For the second straight year the No. 1 Mercedes SLS of Abu Dhabi Black Falcon has won the season’s first endurance race, the 24 Hours of Dubai presented by Creventic.
Three-quarters of the 2011 driving team was back for 2012: Khaled Al Qubaisi, Jeroen Bleekemolen, and Sean Edwards were joined by veteran racer Bernd Schneider in the twice-winning car.
Jeroen Bleekemolen put the No. 1 Black Falcon Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 on the pole, which was a huge victory in itself, as co-driver Khaled Al Qubaisi totaled the team’s lead car during testing three days before the race.
The team managed to convince a competitor to sell their backup chassis, which Black Falcon converted from a sprint to an endurance racer in a process, which wasn’t finished until minutes before the race started. The Black Falcon crew worked without rest for two days to complete the car—and then had to stay up another 24 hours to get it through the race.
The first half of the race was riddled with Code 60s, the series’ version of a caution period, which allowed a lot of Pro-Am teams to contest for the overall lead as some of the pro leaders got caught out of the pits and lost laps while the Am cars got in and back out in the lead.
The Black Falcon car got a pair of penalties on top of losing a lap after not getting into the pits in time, which dropped it back a dozen-and-a half places. The Pro-Am Stadler racing Porsche held the lead while the No. 24 Saudi Falcon Schubert BMW Z4 GT3, which challenged so hard in 2011, moved toward the front of the field.
About nine hours in the pros had caught back up and the race looked like another confrontation between the Black Falcon Mercedes and the Saudi Falcon Schubert BMWs.
Halfway through the race the No. 16 AF Corse Ferrari 458 took over, and the Black Falcon Mercedes and AF Corse Ferrari swapped the lead on pit stops for a few hours. Finally the Ferrari had brake issues, which cost it a lap, and the Black Falcon car moved into first.
The next few hours were a battle between the Black Falcon and Schubert cars, until the Schubert BMW lost its oil pump about two hours from the end of the race.
This left the 2011-winning Black Falcon Mercedes with a comfortable lead and no real competition. That didn’t mean the rest of the race was not exciting. The Craft Racing Aston Martin and Fach Auto Tech Porsche battled hard for the final spot on the podium behind the AF Corse Ferrari, with the Pro Aston team beating out the Amateur F.A.T Porsche, which had to be satisfied with first in class.
The presentation of the race could be an example to every other series. Timing and scoring was the most comprehensive of any series, video streaming was first-rate and almost entirely faultless for 24 hours, and the organizers of Creventic hired Radio Le Mans to do the commentary. This was an extraordinarily fan-friendly race.
Next year’s event has already been scheduled, and a lot of race fans are adding it to their itineraries.
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