HANKOOK DUBAI 24 Hours HAAS Racing Team clinches GT3 Am Podium finish

It was just one year ago, when the small new HAAS Racing team came for the first time to an endurance race, at the 2023 Dubai 24 Hours. And a lot happened since then… 5th at the general finish last year, the team was overall second of the Middle East Trophies and winner of the European GT3 championship. For its second CREVENTIC season, HAAS Racing team finished 8th at the first two races 6 Hours of Abu Dhabi and 24 Hours of Dubai, and is finally 2nd GT3 Am of the 2023/24 Middle East Championship.

The team arrived in Dubai at the beginning of the week with two AUDI R8 LMS GT3 Evos #20 and #21. Unfortunately for #20, an accident during the free practice on Thursday, hindered the car to participate at the 24 hour- race. #21 AUDI was therefore the only one able to fly high the team’s colours and do its best to look for a good result. After the 2023 Gulf 12h and the 2024 6 hours of Abu Dhabi last week where they finished 4th GT3 Am, the team was determined to fight for the last Middle East race of the season, coming with a five-man crew : Mathieu DETRY, Stanislav MINSKI, Thomas KIEFER, Torsten KRATZ and Miika PANU.

With two endurance races within ten days, unlike the other teams from the same category, HAAS Racing team can be proud of today’s result. 55 cars started the race, only 36 made it to the chequered flag, that’s already a win. The car finishes the 24h 8th in the general classification and 3rd GT3 Am.

The free practice sessions helped the team prepare the best possible way for the qualification that Mathieu DETRY, Thomas KIEFER and Torsten KRATZ managed very well, since they reached an average lap time positioning the car on GT3 Am pole position and 3rd on the starting grid.

As the start was to be given, wind brought sand and dust on the track, which made it tricky for the drivers, as it became very slippery. Mathieu DETRY was first on track from second row, but was unable to take advantage of his competitor’s forfeit #63 Lamborghini which was supposed to start 2nd. However, he managed to take P2 after a bad start from #18 AUDI (Pro/Am), during his stint Mathieu also signed the GT3 Am overall best lap in the race in 1:59.534. As Thomas KIEFER took over he was penalised by a Code 60 periode, so was Stanislav MINSKI a few laps later and Torsten KRATZ who had to drive over one full hour under 60 km/h during his stint. Three hours into the race, #21 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo was third in its class, battling with Porsche (#17) and Mercedes (#85), reaching P1 after 76 laps.

When Finn driver Miika PANU took over after almost five hours, #21 was 1st in class. The fight is consequent with #85, but he will maintain his position up to the night, even leading the race for a while during in his 39-lap stint. Torsten KRATZ came at the wheel after 142 laps and #21 AUDI R8 is at the top of the ranking all the way until he gives the car back to Stanislav. After 7 hours, the team continues the battle with Mercedes #85, Porsche #50 and later on with BMW #14 and Audi R8 #26. Mathieu, Thomas and Torsten take turns in the next hours, keeping the aim of “GT3 Am podium”. As the race has been completed by half, #21 Audi is 3rd in class.

Thomas KIEFER was completing his night stint as he had passed a Porsche (#921), but he was hit and the team had to change the left rear arm suspension. In the morning, a rain shower changed plans… But this was absolutely not a problem for our Finn driver “I am used to slippery tracks, it’s always slippery in my country at this time of the year” he said smiling after the race.

21 hours have gone through and HAAS Racing team is still battling for the podium finish, and this will be the case all the way to the end with BMW M4 GT3 #14 / Century Motorsport, Porsche #50 / Huber Motorsport and Audi R8 #26 / Sainteloc Junior team.

There are 2:30 hours left to the flag when the team puts slick tyres, the humidity in the air, maintains the dust down and this a good for everyone. Miika the Finn completes a double stint in class- second position, before he hands the wheel to Thomas KIEFER who will take the car to the chequered flag. What a stint! With Mattéo Merafina (Am+ driver) in the Audi #26 on his heels, he has a lot of pressure, but he knows that he needs to keep cool in order to not risk any mistake, and he will do so very well…

Unfortunately, 12 minutes before the end, Mattéo passes by and leaves AUDI R8 #21 3rd in GT3 Am class and 8th in the general classification of the 2024 24 Hours of Dubai. 36 cars out of 55 made it to the end of the race, you must be part of them, and the AUDI#21 is part of them, this a the first good result.

Sandrine HAAS: “It was a great race, but with many Code 60, of course it is not very fun. We had sand, dust, rain, pressure… all the ingredients were there to make it a great race and I am very proud of the team and of our five drivers who did everything they could to manage the car and see the chequered flag. First of all, we finished the race in the general top 10 classification, this is good, and then we finish on our class- podium, this is good too. Of course, we are also disappointed to not be higher in the rank. Without our accident in the night and the arm suspension change, we could have hoped for a general podium finish and a class victory. But everyone knows with “ifs”, you don’t have the same race… I want to thank everyone in the team for their true motivation and their hard work. We made it to the end and in endurance racing, this is the first part of victory.”

Stanislav MINSKI was happy on the podium: “All the drivers were really good, we had a good pace and our mechanics gave us a good car, in fact we did not encounter any trouble besides the accident which hindered us to do better in the general classification. But it was a great race, thank you everyone for the nice GT3 Am podium finish.”