There’s less than three weeks to go before the 15th edition of the Hankook 24H DUBAI gets underway, and more than 70 entries are already confirmed for the event.
The top tier GT3 category, renamed from ‘A6’ for 2020 and onwards, already boasts 20-plus cars representing five high-end marques and more than a dozen different nationalities. Said line-up includes Black Falcon, a winner at last year’s season-closing 24-hour race in Austin, Texas, and a record-holding four-time winner of the Dubai event; Car Collection Motorsport, the reigning event winner that took a second victory for Audi in Dubai last year; Herberth Motorsport, a winner in 2017 en-route to the inaugural 24H SERIES Continents GT championship; and MS7 by WRT, the Saudi Arabian outfit prepared and run by the former Nürburgring 24 Hours and Spa 24 Hours winner that finished last year’s Hankook 24H DUBAI in 2nd place overall. No doubt the Middle East team will be keen to go one better in 2020, as will the ‘sister’ Toksport WRT entry, which immediately threw itself into contention for victory last time out in Austin, Texas, en-route to a class podium.
The provisional entry list also features notable former winners on the driver line-up. Khaled Al Qubaisi became only the third driver in event history to win more than one Hankook 24H DUBAI in 2013, and the Emirati will once again compete with Black Falcon. Car Collection Motorsport retains most of its 2019-winning line-up with Dimitri Parhofer, Christopher Haase and two-time Daytona 24 Hours class winner, Rik Breukers partnering former Formula 1 driver and GT1 World Champion, Markus Winkelhock. Further back in GT4, 2018 winner Gabriele Piana will be gunning for category honours with local team, Dragon Racing.
Other notable names on the entry list include reigning Formula E champion and F1 alumnus, Jean-Eric Vergne; Porsche factory junior Will Bamber, who will compete for the eponymous entry of elder brother Earl, the latter a two-time Le Mans winner and former World Endurance Champion; Stuart Hall, a 24H SERIES stalwart and former LMGTE Am-class World Endurance Champion; and newly signed Audi factory driver Mirko Bortolotti, a two-time Daytona 24 Hours class winner who makes his competitive debut in the WRT R8 LMS he’ll share with 2014 Hankook 24H DUBAI winners, Rolf and Mark Ineichen. Former British Touring Car Championship race winner, and 2015 24H SERIES A6-class champion, Tom Onslow-Cole also returns to action with SPS automotive performance.
Competition is set to be similarly tight further back in the field. Newly-crowned 24H SERIES Continents GT champion Leipert Motorsport makes its now traditional sojourn to the Hankook 24H DUBAI aiming to repeat its class win from 2019 in the newly renamed ‘GTX’ class. Dutch endurance racing legend Cor Euser returns to Dubai with his eponymously entered MARC II V8, a quintessentially Australian sports car also entered by 24H SERIES returnee, and former SP2 champion, VDS Racing Adventures. As was the case last year, the heritage-liveried Exige V6 Cup R of Lotus PB Racing is sure to be among the fan favourites at the Dubai Autodrome.
Like 2019, German endurance racing specialist MRS GT-Racing bolsters the ‘991’ field with a three-strong Porsche 991-II Cup line-up, and will be a pre-race favourite for the category win alongside compatriot, and former ‘991’ class Dubai winner, race:pro motorsport. Another contender is sure to be Porsche Lorient Racing, the reigning category champion in both the ‘Europe’ and ‘Continents’ calendars that signed off a successful 2019 season with a class win at the Circuit of the Americas. As a two-time class winner last year, Belgium’s Speed Lover will also be an entry to keep an eye on.
Across in GT4, reigning class champion Sorg Rennsport last year claimed 2nd in-class in Dubai in the dying moments of the race. Alongside the second entry for Leipert Motorsport, competition will no doubt be tight courtesy of Canadian competitor ST Racing – the eponymous team of Ontarian sensation, Samantha Tan – former TCE division champion Hofor-Racing by Bonk Motorsport, and Ciceley Motorsport, the endurance-racing arm of the British Touring Car Championship team. Another 24H SERIES fan favourite – Century Motorsport – returns to action in the UAE with two BMW M4 GTs.
Across in the TCE division, more than a dozen entries are already signed for the ‘TCR’ class, arguably the fastest growing motorsport concept of the last decade. Chief among them is the dual Volkswagen Golf GTI entry from Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing, which last year completed an outstanding maiden partnership to claim both TCE division championships in the 24H SERIES. The Swiss team will go head-to-head in 2020 once again with touring car specialists Team Dynamics Motorsport, Dutch racing legend Bas Koeten, and former TCR-class champions, Nordschleife Racing. The latter in particular will make headlines in Dubai when it begins its first full championship assault in the 24H SERIES with the brand new Ligier JS2 R.
The 2020 Hankook 24H DUBAI also celebrates the start of a brand new partnership for the 24H SERIES with Trees for the Future. TREES, a public charity incorporated on 14 August 1989 and with roots dating back to the 1970s, has successfully planted over 170 million trees in more than 60 nations across Asia, Africa, and the Americas as it aims to improve the livelihoods of impoverished farmers by revitalizing degraded lands. As part of its new partnership with Dutch organising body CREVENTIC, one tree for every lap completed by each of our competitors across this year’s 24H SERIES season will be planted in 2020. To put that into perspective, the GT and TCE divisions collaboratively completed 33,485 laps at last year’s Hankook 24H DUBAI, while the 2017 and 2018 races each surpassed the 40,000+ mark.
As always, official sessions and the race itself will be streamed live through the official 24H SERIES YouTube channel. The coverage will include full commentary and analysis from radiolemans.com, the world’s most respected endurance racing broadcast team. This year’s main event will also be supported by three 25-minute sprint races of the FIA F3 Asia Championship, and four 30-minute races of F4 UAE across Friday and Saturday. Racing activities at the 5.39km Dubai Autodrome actually kick off with the WEK 6H DUBAI on Wednesday 7th January. This six-hour race marks the first time The Netherlands-based Winter Endurance Kampioenschap has held a race in the United Arab Emirates.
Free Practice for the 1th annual Hankook 24H DUBAI begins at 10.20 hrs local time on Thursday 9th January, and is followed by Qualifying and Night Practice at 15.05 hrs and 18.00 hrs respectively later the same day. The green flag will be flown at 15.00 hrs on Friday 10th January, and the race will run uninterrupted until the chequered flag is unfurled 24 hours later on Saturday 11th January.
Further information can be found at www.24hseries.com.
Photo copyright: Petr Frýba