Team WRT takes third win at Hankook 24H DUBAI on BMW debut; Rossi on the podium

Team WRT has secured its third outright win at the Hankook 24H DUBAI on its endurance racing debut as a BMW M customer outfit.

A frontrunner from the get-go, the Team WRT BMW M4 GT3 (#7, Mohammed Saud Fahad Al Saud / Diego Menchaca / Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer / Jens Klingmann / Dries Vanthoor) emerged on top of a race-long battle with the Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R (#91, Daniel Allemann / Ralf Bohn / Alfred Renauer / Robert Renauer) to secure victory by just 31 seconds. In a grandstand finish, the Herberth Porsche, having short-fuelled during the final round of pit stops to prioritize track position, led the WRT BMW by just 10 seconds heading into the final 20 minutes of the race, only relinquishing this position with a splash-and-dash in the closing 10 minutes.

Back in front, Dries Vanthoor then took the #7 BMW M4 GT3 across the line to complete 621 laps of the 5.39km Dubai Autodrome and secure outright victory. This marks Team WRT’s third event win following similar successes in 2016 and 2022, as well as the first overall win for a BMW at the Hankook 24H DUBAI since Need for Speed by Schubert Motorsport’s triumph in 2011. Vanthoor and Saudi Arabian teammate Mohammed Saud Fahad Al Saud also claim their second consecutive outright wins at the Hankook 24H DUBAI.

“The challenge was big!” Team WRT principal Vincent Vosse explained to radiolemans.com’s Joe Bradley. “We know how difficult this race can be, and in the end, you need a bit of luck, great strategy from the team, and faultless work from the drivers. It was a great race, and we did learn a lot at this race about the [BMW M4 GT3]. We are missing a bit of sleep, but we will find a way to celebrate!”

2nd overall for Herberth Motorsport from 13th on the grid represents a return to form for the 2017 Hankook 24H DUBAI winner after a difficult 2022 season. 3rd place meanwhile went to the second Team WRT BMW M4 GT3 (#46, Timothy Whale / Valentino Rossi / Sean Gelael / Max Hesse / Maxime Martin), despite a near-miss with the turn five barriers during the opening stages. The result secures MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi a maiden outright podium finish on his debut as a BMW M factory driver.

Less than two minutes behind the top three, the Grove Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R (#10, Earl Bamber / Brenton Grove / Stephen Grove / Anton De Pasquale) completed an impressive run to 4th overall on the event debut of two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, Earl Bamber.

HAAS RT Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II (#21, Maxime Soulet / Mathieu Detry / Olivier Bertels / Benjamin Mazatis / Frédéric Vervisch) rounded out the overall top five after a sensational comeback drive. The Antigua and Barbuda team started 43rd after missing one of the event’s four 15-minutes qualifying sessions, and even led the race outright in the opening stages, but ended up losing time with a puncture and a collision at turn 16 during the night.

Herberth Motorsport’s second Porsche 911 GT3 R (#92, Jason Hart / Elliot Skeer / Adam Adelson / Seth Lucas) capped off a strong weekend for the Bavarian team with a problem-free 6th overall, securing Herberth a 1-2 finish in the GT3 PRO-AM category. Two places further back on the road, the Heart of Racing by SPS Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#27, Ian James / Gray Newell / Roman De Angelis / Ross Gunn) ended a metronomic run to round out the GT3 PRO-AM podium. Sandwiched between the pair, the Team GP-Elite Porsche 911 GT3 R (#32, Lucas Groeneveld / Jesse van Kuijk / Daan van Kuijk / Thierry Vermeulen) took a strong 7th overall, in spite of changes to its driver line-up shortly before qualifying.

The CP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#85, Charles Putman / Charles Espenlaub / Joe Foster / Philip Quaife / Shane Lewis) finished a typically error-free run to finish 9th overall and claim GT3-AM victory. Following its win at last December’s Hankook 12H KUWAIT, the reigning Continents GT Trophy winner has now strengthened its place at the top of CREVENTIC’s new Middle East Trophy, set to be decided at next weekend’s Hankook 6H ABU DHABI.

After overcoming suspension and damper issues very early on Saturday morning, the 7TSIX McLaren 720S GT3 (#76, James Cottingham / Andrew Gilbert / Fran Rueda / Matúš Výboh) had been closing back in on the CP Racing Mercedes only for a turbocharger issue to strike on Sunday afternoon. The series debutant nevertheless completed sufficient race distance to be classified 3rd on the GT3-AM class podium behind the Saalocin by Kox Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R (#48, Nico Pronk / Stéphane Kox / Dennis Retera / Peter Kox / Tom Boonen), the latter having lost nearly an hour to a gearbox change at the very beginning.

Reigning European GT Trophy winner Phoenix Racing (#1, Michael Doppelmayr / Pierre Kaffer / Elia Erhart / Christer Jöns) finished an impressive recovery drive to round out the overall top 10. The Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II dropped out of the top 40 altogether during the opening four hours after a coming together at turn five with the Speed Lover Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (#979, Simon Balcaen / Steven Palette / Philippe Wils / Chris Maes). Both were able to continue after repairs, though radiator and suspension damage ended up costing the Porsche an hour in the box.

The pole sitting Al Manar Racing by HRT Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#777, Luca Stolz / Fabian Schiller / Axcil Jefferies / Martin Konrad) and the front row starting ‘sister’ Abu Dhabi Racing by HRT Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#4, Hubert Haupt / Khaled Al Qubaisi / Sébastien Baud / Jules Gounon) were among the most high-profile retirements from the event. The #4 Mercedes made heavy contact with the barriers during the fifth hour, the impact causing a flash fire. Not long after that, terminal suspension failure meant the #777 Al Manar Racing Mercedes was also retired before half-distance.