Thursday, January 10, 2019

2019 Dubai 24 Hour Preview

For the 14th time the Dubai 24 Hour takes place at the crack of a New Year and breaks the slumber of winter. This twice-around-the-clock endurance race features a variety of automobiles but this preview will focus on the top class of GT3 machinery, split between A6-PRO and A6-AM. Seventeen previous overall winners are in the top class for this year's race. Between A6-PRO and A6-AM there are 23 cars representing seven manufactures.

#2 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Abdulaziz Al Faisal, Hubert Haupt, Yelmer Buurman, Saud Al Faisal, Adam Christodoulou
Why this car could win: This team won last year! Albeit it Saud Al Faisal replaces Gabriele Piana in the lineup. Al Faisal, Haupt and Buurman won this race together in 2015 and also had a third place finish in this race in 2017. Black Falcon has won this race four times in the last seven years. Chrisodoulou is a late addition to his car and he won four races last year in the A6-AM class running with Charlie Putman, Charles Espenlaub and Joe Foster.
Why this car won't win: Repeating is hard to do and while it has occurred twice in the short history of this event, including once with Black Falcon, it is easier said than done and there are plenty of equal competition, including its sister car.

#3 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Luca Stolz, Khlaed Al Qubaisi, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating, Manuel Metzger
Why this car could win: See above. It is Black Falcon. This team has won this race before. It seems likely one of these two cars will end up on the podium. This team has had a car on the overall podium in this race for eight consecutive years. Al Qubaisi and Bleekemolen have won this race twice. Bleekemolen, Keating and Stolz are all familiar with one another from the IMSA North American Endurance Championship races. Stolz also won the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup championship in 2018.
Why this car won't win: Its sister car. A few other cars could top this one but I think this is one of the top contenders for the overall victory.

#7 WRT Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Mohammed Saud Fahad Al Saud, Michael Vergers, Christopher Mies, Dries Vanthoor
Why this car could win: This team has won this race before. Mies has won many endurance races before. He is a two-time 24 Hours Nürburgring winner and a two-time Bathurst 12 Hour winner. Mies and Vanthoor were co-drivers in the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup last year.
Why this car won't win: It might be too top heavy with Mies and Vanthoor and I am not sure those two can carry the load.

#9 BWT Mücke Motorsport Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Markus Winkelhock, Mike-David Ortmann, Andreas Weishaupt, Stefan Mücke, Ricardo Feller
Why this car could win: Winkelhock has won the Spa 24 Hours twice and the 24 Hours Nürburgring three times. Mücke has plenty of success with the factory Aston Martin and factory Ford program.
Why this car won't win: It is a good lineup but not a great lineup.

#11 Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha Ferrari 488 GT3
Drivers: Jirí Písarík, Josef Kral, Matteo Malucelli
Why this car could win: On paper, none of these drivers standout to you but Scuderia Praha won three 24H Series races in 2017 and three in 2018. The team has skipped the Dubai 24 Hours the last two years.
Why this car won't win: It would not be a surprise at all if this car won the race. It is a deep class.

#18 V8 Racing Chevrolet Corvette C6-ZR1
Drivers: Luc Braams, Wolf Nathan, Duncan Huisman, Nicky Pastorelli, Finlay Hutchison
Why this car could win: A pretty stable lineup that we see year in and year out with the same automobile.
Why this car won't win: This team has not had much success at Dubai and the Corvette just cannot compete with the German cars.

#23 KCMG Nissian GT-R Nismo GT3
Drivers: Alexandre Imperatori, Oliver Jarvis, Edoardo Liberati, Philipp Wlazik
Why this car could win: A semi-impressive driver lineup with endurance race tested Imperatori and Jarvis. Jarvis has won at Le Mans in the LMP2 class, he was an Audi factory driver and he won the Suzuka 1000km.
Why this car won't win: A semi-unknown driver lineup with Liberati and Wlazik. Liberati won the GT Asia championship in 2016 but he does not have much endurance race experience. Wlazik has had success in Lamborghini Super Trofeo but this is another animal.

