Wednesday, January 13, 2016

2016 Dubai 24 Hour Preview

The first major endurance race of 2016 takes place this weekend. The 11th Dubai 24 Hour starts on Friday and will run through Saturday. One hundred cars are entered for the opening round of the 2016 24H Series season. Twenty-nine cars are entered in the premier, GT3-spec A6 class, 12 are consider Pro cars.

Black Falcon Racing returns with three Mercedes to defend it's victory. The #2 Mercedes will be split by two-time Dubai 24 Hour winners Jeroen Bleekemolen and Khaled al Qubaisi, last year's winner Hubert Haupt, Maro Engel and Indy Dontje. The #3 Mercedes will feature Haupt and two of his co-drivers from last year's winning team, Abdulaziz Al Faisal and Yelmer Buurman as well as 2013 winner Bernd Schneider and Michal Broniszewski. The #16 Mercedes will be lead by the fourth driver from last year's winner team, Oliver Webb. Adam Christodoulou, Patrick Assenheimer, Oliver Morley and American Frankie Montecalvo will be the other driver in the #16 Mercedes.

The other American in the A6 class is Connor De Phillippi. The former Road to Indy driver will be in the #28 Land-Motorsport GmbH Audi R8 with Marc Basseng, Christopher Mies and 2009 winner Carsten Tilke. Car Collection Motorsport has entered two Audis of their own. The #33 Audi will feature Markus Winkelhock, 2011 winner Claudia Hürtgen, Heinz Schmersal, Pierre Ehret and Peter Schmidt. The #34 Audi will be driven by Ingo Volger, Elmar Grimm, Max Edelhoff, Gustav Edelhoff and Dr. Johannes Kirchoff. C.Abt Racing has entered the #4 Audi for Daniel Abt, Isaac Tutmulu, Matias Henkola, Andreas Weishaupt and Christer Jöns. Frank Stippler leads the #14 Optimum Motorsport Audi driver line-up with Flick Haigh, Ryan Ratcliffe and Joe Osborne as his co-drivers. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT has entered an Audi R8. The #19 Audi will be driven by Laurens Vanthoor, Michael Meadows, Stuart Leonard and Alain Ferté.

Three Porsche's are entered. Artthea Sport has entered a Porsche 911 GT America. The #45 will be shared by Jens Feucht, Klaus Werner and Martin Gøtsche and Nanna Gøtsche. Attempto Racing has entered two Porsche 997 GT3 Rs. The #66 will be driven by Sven Heyrowsky, Arkin Aka, Hans Wehrmann, Jürgen Häring and Edward Lewis Brauner and the #999 will be split by Dirk Vorländer, Dimitri Parhofer, Dirg Parhofer, Daniel Zampieri and Andreas Liehm.

Besides the three Black Falcon entries, there are eight other Mercedes in the A6 class this year. IDEC Sport Racing has entered the #17 for Frederic Yearly, Gabriel Abergel and Paul and Patrice Lafargue. Alex and Tim Müller will share the #27 SPS automotive-performance Mercedes with Lance-David Arnold and Valentin Pierburg. Gravity Racing International will have Vincent Radermercker, Christian Kelders, Gerard Lopez and Eric Lux drive the #6 Mercedes. The #10 Hofor-Racing Mercedes will be split by Christiaan Frankenhout, Kenneth Heyer, Roland Eggimann and Chantal and Michael Kroll.

V8 Racing has two cars entered but only one is a Mercedes. Duncan Huisman, Max and Luc Braams, Nick de Brujn and Pun JunJin will drive the #18 V8 Racing Mercedes. Preci-Spark's #22 Mercedes will be an all-English line-up with five Joneses: David, Godfrey, Morgan, Philip and Gareth. Ram Racing will have Paul White, Tom Onslow-Cole, 2012 winner Thomas Jäger, Stuart Hall and Roald Goethe in the #30 Mercedes. GDL Racing will have an all-Dutch line-up in the #67 Mercedes. Ivo and Rik Breakers, Renger van der Zande and Daniel de Jong will drive the GDL Racing entry.

