Daniel Allemann, Ralf Bohn, Robert Renauer, Alfred Renauer and Brendon Hartley dominated the 12th running of the Dubai 24 Hours in the #911 Precote Herberth Motorsport 991 GT3 R with a faultless performance start to finish. The quartet led at various points during the opening hours before taking the lead at 4:40am on Sunday morning and holding station all the way to the flag, two laps clear of the other runners.
It looked as if Black Falcon’s pair of AMG GT3s and Manthey Racing’s Porsche would be able to mount a challenge and keep up the pressure on the leaders, but all three failed to reel in the Herberth Porsche in the second half of the race. As a result, the German team took a decisive first Dubai 24 Hours victory, and Porsche’s first since Stadler Motorsport won it back in 2014. Amongst its drivers, Brendon Hartley’s achievement was notable, as it was 2015 WEC champion’s first 24-hour race win and on his debut Porsche GT3 drive too.
“Awesome experience, first time in a GT, first time in a 911, first time winning a 24, hopefully this form continues!” Said a jubliant Hartley after the race. “Herberth were great, true professionals in this one.”
In the end, the #12 Monthey Racing Porsche of Otto Klohs, Sven Müller, Matteo Cairoli and Jochen Krumbach ran consistently fast throughout led for extended periods during the first half of the race and and recovered well from losing time due to making extended damage repairs to the front-bumper.
They’ll wonder what could have been though, finishing up second overall, tantalisingly close to Herberth to make it a Porsche 1-2.
A further lap down – claiming the final A6-Pro podium spot – was the #3 Black Falcon Mercedes AMG GT3 of Abdulaziz Al Faisal, Hubert Haupt, Yelmer Buurman, Michal Broniszewski and Maro Engel which sat outside the top three for the majority of the race.
They were there at the end though, claiming the order as the sun came up on Sunday as other contenders around it – including its sister #2 AMG GT3 – faltered. The #2 led from pole position and sat a strong second, taking the lead at times until Sunday morning. With the sun rising, Khaled Al Qubaisi crashed into a barrier and later collected one of the Grasser Lamorghinis, causing severe damage to the front of the car, forcing it to later retire after the team mechanics attempted a repair.
Nevertheless Black Falcon leave with A6-Pro trophies after a great all-round effort from the #3 crew, who stayed out of trouble and were rewarded with silverware for their performance.
Behind, the Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 finished fourth after a valiant effort in the closing hours of the race by drivers Joe Osborne, Ryan Ratcliffe and Christopher Hasse, who had to compete without power steering. The issue ultimatlely cost the British team a podium, as they slowly faded away from the top three runners as the race wound down, finishing four laps down. They will be over the moon with such a strong finish though, in what was a quality A6-Pro field.
IMSA Performance’s Porsche finished fifth, after a quiet but impressive run to the flag by the all-French driver crew of Raymond Narac, Thierry Cornac, Maxime Jousse and Mathieu Jaminet. The experienced French team managed to beat out the first of the two WRT Audis in the race – the #5 – which for the team was perhaps a tough one after winning it overall last year. This time out the world-class Belgian Audi Club squad failed to feature in the race for the win in A6-Pro or Am.
The seventh place finisher meanwhile was the first class winner outside of the A6-Pro runners, with 2016 24H Series champion Hofor Racing winning A6-Am in its first race with the AMG GT3 after campaigning the SLS in the past.
It was a deserved victory for its driver crew of Michael Kroll, Chantal Kroll, Roland Eggimann, Kenneth Heyer and Christiaan Frankenhout, who outlasted challenges from the GP Extreme Renault R.S.01 which came home third in the class, the HTP & IDEC Sport AMG GT3s which hit trouble and the Gravity Racing SLS GT3 that crossed the line three laps down in second.
The SPX class also saw a dominant run, with the GDL Racing Team Asia Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo which ran at the head of the field for almost the entire race after the opening few hours, beating the Leipert Motorsport Huracan to the win. Like the other class winners at the front, Lim Keong Liam, Nigel Farmer, Bruce Lee and Gerald Tan kept it clean and brought the car home with almost no scratches.
It must be said though that the Leipert Lambo’s run to second was a heroic one, after the mechanics worked all night before the race rebuilding the car to get it ready to race.
Third in the SPX category, which featured a wide variety of entries, was the Fach Auto Tech Porsche 991 Cup MR six laps off the winner. The final notable category was by far the most frantic though, as SP3-GT4 saw changes up and down the order throughout the race, all the way to the flag.
Winning the class was the #231 Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 of Stewart Linn, Ade Barwick, Dan O’Brien and William Moore but not after multiple lead changes and contenders dropping out. It must be said though, that of the various cars in the class, the Ginettas looked to have the best combination of speed and durability.
Second spot in the end was taken Century Motorsport’s Ginetta, but only after the GDL Racing Team Asia Porsche – which crossed the line second – was handed a penalty after the race for a suspected driver time infringement and Jörg Viebahn in the the PROsport Cayman crashed out at Turn 1 in the final 20 minutes.
Following the sanctions handed to GDL, its team still managed a podium, though it has improved Ginetta’s result to a 1-2 in the class for the Yorkshire-based brand.
Of the cars making their global endurance debuts in the race, it was an impressive run from both the Cadspeed Audi RS3 LMS TCR which remarkably won the TCR category and the Schubert BMW M4 GT4 which also had a faultless run to 25th overall and 5th in SPX.
The 2017 Dubai 24 Hours was by no means the most enthralling race at the front, but it was a memorable one, with Herberth Motorsport continuing its 24H Series tour de force after its three big wins in 2016. It was also a frantic race further down the order, with the enormous grid throwing up a lot of surprises and creating many surprise winners.
It’s going to be interesting to see how it continues to grow as an event in the future, starting in the 2018 running in a year’s time.