Local heroes targeting victory in Hankook 24h Dubai

Local heroes targeting victory in Hankook 24h Dubai

10.01.2016: Spearheading powerful UAE challenge, Al Qubaisi targets hat-trick of wins in spectacular endurance race

Spearheading powerful UAE challenge, Al Qubaisi targets hat-trick of wins in spectacular endurance race

photo caption:    Khalid Al Qubaisi celebrates victory in 2012

The 11th edition of the Hankook 24H Dubai will feature a strong contingent of UAE based drivers and teams all aiming for success on home soil in the region’s premier endurance race, which is being held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of UAE National Olympic Committee.

Over 2,500 team personnel and race officials from around the globe, racing equipment in 60 containers and more than 400 race drivers have descend on Dubai Autodrome for this weekend's endurance spectacular, and among them is a formidable line-up of local heroes.

Headlining the UAE attack is two time winner Khalid Al Qubaisi who is targeting a hat-trick of wins with the formidable Abu Dhabi Racing Black Falcon team, sharing driving duties with Germany's Hubert Haupt and Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen in the premier A6 Class.

“It’s great to be back racing at the Dubai 24H,” said Al Qubaisi, looking forward to the 2016 Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai, with qualifying practice taking place on Thursday ahead of the start at 14:00pm on Friday.

“It’s been a constant part of our race programme for the last five years and so far we have been very successful with two wins, three podiums and a 4th place finish.

“It’s a very special race and requires a completely different approach and set of skills from other endurance races, but we will be looking to repeat our wins from 2012 and 2013. We are also very excited to be the first team to drive the new AMG GT3 race car, which makes its international debut here in Dubai.”

Saeed Al Mehairi and Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum, who developed their careers through the Kartdrome and Autodrome, will be on the grid in the Lechner Racing Middle East Porsche 991, and will be joined by fellow Emirati Basher Mardini along with German Sven Muller and Dutchman Jaap van Lingen to tackle the 991 Class.

Al Mehairi said: "It’s a great privilege to be part of our home race with such a strong team. They have winning pedigree which will be very useful in this type of event. Our objectives are first to finish and if we achieve that then for sure a podium is our goal. Of course the top step is always the best place to be on Saturday afternoon."

Dubai Autodrome-based Dragon Racing field two Ferrari 458 Italias in the A2 Class. One is led by Rob Barff, who qualified on pole for the 2012 race and includes UAE champion Jordan Grogor, Dubai resident Frederic Fatien along with Swiss drivers Taziano Canugati and Gino Forgione.

The sister Dragon Racing Ferrari will feature 2014 24H Dubai class winner Khaled Al Mudhaf from Kuwait, English duo Alex Kapadia and John Hartshome and Irishman Matt Griffith.

Al Mudhaf said: "This will be my third year racing in the Dubai 24H and I’m under no illusions again how tough this one will be. There are around 100 cars this time and competition is always very tough. We will have a good strategy again and I know the crew and co-drivers well, so I think we will have a fighting chance."

photo caption:  Al Qubaisi led the Abu Dhabi Black Falcon Mercedes team to victory in 2013

The Dubai based Moutran brothers, winners of the 2015 Hankook 24H Series and class winners at the Dubai 24H last year, tackle the TCR Class in their Memac Ogilvy Duel Racing SEAT Leon with Ramzi, Sami and Nabil teaming looking for a repeat win alongside with Phil Quaife.

Sami Moutran said: “We owe a lot to Dubai. Its desire to build world-class racing infrastructure, and support all levels of racing is what gave us the opportunity to grow and learn; turning us from hobbyists into champions."

There will be great local interest in the A2 Class battle which features four UAE teams with a host of UAE champions set to battle it out for top honours – and all four have class winning potential.

Lap57 Racing have been perennial contestants of their home race with their Honda Integra. This year they will be at it again with a trio of UAE champions in the cockpit - Mohammed Al Owais, Nadir Zuhour, Rupesh Channake along with Emirati Abdullah Al Hammadi and Japanese driver Junichi Unemoto targeting victory.

Two more UAE Champions, Umair Khan and Jonathan Mullan, will be in action in Class A2 in their ZRT Motorsport Honda DC5 which they will share with Scotland's Graham Davidson and Englishman Tim Stevens. The outfit want to make amends for a heart-breaking debut last year.

SVDP Racing are also veterans of the Hankook series, having won their class in the 2013 Dubai 24H, and will again be on the grid with their trustworthy BMW 120D. In their driver line-up they have former UAE champion Spencer Vanderpal, along with Dubai-based Chris Wishart and Jason O'Keefe who will be joined by Dutchman Hubbe Herlaar and South African Kris Budnik.

photo caption:    Start of the 2015 Hankook 24H Dubai

A fourth Class A2 local entry is the 2W Racing Renault Clio with Englishmen Simon Dennis and Julian Griffin in action along with Scotsmen Will Morrison and Colin Boyle and Frenchman Youssef Bassil on driving duty.

Others with an Emirates connection to watch out for are former UAE Radical champion Bassam Kronfli who has been drafted into the MRS GT-Racing Nissan GT-R outfit alongside Saudi driver Ahmed Bin Hanen, Austrian Ilya Melnikov and Japan's Tomonubo Fujii.

Entry with access to grandstands and the paddock area is free for spectators, with family friendly activities scheduled throughout the weekend.

- TOny Lewis, Total Communications Dubai - also photos

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/24h-dubai-local-heroes-target-victory-uae---144444.html

10.01.2016 / MaP

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