x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Hard work of 24-hour racing is shared by more than drivers

Pole Position: It's no surprise why, when the race finishes, hundreds of bleary-eyed marshals, officials, press, mechanics and drivers are elated.

The Dunlop 24 Hour Dubai endurance race took place last weekend and was notable for being won by Team Abu Dhabi with a 6.2L Merc SLS.

Like many of the 73 cars entered in the race, they had a crack team of drivers to share the workload. In Team AD's case this consisted of Khaled Al Qubaisi, British driver Sean Edwards, Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen and Thomas Jager, from Germany.

Given that experienced drivers will push the car to its limits for 24 hours, they were in for some serious action as they lapped the 5.4km Grand Prix circuit no less than 628 times. They had to bring a very hot car into the pits 17 times to refuel and change tyres and brakes, yet this service work took only 67 minutes in total thanks to the expertise of the German Black Falcon Team of mechanics who were employed to run the car. And make no mistake, the cars are driven at a very fast pace, with a best lap of only 123 seconds.

But with 70 cars on the track the drivers have to keep their wits about them at all times and focus on three important goals: stay out of trouble, stay out of the pits and finish the race. They also had to race throughout some 12 hours of darkness where conditions got even harder.

A lot of attention is paid to keeping the drivers, all 300 of them, in good condition when resting between driving stints, with many teams employing a physiotherapist. Driving a racing car this fast with repeated heavy braking and fast cornering plays havoc with neck muscles, arms and backs. As the race progresses through the night, you'll find drivers stretched out on camp beds and in the makeshift awnings getting treatment from their physios.

But spare a thought for the poor mechanics who, having spent two days preparing and running the cars in numerous testing and qualifying sessions are now expected to work a 24-hour shift in the most arduous and potentially dangerous conditions possible. You won't find these fellas having their backs rubbed. Hard as nails they are.

But just take a walk to the back of the paddock and you'll find Dunlop's brightly lit tent. This is where something quite extraordinary takes place and it really is worth a look. Here you will encounter a very well drilled, multinational platoon of 45 tyre fitters who turn up to the event with 13 containers of racing tyres. That's 6,500 tyres, to be precise.

In these conditions, racing slicks last around 80 to 90 minutes so, on average, 50 cars an hour come in for a tyre change. That means the tyre team have to remove, refit and balance some 200 tyres an hour, or one every 18 seconds - for 24 hours. This is very heavy manual labour and bear in mind that, on Friday, the team starts work at 7.30am and finishes at 4pm the next day. I have no idea why so many people think motorsport is "glamorous".

It's no surprise why, when the race finishes, hundreds of bleary-eyed marshals, officials, press, mechanics and drivers are elated. They've just completed one of motorsport's great marathons and the feeling of achievement is second to none.

Pole Position is written by Barry Hope, a director of GulfSport Racing, which is hoping to find an Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online a www.gulf-sport.com or on Facebook at GulfSportRacing.