A German manufacture has won all ten previous runnings of the Dubai 24 Hour.

Konrad Motorsport has entered a Lamborghini Huracán. The #26 features three winners from 2014: Christen Engelhart and Mark and Rolf Ineichen. Fabio Babini and Franz Konrad will also drive the #26. HB Racing has also entered a Huracán. The #4 Lamborghini will be driven by Daniel Allemann, Ralf Bohn and Robert and Alfred Renauer. The other Lamborghini in class is the #12 Huracán Trofeo, which belongs to Leipert Motorsport and will be driven by Mikhail Spiridonov, Frank Leone-Provost, Jean-Charles Perrin and Shahin Nouri.

Three Ferraris are entered for this year's race. The #11 Scuderia Praha Ferrari will be driven by Matteo Malucelli, Matteo Cressoni, Jiri Pisarik and Peter Kox. Dragon Racing has entered two Ferraris. Rob Barff, Jordan Grogor, Tiziano Carugati, Gino Forgone and Frederic Fatien will be in the #88. Matt Griffin, Alex Kapadia, John Hartshorne and Khaled Al Mudhaf will share the #888.

MRS GT-Racing has entered the #25 Nissan GT-R to be driven by Ahmed Bin Khanen, Bassam Kronfli, Ilya Melnikov and Tomonobu Fujii.

V8 Racing's second entry is the #333 Corvette that will be driven by Nicky Pastroelli, Alex van t'Hoff, Rick Abresch, Wolf Nathan and Miguel Ramos.

Boutsen Ginion Racing has entered the #8 Renault RS01 to be driven by Eric Vaissiere, Andre-Aain Corbel, Christophe de Fierlant and Daniel Waszczinski.

A few 991 class entries to watch for:

MRS GT-Racing has entered two Porsche 991 Cup cars. The #78 Porsche features Charles Putman, Charles Espenlaub, Xavier Maasen and Joe Foster. Pitman, Espenlaub and Maassen won their class at the Gulf 12 Hours last month. Their other entry is the #46 Porsche, which will be driven by Guy Cosmo, Mauricio Hernandez, Yutaka Matsushima and Tomoyuki Takizawa.

Once Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Alex Tagliani will drive the #72 HRT Performance Porsche alongside José Luis Talermann, Kim André Hauschild, Jean-Frederic Laberge and Harald Hennes.

Former DTM and V8 Supercar driver Alexandre Prémat will drive the #35 B2F compétition Porsche with Bruno and Benoit Fretin and Michel Mitieus.

Porsche factory driver Sven Müller will be one of five drivers in the #40 Lechner Racing Middle East Porsche. Dutchman Jaap van Lagen and Emirati drivers Saeed Al Mehairi, Bashar Mardini and Hasher Al Maktoum will be Müller's co-drivers.

Black Falcon also has two cars entered in the 911 class. The #60 Porsche will be driven by Klaus Bachler, Burked Kaiser, Sören Spreng, Stanislav Minsky and Mark Wallenwein. The #61 will be shared by Anders Fjordbach, Saud Al Faisal, Manuel Metzger, Gerwin Schuring and Saaed Al Mouri.

The #63 MSG Motorsport Porsche will be driven by Dan Cammish, Luca Rettenbacher, Martin Konrad and Facu Regalia.

Nine of the previous ten Dubai 24 Hours have featured at least one German driver winning overall. The lone year a German was not on the top step of the podium was in 2008 when Australians Klark Quinn, Jonathon Webb, New Zealander Craig Baird and Briton Tony Quinn won in a Porsche.

While a German manufacture has won all ten editions, Audi has never won the event. Mercedes has won three of the past four years. Porsche has four victories, most recently in 2014 and BMW won three, most recently in 2011. Tommy Milner, the only American to win the event, was on that 2011 winning team with Hürtgen, Augusto Farfus and Edward Sandström.

Never has a Dubai 24 Hour winning team featured drivers all from the same country.

The 11th Dubai 24 Hour will begin at 5:00 a.m. ET Friday.