After nine hours, the Amateurs stilled played a role in the Dunlop Dubai 24 Hours, but the pros were closing fast.
A6 Pro driver Jörg Müller in the #24 Saudi Falcons Team Schubert BMW Z4 GT3 had the lead by a solid 57 seconds over the A6 Am Stadler Motorsport Porsche 997 GT3 R of Adrian Amstutz. The Stadler Porsche, after fighting hard to hold the lead, aided by fortuitous Code Sixties, finally had to give way to the faster pro team.
A strategy error hurt the #20; a quick Code Sixty just before ten p.m. local caught the team off guard. The Stadler Porsche came in to the pits just as the green flag waved, which cost the car the time it took to refuel.
Third came another A6 Am car, the #88 Dragon Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Jordan Grogor, one lap down and right in the sights of the fourth-place Abu Dhabi Black Falcon Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 piloted by Bernd Schneider.
Ten minutes past 11 p.m. local, Schneider passed Grogor to move into third. Judging by the speed of the Black Falcon and the Stadler Porsche, it seems likely the race will eventually come down to a Mercedes—BMW battle—depending on further Code Sixties, further incidents, and reliability issues.
Attrition has been high, but retirement low; most teams would rather do any amount of repair than give up.
One car which couldn’t carry on was the #131 Team Schubert BMW, which was involved in a collision arising from confusion about whether a Code Sixty had ended. Some cars accelerated, some drivers didn’t see the flag, and the Schubert BMW ended up with exhaust, engine, and other damage.
The #131 V8 Racing BV Viper retired with a broken crankshaft just before the nine-hour mark.
Shortly after midnight local time the race-leading Saudi Falcon Schubert BMW Z4 GT3 came in for a brake pad and disc change. Though the Schubert mechanics managed to do a complete swap in only 4 minutes, fifteen seconds, Jeroen Bleekemolen, back at the wheel of the #1 Abu Dhabi Black Falcon Mercedes SLS AMG GT3, moved into the lead for the first time in almost nine hours.
The Schubert BMW exited the pits fifth, a lap down, but with fresh brakes driver Dirk Müller was in good shape to catch back up.
In 18th overall, SP2 leader Gerd Beisel in the Bonk Motorsport Chevrolet Corvette C6 had a ninety-second lead over J.J.Verheul in the Equipe Verschuur Renault Megane Trophy.
Fans were treated to a good battle in SP3 between the #148 Cor Euser Racing Lotus Evora GT4 and the # 143 Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G50 GT4. After several hours of fighting for the class lead, the Optimum Ginetta was in the lead when it parked on the side of the track. The Cor Euser car, in 19th, had several laps on the next SP3 car, the #141 Bonk Motorsport BMW M3 GT4.
The Ginetta rejoined just before 11 p.m.
Both SP3 GT Academy Nissan 370Zs had been battered throughout the first several hours of the race. The #127 started the mayhem by driving into a stray wheel which had come untethered from the #69. The #147 car had also been beaten a bit before Sabine Schmitz spun into the wall at a quarter past ten local.
Longtime 997 leader, the #44 Black Falcon Team TMD Friction Porsche lost over an hour in the pits, giving the class lead to the #54 Motorsport Services—STR Porsche 997 Cup, with Malcolm Niall at the wheel, in 24th place.
In A3T, the Racing Divas Schubert Racing BMW 320D with Paulien Zwart at the wheel got repaired, got back on track, and retook the lead when the #66 Motorsport Services car had its own mechanical woes.
Martin Tschornia in the #102 Besaplast Racing Mini Cooper S in 38th place had a two-lap lead over the #100 Vogtland Racing Mini R58 Coupe driven by Jan Cervenka.
In 39th, Paul Follett in the Sorg Rennsport BMW Z4 M Coupe led A5 had a lock on the A5 class.
In 40th, Toni Büeler led D1 in the Red Camel-Jordans.nl Seat Leon 2.0 Tdi.
Live streaming, Timing and Scoring, and text updates are available at 24hDubai.com
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