x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

German team triumphs in Dubai

Land Motorsport wins the 24 Hours of Dubai endurance race, outlasting 77 other cars that started the race.

DUBAI // The German team Land Motorsport won the 24 Hours of Dubai endurance race yesterday, outdistancing and outlasting 77 other cars that started the race on Friday. Pit crews and spectators scaled fences to watch the winning Porsche 997 scream across the finishing line at the Dubai Autodrome. In second place was the BMW Z4 Coupe belonging to the Saudi team Al Faisal Racing, for which Prince Abdul Aziz al Faisal was a driver. Taking third place was another German team, Besaplast Racing, also in a Porsche 997.

Drivers from the winning teams were placed on camels in the pit lane before moving to a podium to receive their trophies from the Autodrome chairman Saeed Khalfan. By the end of the race, the winning Porsche had made 573 laps of the Autodrome's 5.39km circuit. A total of 78 cars lined up on the grid for the 2pm start on Friday. A day later, only 59 appeared in the overall rankings. One of the casualties was the Ferrari 430 GT belonging to the Dubai-based team Khaleji Motorsport. Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum, nephew of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was one of its five drivers.

Sheikh Hasher was not behind the wheel when the Ferrari crashed while leaving the pit lane in the early hours of yesterday. The Khaleji team boss, John Sinders, said: "The race has been a good-news, bad-news story. The Ferrari was running fourth overall and we were first in our class. The car was fantastic. "Then we had a driver error at 3am when one of our drivers went into the side of the fence and ... knocked out all the steering. The good news was the car was running great and we could have won the race but because of a stupid driver error we went out."

Khaleji had also entered a Porsche 997 that overcame a smash in the opening laps to finish 22nd overall. One of those driving the Porsche was Karim al Azhari, the UAE touring-car champion. "Karim really did a first-rate job," Mr Sinders said. "The Porsche ran well but needed some starting. We had a little knock on the third lap and the car had not done a 24-hour race before." Another Dubai team, DXB Racing, finished 12th overall in an Aston Martin Vantage V8.

Most of the teams taking part had at least three drivers, each of which was limited to two-hour stretches behind the wheel. At dawn yesterday, tired drivers and pit-crew members could be seen on makeshift beds in containers used to transport the cars. Some fell asleep on piles of tyres in the paddocks. Also among the competitors was the former British Formula One star Johnny Herbert, who drove a Nissan 350Z for the RJN Motorsport team, which finished 45th overall.

The 24 Hours series continues in Dakar at the end of next month. The Dubai event was the curtain-raiser for this year's motorsport programme in the UAE, which ends with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Nov 1. pmcmillan@thenational.ae