Black Falcon Hankook 24 Hours Dubai 2016 review

Black Falcon Hankook 24 Hours Dubai 2016 review

20.01.2016: From 98th and dead last on the grid to fighting for the win, it was a near perfect




From 98th and dead last on the grid to fighting for the win, it was a near perfect swansong for the #16 BLACK FALCON Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 in the 2016 Hankook 24 Hours Dubai as the team raced its venerable SLS for the final time. Second place overall was a fine result after the team's efforts: the race was an incredible challenge for the five cars it entered  and the SLS shouldn't even have been in this rollercoaster of a race.


Dubai was the debut for BLACK FALCON’s pair of brand new Mercedes AMG GT3 racers: super quick in qualifying, problems stymied their race and both were forced to retire after putting in strong performances early on.


The two Porsche 991 Cup cars entered under the BLACK FALCON TEAM TMD FRICTION banner both made it to the end of the gruelling marathon, with #61 taking a podium finish (third in class and 14th overall) supported by #60 just two places back in 5th (17th overall).


The original #16 SLS chassis was engulfed in a fire during Thursday practice, eliminating it from the race and causing some thankfully minor injuries to driver Patrick Assenheimer; nonetheless he was forced to pull out of the race. BLACK FALCON’s mechanics worked tirelessly through the night, building up a race-ready machine from an SLS GT3 that was on display in the paddock to be ready to take the Friday morning start.


The show-car was actually the winner of the 2015 edition of the 24 Hours Dubai, and originally due for a sedate retirement in the personal collection of Abdulaziz Al Faisal, but now has another great result to add to its record: it’s the car that won at Dubai last year.


Although the fire for #16 caused a scare, the other four cars entered by BLACK FALCON all showed fine pace in qualifying. The two BLACK FALCON AMG GT3s qualified fifth and seventh, the fastest of all Mercedes entered at Dubai. Austrian Klaus Bachler qualified the #60 Porsche on class pole after a session-long battle, which was 24th overall. #61 was third fastest in class, 28th on the full grid.




At 2pm, 98 cars blasted over the line for the first lap. The opening hour of the race was action packed, with the final 20 minutes lost to the first Code 60 period of reduced speed around the track following a smash between a Porsche and Ginetta: it was just one of many safety periods that would interrupt racing over the 24 hours.


But as the first hour ended, Adam Christodoulou in #16 had already made up a phenomenal 73 places: he handed the Mercedes over to the car’s second driver, Oliver Webb, in 25th place overall. By the end of the third hour #16 would temporarily achieve an incredible third position, before slipping back to around fifth after the pitstop cycles.


However, the third hour proved more of a challenge for the #3 BLACK FALCON AMG GT3. Having run solidly in the top five, #3 cruised to a stop on the pit straight with Bernd Schneider at the wheel, and though he managed to get back to the pits a gearbox problem lost the car a lot of time, dropping the car to 40th position.


Then Jeroen Bleekemolen in #2 was involved in a collision during the sixth hour, causing suspension and brake damage that put an end to the AMG GT3’s run in the top five and eventually led to its retirement around 9pm. Soon after, an oil leak meant #3 was also out of the race.


Back in the Porsche Cup class, BLACK FALCON had been in the mix from the start, with #61 heading the class into the early evening despite a frantic three-way battle for the class lead as dusk draped itself over the Dubai Autodrome. In the fourth hour, #61 was as high as 10th overall, right in the mix of the powerful GT3 cars, whilst #61 battled over fifth in class.


But around the halfway point, near 2am in the morning, the strong run from #61 was interrupted as Manuel Metzger was forced to pit out of sequence. The Porsche was suffering from damage caused by an earlier collision – with so many cars of differing speed and ability on track, accidents were a constant risk though both BLACK FALCON TEAM TMD FRICTION continued to run in the top five in class through the night.


As the morning sun warmed up the Dubai Autodrome, so the heat was turned up on the race. Overnight, the crew of #16 had fought their way up to second position overall, though five laps back from the leading Audi R8. #61 had overtaken its sister car, and was back in the top three. As the race came to a close, the #2 AMG GT3 also returned to the track after lengthy repairs – though the race was now really an extended testing session for the brand new car.


At 2pm the chequered flag was shown to the battle-scarred cars: it had been a fairytale comeback for the #16 crew of Abdulaziz Al Faisal, Oliver Webb, Adam Christodoulou, Oliver Morley and Frank Montecalvo, finishing in a strong second place and going some way to making up for the disappointment of neither AMG GT3 making the end.




 The #61 Porsche, driven by Saud Al Faisal, Manuel Metzger, Gerwin Schuring, Saaed Al Mouri and Anders Fjordbach, managed a fine third position in class, with Burkard Kaiser, Sören Spreng, Stanislav Minsky, Mark Wallenwein and Klaus Bachler in #60 in 5th.


Every 24 hour race is difficult, the hard competition on track is just one of the challenges the drivers face: just finishing a round-the-clock race can be seen as a victory. BLACK FALCON have added yet more trophies to their cabinet at the Hankook 24 Hours Dubai: hopefully the first of many to come during 2016.



- Black Falcon - also photos

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20.01.2016 / MaP

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