Eastalent Racing Team secures fourth Hankook 24H DUBAI win for Audi

The Eastalent Racing Team has secured its first overall win at the 2024 Hankook 24H DUBAI, and the fourth outright at the event for Audi Sport, on its 24-hour racing debut.

The Eastalent Racing Team Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II (#54, Christopher Haase / Simon Reicher / Markus Winkelhock / Mike Zhou / Gilles Magnus) qualified 6th – the lowest grid slot for the event winner since 2014 – and was in the mix from the very early going, taking the lead for the first time on lap 36. Strategic use of the early Code 60 caution periods thereafter – the Audi pitted 34 times in total, at least three more than its nearest rivals, to keep its fuel tank brimmed – plus strong pace during the night meant that, come daybreak, the #54 Audi R8 had amassed a two-lap lead.

While the Proton Huber Competition Porsche 992 GT3 R (#83, Rinat Salikhov / Sergei Borisov / Victor Shaytar / Sven Müller), which kept its rival on its toes throughout the night, eventually closed that gap to just 96 seconds, Christopher Haase drove the Audi across the line to complete 603 laps of the 5.39km Dubai Autodrome to confirm the win.

Haase becomes the latest driver to win the Hankook 24H DUBAI overall more than once following his victory in 2019 (also in an Audi R8). The Eastalent Racing Team is the first Austrian team to win the Hankook 24H DUBAI since Duller Motorsport’s second win in 2007, and first-time winner Markus Winkelhock secures a sixth overall victory at a 24-hour event.

“It’s quite a nice win, I have to say, because I never won the [Hankook] 24 DUBAI,” Winkelhock explained to radiolemans.com’s Diana Binks. “We came here to win the race, and we achieved our target so I’m really happy for our team. They all made a big effort to win this race. We stuck to our plan, we didn’t make any mistakes, and we always had a good strategy. I also have to say, the Audi has proven again that it’s a really reliable car. I’ve done, I don’t know how many 24-hour races, and we always finish without any technical issues. I’m happy!”

“This is absolutely fantastic!” a still-helmeted Christopher Haase continued. “It’s a dream come true for all of us, together. This is my second [Hankook] 24H DUBAI win, and my first one with the Eastalent Racing Team. I’m happy to be a part of this family, and our Audi R8 LMS performed once again just like a bullet proof weapon!”

Behind Proton Huber Competition, Century Motorsport (#22, Carl Cavers / Lewis Plato / Jack Barlow / Jacob Rattenbury), on its first start in the GT3 class at the Hankook 24H DUBAI, rounds out the overall podium with its BMW M4 GT3, and took its first category win – GT3-Pro/Am – at the event since 2016. Amazingly, the British team celebrates a double victory in Dubai, as the sister BMW M4 GT3 (#14, Michael Johnston / Chris Salkeld / Darren Leung / Sean Gelael) finished 5th overall to take GT3-Am honours.

The Manamauri Energy by Ebimotors Porsche 992 GT3 R (#95, Fabrizio Broggi / Sergiu Nicolae / Sabino de Castro / Cosimo Papi) recovered from an early puncture to finish 4th overall in Dubai and take the GT3 Teams’ Middle East Trophy. Behind Ebimotors, 2019 Hankook 24H DUBAI winner Car Collection Motorsport (#96, Dustin Blattner / Sebastian Gorga / Fuad Sawaya / Mark Wallenwein / Dennis Marschall), which took the overall win at last weekend’s Hankook 6H ABU DHABI, rounded out a successful UAE sojourn in 6th overall and 3rd in GT3-Pro/Am.

With only 12 minutes left on the clock, the Saintéloc Junior Team Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II (#26, Wilfried Merafina / Thomas Merafina / Mattéo Merafina) divested the HAAS RT Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II (#21, Stanislav Minsky / Thomas Kiefer / Torsten Kratz / Mathieu Detry / Miika Panu) of 7th overall and 2nd in GT3-Am. A fitting result for the French team, whose pole sitting #18 Audi (Michael Doppelmayr / Pierre Kaffer / Elia Erhart Swen Herberger) retired after just 77 laps due to steering issues.