#24 GPX Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Frederic Fatien, Jean-Pierre Valentini, Jordan Grogor, Nicky Pastorelli, Stuart Hall
Why this car could win: All of these drivers are 24H Series experienced drivers and have run Dubai before. Hall has experience with the factory Aston Martin driver.
Why this car won't win: The competition is too strong. This car was re-classified from an A6-AM. I am not sure it would finish ahead of the top five A6-AM finishers.

#35 KCMG Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3
Drivers: Katsumasa Chiyo, Tsugio Matsuda, Joshua Burdon, Shaun Thong, Andrea Gagliardini
Why this car could win: Matsuda is a Super GT champion, Super Formula champion and he has won in an LMP2 car in the WEC for KCMG. Chiyo has won the Bathurst 12 Hour and he was a Blancpain Endurance Cup champion. Burdon won in the Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 class with KCMG.
Why this car won't win: Similar to the other KCMG entry, half the driver lineup you are impressed with and the other half is unknown and you are not sure what to expect. Thong did win a GT Asia GT3 Pro-Am title but like Liberati, his endurance racing experience is limited.

#63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3
Drivers: Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart, Rolf Ineichen, Mark Ineichen
Why this car could win: GRT Grasser Racing Team has had plenty of endurance racing success. Bortolotti and Engelhart won the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup title in 2017 and Bortolotti and Rolf Ineichen won the GTD class last year at the 24 Hours of Daytona and last year this combination of drivers finished third overall at Dubai. Engelhart and the Ineichens won this race in 2014 driving for Stadler Motorsport.
Why this car won't win: A German manufacture has won every edition of the Dubai 24 Hour. This team could win the race. It is one of the favorites.

#66 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Patrick Kujala, Adrian Amstutz, Kelvin van der Linde, Mattia Drudi, Stanislav Minsky
Why this car could win: Van der Linde is a rising young Audi driver with a 24 Hours Nürburgring victory and an ADAC GT Masters championship. Amstutz won the Dubai 24 Hour in 2014 with Stadler Motorsport and he and Kujala were champions together in Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe's Pro-AM class.
Why this car won't win: It is a missing a veteran. If Christopher Haase or Christopher Mies was in this car or if Audi brought René Rast or Robin Frijns and put either in this car it would be a contender for the overall victory. I think it will be up there but would not be surprised if it fell just shy.

#88 Car Collection Motorsport Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Dimitri Parhofer, Christopher Haase, Frédéric Vervisch, Rik Breukers
Why this car could win: Haase is one of Audi's best GT3 drivers and is coming off a victory in the California 8 Hours. He has two victories in the 24 Hours Nürburgring, a victory in the Spa 24 Hours and a victory in the Sepang 12 Hours. Vervisch has been good in GT3 competition but not great. He and Haase have experience together as co-drivers.
Why this car won't win: This isn't even the best Audi with a driver named Christopher.

#99 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Stanislav Minsky, Klaus Bachler, Nicholas Foster, Steijn Schothorst, Marvin Dienst
Why this car could win: This is a young but successful team. Foster won the Australian Porsche Carrera Cup championship in 2015, has raced in the WEC and he is still only 25 years old. Dienst won twice last season in the WEC. Schothorst finished third in his first season of Blancpain GT Sprint Cup competition and he won at Zolder. Bachler has raced in the WEC and Porsche Supercup regularly.
Why this car won't win: This team is good on paper but I think it lacks the chemistry needed to win a 24-hour race.

#10 Hofor-Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Michael Kroll, Chantal Prinz, Alexander Prinz, Kenneth Heyer, Christiaan Frankenhout
Why this car could win: Hofor-Racing is a perennial 24H Series AM class race winner. It has won plenty of races. It has won its class at Dubai before.
Why this car won't win: The Pro class is too deep to win overall but it would not be surprising if this car ended up in the top five overall and won the A6-AM class.

