC Lamborghini. After almost 20 minutes under purple, the race went back to green, and on lap 80 Aoki took the lead, from the Porsche, now with Marcel Matter at the wheel. Jörg Müller in the #24 Schubert BMW lay third.
Three A6 Am cars filled the top five: Jordan Grogan in the Dragon Racing Ferrari held fourth, with Carl Lusser in the Fach Auto Tech Porsche 997 was fifth.
It took quite a lot of exciting battling and offbeat strategy to achieve these results; the race looked much different at the beginning.
Nicki Thiim in the #26 Attempto Porsche 997 leapt into the lead at the drop of the green flag, passing Jeroen Bleekemolen in the #1 Abu Dhabi Black Mercedes SLS; Claudia Hürtgen in the #24 Saudi Falcon Schubert BMW got past as well. Bleekemolen hadn’t had a chance to bed the brakes or warm up his car, so he had to take it easy for the first few laps.
Hürtgen and Thiim fought hard for the lad until lap, Hürtgen got by on lap 10. On lap 18, Thiim had a fuel leak which caught fire; he had to park his Porsche trackside, and retire.
Jeroen Bleekemolen snuck past Hürtgen in traffic on lap 19. Bleekemolen,. The defending 2012 winner, didn’t have it easy, as the top three cars: Bleekemolen, Hürtgen, and Darren Turner in the #15 Craft Racing AMR Aston were within eight-tenths of a second. Turner got into second on lap lap 24, and threatened Bleekemolen until the race’s first Code Sixty on lap 29.
Code Sixty is the Dubai 24’s answer to a caution period. Instead of waving a yellow flag and sending out a pace car, every car has to slow to 60 km/h, and cannot pass. This preserves gaps, so cars with big leads don’t lose them under caution.
The Code Sixty changed the race completely. The three leading cars were too far around the track when the flag waved, to make it into the pits, while most of the rest of the leaders came in for fuel. The three leaders came in after completing another lap, and were caught refueling when the race went back to green, costing the the leaders two laps
Another interesting aspect of the Dubai 24 is the refueling method—there are ten gasoline pumps behind the pits and cars have to line up and wait for service. This favors cars which pit off schedule; those cars can get filled immediately. At Dubai, if more than ten cars try to refuel simultaneously, the later arrivals have to wait. This is where the Schubert, Black Falcon, and Craft AMR cars lost so much time.
This gave some of the A6-Am cars to take the lead of the race, while some of the fastest A6-Pros fell back to 15th and lower. Marco Seefried in the #20 Stadler Motors Porsche took the lead, Lost it to Fabien Giroix in the #9 Gulf Racing Lamborghini for a while, and took it back eventually in the cycle of pit stops.
After three hours, there was a huge variety of cars in the top ten: A Porsche in the lead, followed by a McLaren and a Lamborghini, a Mercedes, a BMW, an Aston Martin, and a Ferrari, then another Porsche, Mercedes, and Lamborghini.
Sean Edwards in the #1 Black Falcon BMW worked his way back up to fourth place by lap 71, with Abdulaziz AlFaisal in the #24 Schubert BMW and Tomonobu Fuijii in the #15 Craft AMR Aston right behind him—a couple more Code Sixtys, some good strategy, and non-stop fast laps restored order after the chaos caused by the first Code Sixty.
The #1 Mercedes picked up a few penalties which might set it back again. Race officials claimed the Black Falcon Mercedes didn’t slow down quickly enough after a Code Sixty was called, and then called for passing under yellow. The team is protesting both penalties, and believes in-car video will prove the team innocent.
The #15 Craft AMR Aston Martin also got a stop-and-hold for speeding under Code Sixty.
The Schubert BMW was the only car of the early leaders not to get a penalty; while the Craft (sixth) and Black Falcon (tenth) cars have a lot of ground to recover, the Schubert car, though a lap down because of getting caught out by Code Sixties, was third overall and in far better shape.
The A6 Pro cars under the new Balance of Performance rules can lap as fast as they want, but because of the dense traffic (79 cars on track at the start) has made it difficult for the pros to run flat-out. The new rules have worked, in that they were designed to give the Pro-Am teams a chance to compete for the overall win.
Other Class Leaders
Christian Raubach in the Black Falcon Team TMD Friction Porsche 997 Cup led the 997 class, 17th overall.
SP3 belonged to Henk Thijssen in the #148 Cor Euser Racing 1 Lotus Evora GT4, 23rd overall.
Right behind the SP3 Lotus came Christophe de Fierlant in the SP2 Boutsen Ginion Racing Renault Megane Trophy.
Bas Schouten led the A5 class in the JR Motorsport BMW E46 GT, 27th overall.
Sami Moutran in the Memac Ogilvy Duel Racing Seat Leon Supercopa LR led A3T in 39th place overall.
In A2 Franjo Kovac in the Besaplast Racing Team Mini Cooper S led the class, 45th overall.
The LD Racing BMW 130i of Eric Vincenot led a4 in 55th place.
Finally, Kris Budnik in SVDP Racing’s BMW 120D led D1 in 59th position.
Follow all the action at 24hDubai.com
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