Race week action started early for this year’s Hankook 24H DUBAI, with prototype machinery out on track at Dubai Autodrome on Tuesday already for the inaugural Hankook 3x3H DUBAI. A total of 17 prototypes from the G57, CN and P3 classes weres in action in two free practice sessions, one qualifying and the first encounter of this week’s triple-header of three-hour races. Victory in the first-ever prototype race organised by Dutch agency CREVENTIC in co-operation with the Dutch National Racing Team (DNRT) went to French team, Graff Racing, that saw drivers Eric Trouillet. Franck Matelli and Edward Lewis Brauner complete 79 laps with the Ligier JS P3. Dutch team, Kox Racing, made it a 1-2 for Ligier with its JS2 P3 driven by Peter Kox and Nico Pronk. Third place overall and victory in the G57 class went to Century Motorsport with Euan and Daniel McKay while the IDEC Sport Racing Team claimed a last-gasp CN class win with Frédérique Da Rocha, Nicolas Da Rocha, David Abramczik and Romain Vozniak in the Ligier JS53 Evo2.
“Finally seeing these prototypes racing here at Dubai Autodrome after a long time of preparation was a great experience,” CREVENTIC’s Ole Dörlemann comments. “We have had very positive feedback and support from many drivers and teams for our prototype initiative and this really whets the appetite for what is to come in our new 24H PROTO SERIES powered by Hankook this year!” Apart from GP2 and A1GP single-seater cars that raced at Dubai Autodrome some ten years ago, the prototypes are the fastest cars ever driven in competition around the 5.399 kilometres long circuit.
Bradley Ellis puts Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G57 on pole in qualifying
Having topped the time sheets in the first free practice sessions already, the Ginetta G57s were setting the pace in qualifying as well. Driving the #57 Graff entry (Lawrence Tomlinson/Mike Simpson/Jordan Sanders), Simpson posted a fast lap time of 1m51.194s early in the session that left him on top for a long time. In the final ten minutes, however, Bradley Ellis showed his speed by setting a time of 1m51.666 in the #54 Optimum Motorsport car (Adrian Barwick/Bradley Ellis/Kyle Masson/James French) and went one better on his next lap. That resulted into a time of 1m51.136s, enough for the Brit to claim pole position for the first three-hour race. Six overall behind a quintet of Ginettas, Peter Kox put his #48 Kox Racing Ligier JS P3 (Peter Kox/Nico Pronk) on pole in the P3 class, with the #45 Avelon Formula Wolf GB08 CN (Ivan Bellarosa/Guglielmo Belotti) emerging as the fastest CN car in the hands of Bellarosa.
Trouble-free run secures race win for Graff Racing Ligier
At 14.00 hrs local time, 16 prototypes got the first three-hour race underway with a rolling start as the #52 Simpson Motorsport Ginetta (James Wislow/John Corbett) joined the field from the pitlane. Out in front, there was a fierce battle in the first 30 minutes between Charlie Robertson in the #53 HHC Racing Ginetta and Bradley Ellis in the pole-winning #54 Optimum Motorsport Ginetta, but neither of these cars would make it to the finish.
On lap 17, there was the first of three code 60 neutralisations as the #45 Avelon Formula Wolf GB08CN retired from the lead in the CN class with Belotti behind the wheel. As the Ginettas had to make longer pit stops to make up for their performance advantage compared to the other prototypes in the field, the two P3 cars came to the fore and a close battle between Franck Matelli in the #12 Graff car and Peter Kox in the #48 Kox Racing entry brought the decision for victory. Following a late-race pair of code 60s, one after a retirement of the #82 Krafft Racing Norma (David Cristini/Max Bortolami/Régis Treff) from the lead of the CN class and the next one, only one minute after racing had resumed, to allow for the stranded #46 Avelon Formula Wolf (Amro Al-Hamad/Nick Adcock) to be removed, Kox was no longer in a position to mount a challenge. As a result, Matelli drove the #12 Ligier across the line to take the outright win and P3 honours for Graff Racing, with Kox finishing second overall. The McKays were third overall and first in G57 with their #51 Century Motorsport Ginetta 57, one lap ahead of the #55 CWS Ginetta (Colin White/Brandon Gdovic/Jason Coupal). The battle for the CN class win went down to the wire, with Romain Vozniak in the #17 IDEC Sport Racing LigierJS53 Evo 2 (Frédérique Da Rocha/Nicolas Da Rocha/David Abramczik/Romain Vozniak) overtaking the #85 Krafft Racing Norma M20FC (François Kirmann/Daniel Kirmann/Jean-Charles Perrin) on the final lap to take a class win in fifth place overall.
After this evening’s night practice from 18.00 till 19.30 hrs, there are two further prototype races tomorrow, the first one from 9.00 till 12.00 hrs and the second one from 16.00 till 19.00 hrs (all times local in the UAE). Live streaming and live timing can be found on the website: www.24hseries.com.