Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2017 Dubai 24 Hour Preview: Part I (A6 Class)

This weekend marks the 12th running of the Dubai 24 Hour from the Dubai Autodrome. Ninety-eight cars are entered across nine classes. Part one of the 2017 Dubai 24 Hour preview will focus on the A6 class, which features 24 entries.

Belgian Audi Club WRT won last year's race and Stuart Leonard is the only returning of the four drivers that were apart of last year's victories team. Joining Leonard in the #4 Audi will be the defending Blancpain GT Sprint Series champion Enzo Ide, 2015 Blancpain GT Series champion and current Andretti Autosport Formula E driver Robin Frijns, defending ADAC GT Masters Series champion Christopher Mies and Ruben Maes. Last year's victory was the first for Audi in the Dubai 24 Hour. The team has also entered the #5 Audi for Marcel Fässler, Michael Vergers, Mohammed Bin Saud Al Saud and Mohammed Bin Faisal Al Saud.

Black Falcon has won three of the previous five Dubai 24 Hours. Jeroen Bleekemolen and Khaled Al Qubaisi won in consecutive years in 2012 and 2013 and will pilot the #2 Mercedes alongside Patrick Assenheimer and Manuel Metzger. Yelmer Buurman, Abdulaziz Al Faisal and Hubert Haupt were all apart of the 2015 winning effort for Black Falcon and will drive the #3 Mercedes with Maro Engel and Michal Broniszewski.

Grasser Racing Team has entered two Lamborghinis and has four former Dubai 24 Hour winners in its stable. Christian Engelhart, Adrian Amstutz, Rolf Ineichen and Mark Ineichen all won the race in 2014 with Stadler Motorsports. Engelhart and the Ineichens are entered in the #963 Lamborghini while Engelhart and Rolf Ineichen are also entered in the #964 Lamborghini along side Amstutz and Ezequiel Companc. Mirko Bortolotti and Rik Breakers round out the #963 line-up.

Two-time Dubai 24 Hour winner Bernd Schneider returns in the #25 Mercedes for HTP Motorsport with 2009 winner Carsten Tilke, Wim de Pundert and Alexander Hrachowina rounding out the driver line-up. IMSA Performance won the 2010 edition of the Dubai 24 Hour and returns with the #76 Porsche. Raymond Narac is the only holdover from that 2010 victory with Thierry Cornac, Maxime Jousse and Mathieu Jaminet rounding out the all-French line-up.

Manthey Racing has entered the #12 Porsche for Sven Müller, Otto Klohs, Matteo Cairoli and Jochen Krumbach. Müller is the defending Porsche Supercup champion and defeated Cairoli by 12 points for the title. Müller won the 991 class in last year's Dubai 24 Hour. Porsche LMP1 driver Brendon Hartley will make his Dubai 24 Hour debut in the #911 Herberth Motorsport Porsche with co-drivers Daniel Allemann, Ralf Bohn, Robert Renauer and Alfred Renauer.

Hartley's former Formula Renault 3.5 rival Jean-Éric Vergne will also be making his Dubai 24 Hour debut as the former Toro Rosso and current Techeetah Formula E driver will be in the #28 GP Extreme Renault RS01 with defending Formula V8 3.5 vice-champion Louis Delétraz, former IndyCar driver Nicky Pastorelli and Jordan Grogor. Frédéric Fatien, Tiziano Carugati, Josh Webster and Stuart Hall make up the other line-up for GP Extreme's #27 Renault RS01.

Two other Lamborghinis are also entered by Austrian teams. The #7 HB Racing Lamborghini features Norbert Siedler, Sam Tordoff, Florian Spengler, Andrea Amici and Herbert Handlos. Konrad Motorsport has entered the #21 Lamborghini for Marc Basseng, Marco Mapelli, Jules Gounon, Luca Stolz and Franz Konrad.

Christopher Haase leads the driver line-up for the #14 Optimum Motorsport Audi. Joe Osbourne, Flick Haigh and Ryan Ratcliffe join the German in the car. SPS automotive-performance has entered the #16 Mercedes, which features Tom Onslow-Cole, Tim Müller, Lance-David Arnold and Valentin Pierburg.

Hofor-Racing won the 2016 24H Series A6 championship and in the #1 Mercedes for Dubai will be Michael Kroll, Chantal Kroll, Roland Eggimann, Kenneth Heyer and Christiaan Frankenhout. This exact line-up won last year's A6-Am class in the Dubai 24 Hour. Car Collection Motorsport finished third to Hofor-Racing in the 2016 championship and Gustav Edelhoff, Max Edelhoff, Elmar Grimm, Ingo Vogler and Dr. Johannes Kirchhoff will drive the team's #34 Audi. Car Collection Motorsport has also entered the #33 Audi for Daniel Diaz Varela, Toni Forné, Dimitri Parhofer, Peter Schmidt and Issac Tutumlu. The #17 IDEC Sport Racing Mercedes is another full-time 24H Series front-runner and features Patrice Lafargue, Paul Lafargue, Nicolas Minassian and Alban Varutti behind the wheel.

Wolf Henzler joins the class-winning Forch Racing powered by Olimp in the #29 Porsche with Polish drivers Robert Lukas and Marcin Jedlinski and Mexican driver Santiago Creel. Former Formula One driver Robert Kubica announced that he would also be in the #29 Porsche at Dubai. V8 Racing returns with the #18 Corvette for the all-Dutch line-up of Loris Hezemans, Wolf Nathan and Rick Abresch.

Rounding out the A6 entries are the #22 Gravity Racing International Mercedes for Vincent Radermecker, Gerard Lopez, Christian Kelders and Jarek Janis and the #66 Attempto Racing Porsche for Jürgen Häring, Mike Hansch, Dieter Ulrich, Peter Terting and Philipp Wlazik.

The Dubai 24 Hour will start at 5:00 a.m. ET on Friday January 13th. Part two of the preview will be posted tomorrow and highlight some of the other notable entries.