With six hours left in the 2013 Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai, the 2012 winning team, Abu Dhabi Black Falcon, leads by a lap over Saudi Falcon Schubert BMW and AF Corse Ferrari.
Sean Edwards, co-driver in the #1 Black Falcon Mercedes, told Radio Le Mans that the team planned to run pro drivers only for the rest of the race—he felt they couldn’t afford to give up any time, faced with the quality of competition.
About a dozen cars have either retired or are spending most of their time in the pits. With traffic reduced and the sun rising, the pro cars can turn faster laps more quickly and more consistently.
For a few hours the top three cars—the #1 Abu Dhabi Black Falcon Mercedes, #16 AF Corse Ferrari, and #24 Saudi falcon Schubert BMW—were locked in a high-speed stasis.
Despite Claudia Hürtgen setting fastest laps, the gap between her Schubert BMW and the AF Corse Ferrari seemed not to shrink, and the Ferraro for its part couldn’t seem to close the one-lap gap to the leading Mercedes.
Each of the leading teams had only one course of action: to drive very fast, very precise laps, to execute perfectly at every tire change and driver change, and to hope nothing mechanical simply gave up.
All the leaders were very aware that things could go wrong. All three leading teams were originally two-car teams; and each has lost one car. The #12 Schubert BMW has officially retired, while the #2 BMW has lost too many laps top make up in the remaining time. The second AF Corse car is well over one hundred laps behind the leaders, stuck in the pits.
Only ten minutes before the 18-hour mark, AF Corse’s luck ran out—at least some of it. After 435 laps, Marco Cioci brought the car in to the pits, giving up second place. His crew looked over his tired Ferrari; Cioci told them that the brakes were going away. He couldn’t defend, he couldn’t manage traffic without risking collisions.
Can AF Corse find a way to stay in the race/ Can they get back into the fight for the win; can they even hold on to a place on the podium? The team certainly won’t surrender.
Behind the three leaders, there are plenty of hard fights.
In fourth, and leading the A6 Am class, Martin Ragginger has been struggling to keep the #8 Fach Auto Tech Porsche 997 GT3R ahead of the #19 JLOC Lamborghini Gallardo LP600+GT3 piloted by Manabu Orido.
Behind this pair, Daryl O’Young in the #15 Craft Racing AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 is chasing Phil Quaife in the Lapidus Racing McLaren MP4-12C GT3.
And that is just the first seven positions. Throughout the field, drivers unknown and unnoticed push themselves and their cars, trying to gain a position or protect a position. Some are fighting for a class podium, some merely to get ahead of the next driver, whoever he or she might be.
Minutes after the top of the hour, Claudia Hürtgen brought the #24 Schubert BMW not to the pit box but straight into the garage for another front change. This gave third place back to the AF Corse Ferrari and set the car three laps down.
Hürtgen told radio le Mans that the team had planned to wait for a Code Sixty but none came. Apparently the team decided it couldn’t afford to wait, because ti would need a certain amount of time to make up the deficit.
Three laps in six hours? Schubert BMW must be hoping things will go wrong for the competition.
While the BMW was in the garage, Bernd Schneider brought the #1 Merdcedes in for a routine pit stop. Schneider told RLM that the car was consistent and tires were good and the team was happy with the pace.
Watch all the action of the closing hours of the Dubai 24 live online at 24hDubai.com.
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