Behind the Huber Motorsport Porsche 992 GT3 R (#50, Scott Noble / Jason Hart / Hans Wehrmann / Florian Spengler), and despite ABS, air conditioning and fuel pressure problems, series debutant Team Parker Racing (#31, Shaun Lynn / Maxwell Lynn / Joe Wheeler / Robert Huff) rounded out the overall top 10 with its Bentley Continental GT3, a result that secured the British team radiolemans.com’s coveted ‘Spirit of the Race’ award. 2012 World Touring Car champion Rob Huff collected the chequered flag on his first run in the GT3 class at the Hankook 24H DUBAI since 2014.

Several high-profile podium contenders failed to go the distance in Dubai. The Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II (#99, Alex Arkin Aka / Ricardo Feller / Dylan Pereira / Sergey Titarenko / Andrey Mukovoz) retired on Sunday morning, while running 2nd, when “something broke” on the right rear corner. Similarly, the Getspeed Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo (#9, Anthony Bartone / Al Faisal Al Zubair / Dominik Baumann / Martin Konrad / Fabian Schiller) had also been holding 2nd when its gearbox failed during the night, while the Herberth Motorsport Porsche 992 GT3 R (#91, Ralf Bohn / Daniel Allemann / Alfred Renauer / Robert Renauer) retired after an oil-assisted trip into the turn one barriers. While running 2nd.

The UAE’s Dragon Racing meanwhile (#88, Roald Goethe / Benjamin Goethe / Oliver Goethe / Stuart Hall / Jordan Grogor) lost a potential top five finish when alternator failure played havoc with the Ferrari 296 GT3’s electrics at quarter-distance

GTX and 992
Long-time GTX leader Toro Verde (#795, Lawrence Tomlinson / Freddie Tomlinson / Michael Simpson / Nico Prost) took a second category win – and the GTX Teams’ Middle East Trophy – for the developmental Ginetta G56 Cup, aided by strong pace and impressively lean tyre wear during the night. Issues however befell both of the British teams’ closest rivals.

The razoon-more than racing KTM X-BOW GTX (#714, Artur Chwist / Haytham Qarajouli / Daniel Drexel / Kevin Woods / Mikaeel Pitamber) led the class early on before being hauled in by the Ginetta during the night, and eventually retired from podium contention on Sunday morning following a collision with CWS Engineering’s #277 Ginetta G55. The Vortex 2.0 meanwhile (#701, Lionel Amrouche / Philippe Bonnel / Olivier Gomez / Arnaud Gomez), which started from class pole, finished 2nd despite losing more than 90 minutes to technical issues in the pits.

Red Camel-Jordans.nl (#909, Ivo Breukers / Luc Breukers / Rik Breukers / Fabian Danz) has taken a third consecutive class win in the 2023/2024 24H SERIES Middle East Trophy, securing the 992 Teams’ title in the process. One lap further back, the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation-supported QMMF by HRT Porsche 992 GT3 Cup (#931, Abdulla Ali Al Khelaif / Ghanim Al Ali / Ibrahim Al Abdulghani / Julian Hanses) finished 2nd overall in 992, and claimed both the 992-Am win and 992-Am Teams’ Middle East trophy title.

FACH AUTO TECH (#962, Paul Meijer / Jop Rappange / Ralph Poppelaars / Huub van Eijndhoven), a former class winner at the Hankook 24H DUBAI, emerged on top of a tense fight for the final 992 podium spot ahead of 2022 992 Teams’ ‘Europe’ champion Red Ant Racing (#903, Ayrton Redant / Yannick Redant / Jef Machiels / Peter Guelinckx).

Reigning 992-Am Teams’ ‘Europe’ champion RPM Racing (#907, Tracy Krohn / Niclas Jönsson / Philip Hamprecht / Patrick Huisman) finished a metronomic run 2nd in 992-Am and 4th overall in 992, while Abu Dhabi’s RABDAN by FULGENZI (#971, Saif Alameri / Salem Alketbi / Helal Almazrouei / Fahad Alzaabi / Christopher Zöchling), which ran strongly at the front in the early going before losing ground during the night, recovered to take the final 992-Am podium spot.

