The 2016 24H Series powered by Hankook gets underway at Dubai Autodrome this weekend and for the first time in the history of the Hankook 24H Dubai, the maximum grid capacity has been reached.
With 100 cars lined up for the 11th running of the event it becomes one of the biggest fields in endurance racing and in line with the classic 24 hours of Spa-Francorchamps and Nurburgring.
With 29 cars, the premier A6 Class is the largest in the field.
Alongside the enw teams participating, there are a host of new cars being debuted by manufacturers, with the Hankook 24H Dubai marking the maiden outing in a 24-hour race for the new Mercedes-AMG GT3. Two will be run by Black Falcon, one by the reigning A6 Class champions.
Another newcomer to Dubai is the latest version of the Audi R8 LMS, a car with a pedigree that already includes outright victory in the Nürburgring 24 Hours and a podium finish in the Sp24H.
German team Abt Racing will be running a car along with former 24H Dubai winners Land Motorsport. Car Collection Motorsport has entered two new R8s and Belgian Audi Club Team WRT will also be making its debut at the UAE race with a new Audi.
Another representative of the latest generation of GT3 cars is the Lamborghini Huracán that will be making its Dubai debut with Austrian teams HB Racing and former Dubai race winners Konrad Motorsport, as well as German squad Leipert Motorsport.
Belgian team Boutsen Ginion Racing will be running a Renault RS01 FGT3, the car taking on its maiden 24-hour race.
Organisers have concluded lights-to-flag live coverage on Motors TV – coverage from Friday 13.30 through to Saturday 14.30 – as well as live streaming on www.24hseries.com. Further live broadcasts are earmarked for TV channels throughout the world, coupled to expert commentary from Radiolemans.com which makes the race one of the most accessible for fans worldwide.
The 2016 Hankook Hankook 24H gets underway with qualifying practice throughout Thursday, ahead of the start at 14:00pm on Friday. Entry with access to grandstands and the paddock area is free for spectators, with family friendly activities scheduled throughout the weekend.
Luca Cima, a popular personality in UAE motorsport circles, could not resist the temptation to realise a life-long dream and negotiate a drive in the 11th edition of the Hankook 24H Dubai to complete a fascinating journey which began with endurance karting at the Dubai Kartdrome.
Cima has been a Dubai resident for 13 years and the Autodrome, where the 2016 Hankook 24H of Dubai takes place this month, is a place he knows well.
His ties to the circuit include working at the venue as an instructor, driving official support vehicles during races, participating in track days on both cars and motorcycles and a spell racing in the Radical Cup ME.
The father of two explained: "I have lived with the Dubai 24 Hours for many years as a spectator or even as a Medical Car driver, but never had the chance to race in what is one of the most prestigious 24 hour races in the world – and it’s in my home town."
"This year I had an opportunity to join Sorg Team from Germany to race with their BMW M235 Cup and to be honest, once the budget was agreed, I immediately said yes. I have seen too many Dubai 24 Hours from behind the fence and I naturally had to dive into it. It’s my time now.
“The team looks great with plenty of experience and a very interesting line up of drivers. Three French drivers and myself, should make the little BMW fly and stay out of trouble."
Cima was a regular at the Kartdrome endurance championship and is familiar with the format of racing which requires militant style teamwork, clever strategy and relentless speed.
"Karts was the most affordable way into racing when I got to Dubai,” said Cima.
“I have participated in countless endurance championships with some great teams. I also raced the sprint championship in the UAE Rotax Max Challenge. But endurance Karting has been my only racing activity for several years.”
The Italian is adamant that he can make an impact in his Dubai 24H debut and is confident his team will challenge for top honours.
"I am here to win my class. I still race to win and I am naturally very competitive and I could never start a race if I wouldn't know I can win it,” he said.
“This attitude hasn’t changed and I know Team Sorg and my experienced teammates think exactly the same.
"I would like to thank the support of my personal sponsor Elite Materials and the General Manager Atreya Lakhotia, who believed in this project. He is as passionate as I am and I aim to reward him, and his company, with results on track.”
Qualifying for the 2016 Hankook 24H of Dubai takes place on Thursday, 14 January ahead of the start at 14:00pm the following day.
Entry with access to grandstands and the paddock area is free for spectators, with family friendly activities scheduled throughout the weekend.
For Mercedes-AMG, the Dubai 24-hour race (14-16 January) will mark the start of a new era as it will be the first time for AMG Customer Sport Teams to run the newly-developed Mercedes-AMG GT3.
In total, last year’s race winners Black Falcon and British team RAM Racing have entered three of the brand-new cars. With eight further SLS AMG GT3s, fans can look forward to an impressive AMG line-up for the race in the desert.
With the first competitive outing of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 by AMG Customer Sport Teams, an extensive phase of testing and development is coming to an end.
Following the car’s world debut at an exhibition in March last year the first tests in competitive conditions were carried out at the VLN endurance championship.
After successful outings on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife and an extensive 30-hour-test at Portimão, the car now has to prove its potential in the demanding conditions of the 24-hour race in the Dubai desert.
With Black Falcon and RAM Racing, two of the most successful AMG Customer Sport Teams are responsible for running the new Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Since 2012, Black Falcon has won the Dubai 24 Hours on three occasions, while RAM Racing came second overall with the SLS AMG GT3 last year and won the GT3 class teams’ title in the 24H Series.
Tobias Moers, chairman of the Board of Management of Mercedes-AMG GmbH is excited to finally see the car in competitive action.
“We are delighted that we can hand over the first Mercedes-AMG GT3s to our customer teams after an intense and successful time of testing and development,” he said.
“We are certain that our new car will enable the teams to build on the great achievements of the SLS AMG GT3. For us, the Dubai 24-hour race is the first benchmark for the new racing season.”
— Kane Astin (@kaneastin) January 6, 2016
Additionally, a total of eight SLS AMG GT3s will also be on the grid in Dubai. AMG Customer Sport Teams Gravity Racing International, Hofor-Racing, V8 Racing, Preci-Spark, SPS automotive-performance, IDEC Sport Racing and GDL Racing are running one gullwing each.
Next to its pair of Mercedes-AMG GT3s, Black Falcon is also running an SLS AMG GT3. AMG Customer Sport Teams will also be scoring points for the AMG Customer Sports Championship in Dubai.
The internal championship, held for the second time in 2016, rewards the most successful AMG Customer Sport Teams and drivers.