#12 Target Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3
Drivers: Dennis Lind, Giacomo Altoé, Timur Boguslavskiy, Stefano Costantini, Alex Autumn
Why this car could win: Lamborghini has produced a lot of successful GT3 entries.
Why this car won't win: This is a team of relative unknowns and it will not finish in the top five of the A6-AM class let alone on the top step of the overall podium.

#19 MP Motorpsort Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Daniël de Jong, Bert de Heus, Henk de Jong
Why this car could win: It is a Mercedes-AMG, which has success at Dubai. Daniël de Jong had minor success in single-seaters.
Why this car won't win: It isn't a deep lineup compared to the rest of the grid.

#25 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Alexander Hrachowina, Martin Konrad, Bernd Schneider, Indy Dontje, Brice Bosi
Why this car could win: Schneider has won this race overall and he has won in almost everything he has drive. Dontje has been a quick, young driver for some time. HTP Motorsport has won in many different series across GT3 racing. Hrachowina and Konrad ran together in the International GT Open.
Why this car won't win: Hrachowina and Konrad are an amateur pair without much success against a grid of this capability.

Drivers: Christian Kelders, Pierre-Yves Paque, Daniel Desbrueres, Nyls Stivenart, Simon Gachet
Why this car could win: Stivenart won the Blancpain GT Series Pro-Am title with Markus Winkelhock last year and Gachet finished 11th in the overall Blancpain GT Series with Christopher Haase as his co-driver for every race but the Spa 24 Hours.
Why this car won't win: Mostly amateurs that have not had success on their own.

#33 Car Collection Motorsport Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Simon Reicher, Murad Sultanov, Martin Berry, Klaus Koch, Philipp Sager
Why this car could win: It is a team that has 24H Series experience.
Why this car won't win: Here...

#34 Car Collection Motorsport Audi R8 LMS
Drivers: Johannes Dr. Kirchhoff, Gustav Edelhoff, Elmar Grimm, Ingo Vogler
Why this car could win: Edelhoff, Grimm and Vogler won twice in the A6-Am class during the 2018 season.
Why this car won't win: The field is too deep for this entry to win.

#85 CP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3
Drivers: Charles Putman, Charles Espenlaub, Joe Foster, Shane Lewis
Why this car could win: Putman, Espenlaub and Foster have had success in many different classes across the 24H Series. Those three won four races last year in the A6-AM class. Lewis is the one change from the line-up, in for Adam Christodoulou.
Why this car won't win: It would not be crazy if this car won in class. If this entry does not win the class it is because there are three or four better cars in this given race.

#91 Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Daniel Allemann, Ralf Bohn, Robert Renauer, Alfred Renauer
Why this car could win: This team won at Dubai in 2017 and that year it won four of seven 24H Series races. Last year, the team took a slight step back and only won two of eight 24H Series races.
Why this car won't win: It doesn't have Brendon Hartley like it did in 2017.

#92 Team Porsche Centre Hong Kong Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Frank Yu, Jonathan Hui, Antares Au, Kevin Wing Kin Tse
Why this car could win: It is on the grid and there is a chance all the other cars break down.
Why this car won't win: There are 22 other cars on the entry list.

Porsche leads all manufactures with five victories in this event. Last year was Mercedes-Benz's fourth victory. BMW has three victories but does not have a car entered in the A6 class this year. BMW has not won this event since 2011. Audi's only victory was in 2016.

Last year's race saw the winning Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG complete 606 laps, the third most in the history of the event. Second most was done in 2010 when IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche completed 608 laps. Black Falcon set the record for most laps completed in 2012 with 628.

Fifteen different nationalities have won this event overall. No driver has won this race more than twice. Al Faisal, Haupt, Buurman, Al Qubaisi and Bleekemolen are all two-time winners entered in this year's race and all drive for Black Falcon.

The 14th Dubai 24 Hour starts at 6:00 a.m. ET on Friday January 11th.