The SebLajoux Racing by DUWO Racing Porsche 992 GT3 Cup (#908, Sebastien Lajoux / Stéphane Perrin / Lucas Walter / Benjamin Paque / Flynt Schuring) was similarly in the running for a 992 podium until a quick but intense rain shower on Sunday morning sent the French-Luxembourg collaboration into retirement against the turn six barriers. Fellow podium aspirant and 992 Teams’ championship contender KKrämer Racing (#936, Michele Di Martino / Fidel Leib / Karsten Krämer / Denis Remenyako / Christopher Brueck) lost several hours in the pits when the Porsche started intermittently losing power.

GT4 and TCE
The UAE’s Continental Racing by TTR (#496, Vasily Vladykin / Andrey Solukovtsev / David Pogosyan / Mikhail Loboda) completed a commanding run at its home event to take a first 24H SERIES win for Toyota’s new GR SUPRA GT4 EVO. Behind the local team, on-track incidents sidelined both of the GT4 Teams’ title contenders.

The Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 (#429, David Holloway / Piers Johnson / Nicholas Halstead / Rianna O’Meara-Hunt) was the first to fall: having already lost time to a 60-second time penalty, the BMW retired after hitting the tyre barriers shortly before half-distance. The AGMC Racing team by Simpson Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 (#438, Fabian Duffieux / Artur Dzhalilov / Ivan Krapivtsev / Hugo Cook / Cameron Mcleod) looked set to chase the Continental Racing Toyota to the flag only to aquaplane off-track at turn five during the morning’s rain shower. The Century Motorsport BMW inadvertently collected the SebLajoux Racing by DUWO Racing Porsche as it did so, eliminating both.

Despite its GT4 woes, Simpson Motorsport could at least celebrate overall TCE victory with its Audi RS3 LMS DSG (#138, Nadir Zuhour Ivan Stanchin / Andrei Muraveika / Ahmed Al Khaja / Kavi Jundu) after a controlled run. One marred only by a puncture, the debris from which ripped off much of the Audi’s front left wheel arch.

The British team’s nearest rival in TCR – the AC Motorsport Audi RS3 LMS TCR (#188, Ivars Vallers / James Kaye / Thierry Chkondali / Paul Sieljes / Kobe Pauwels) – was in contention for a TCE podium only for power steering failure to strike during the night. Similarly, SRS Team Sorg Rennsport (#227, Benito Tagle / José Garcia / Christoph Krombach / Gero Bauknecht / Patrick Kolb) was on course to finish 2nd overall in TCE only for an engine issue to strike the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CS during the closing two hours. The 2020 Overall GT Teams’ ‘Continents’ champion did however manage to hang on to take the final TCE rostrum spot.

Beneficiary CWS Engineering battled a multitude of technical issues, including gear selector, driveshaft and rear axle problems, to finish 2nd and 4th overall in TCE, 1st and 3rd in TCX. The British team’s #278 Ginetta G55 (Colin White / Mark Griffin / Daniel Morris / Thomas Holland / Owen Hizzey) lead the sister #277 entry (JM Littman / Christian Broberg / Colin White / Mark Griffith / Thomas Holland) over the line.

The Lotus PB Racing Lotus Elise Cup PB-R (#226, Stefano d’Aste / Vito Utzieri / Stefano Moretti / Maurizio Copetti) was eventually classified 5th in TCE, the Italian team having overcome a number of delays, the most dramatic being a broken upright that dislodged the front left wheel.

While the 2024 Hankook 24H DUBAI brings the curtain down on the 2023/2024 24H SERIES Middle East Trophy, CREVENTIC’s European season of racing is scheduled to begin on 22-23-24 March with the 10th edition of the Hankook 12H MUGELLO in Italy. Fittingly, the five-round, 2024 24H SERIES powered by Hankook European season is set to end with the 25th edition of the Hankook 24H BARCELONA on 13-14-15 September. Further details can be found at www.24hseries.com.