24 HOURS OF DUBAI: RACING THROUGH ARABIAN NIGHTS
PJanuary 17, 2013
When was the last time you guys stayed up for 24 hours? Easy right? Warning: this is when the nerd in me comes out. I used to stay up for 24 hours on a regular basis back in high school when I used to go to LAN parties. It was so easy to play video games through the night. But what about 40 hours? Now we’re talking endurance racing!
Everyone involved in a 24-hour race will have to stay up for a span of around 40 hours without proper sleep, plus or minus a couple of hours depending on your role.
Sure you can catch a little nap or so here and there, but then you are jolted awake with the sound of 80 GT and touring cars.
I think the journalists have it easy, honestly. We have a choice to stay up and follow the entire race from morning setup to the afternoon breakdown after the race.
On the other hand, the mechanics and every other member of the actual teams can’t stop and won’t stop.
They all have a job to do, all the way down to the team doctor, cook and sometimes the team masseuse.
The only time they get to stop is when they eat and of course the occasional short restroom breaks. Because who knows when the race car will come in for an emergency pit stop.
The drivers must have it easy right? I mean, if there are five drivers there should be plenty of time to rest while you are waiting for your stint.
Wrong…. I’ve talked to many drivers, and even though there are improvised sleeping quarters set up for them, they just can’t sleep.
It’s not even the noise. It is the fact that they are getting so pumped up about the race. They are so pumped to get back into the car they just got out of. They just can’t get their mind to stop going a million miles per hour.
They want to know what is going on, who is driving, and what is happening. The stress level must be off the charts.
The fatigue and the decreased vision at night will have attributed to the drivers making more mistakes.
I asked one of the WRT mechanics how he does it so often: he said he is just used to it. I don’t know that the human body can get used to not sleeping for so long. I find that it is harder and harder every 24 hour race I cover.
I will pick up where I left off in my last post. The race had just started and the pack of 81 cars created a miniature dust storm.
There was no more ‘driving like Miss Daisy’ in fear of wrecking the car: now it was time to battle for your respective class lead.
This is always one of my favorite parts of the race, because even though there were over 23 hours of time left in the race, these drivers were battling for position like it was the last lap or something. If you pass early on it sets the cadence for the rest of the race.
Pretty soon the faster cars just start to pull away and the amount of cars was spread evenly over the length of the 5.39km course.
I headed in to the pits to check out some of the second or third driver changes. It depended on how many of the drivers did a double-stint right off the bat to create a gap.
Most of the teams came in for routine pit stops: driver, tires and fuel. The Black Falcon team was on point as they were fighting for the lead with the Saudi Falcons By Team Schubert Z4s.
The pair of BMWs knew they were in the fight for the lead. Just check out that awesome counter-steering out of the pit box. Although, that was not tire smoke, it was just a cloud of brake dust and sand that had gathered over time on pit lane.
Some of the more unfortunate teams had a bit of a longer pit stop. The cool thing is this race encourages the teams to fight on, no matter what happened.
Because if your car breaks down anywhere on course, it gets towed back for another shot at the race. This is unlike most other 24-hour races like Spa or Le Mans, where you have to return to the pits under your own power in order to fix something.
After the cars were repaired they were pushed out and off they went to rejoin the rest of the pack.
The sun was setting so I headed out once again to catch a glimpse of the action.
Car number 24 was doing great and they were leading pretty early on in the race. It looked like they were going to have a great result.
The sunset was absolutely beautiful. Maybe it was especially orange from all the dust and sand that is in the air.
I kind of just stood back and enjoyed it for a moment.
As the sun dipped below the horizon the brake rotors started glowing much more intensely.
Before I knew it, the Black Falcon Mercedes SLS AMG took the lead.
There would be 29 lead changes over the course of the race.
Nine different cars would end up leading the race. Some of those cars only led for a few laps.
There were 10 different classes running at the same time. The winner of the diesel touring cars finished with 476 laps, while the winner of the Pro class went a record-breaking 600 laps.
What was cool about this track was how open it was. You could literally just walk off the street and watch the race. I wish my parents took me to watch endurance racing when I was little. Look how much fun that kid was having!
The Gulf Racing Lamborghini Gallardo LP600 was looking great and they were less than one second off the pace of the top guys. Unfortunately, they had to retire early after just 351 laps.
As it was getting dark there was an epic battle for the race lead.
At 8pm sharp, night racing began as fireworks lit up the night sky around turns 12, 13 and 14.
To get a better vantage point over the entire course I headed for the grandstands at turn 3.
In the background you can see the DubaiLand Ferris wheel. This was overlooking turn 4, 5 and 6.
In the distance was the Burj Khalifa. Whenever I would get lost in the city I would just find that tallest building in the world to figure out my bearings.
This was around 2am, so at this point I have been up for 18 hours already. Things kind of looked like a blur.
I was moving pretty slowly as I had been carrying my gear all day. I feel like this was an accurate representation of what things start to look like around this hour. I had not hit my second wind yet. I was saving my secret weapon, which consisted of eight candy bars, till the morning.
Team Schubert was working very hard all night; they changed a set of brake pads and they were trying to win back the lead.
Once the Black Falcon team took the lead, they definitely did not want to give it up.
Their pit stops were perfect. Their driver changes were always on point. It’s interesting because no matter how fast you are in the pits, you still have to sit and wait a few minutes for fuel.
At the 24 hour mark I could not take it any longer. My body shut down. My attempt to stay up for the duration of the race failed once again. I fell asleep.
I woke up in a cold sweat just in time for the sunrise.
It was evident that the cars took a beating overnight.
There were tire marks on doors and missing body panels everywhere.
The number one Black Falcon SLS was still in the lead.
It’s interesting that the sunrise is a full 10 minutes earlier on top of the Burj Khalifa. So if you want to enjoy the sunset twice, you can enjoy it at the top, then take an elevator down to the bottom to watch the sunset again for a full 10 minutes.
This was my hotel for the night. I slept a full five hours in my ZN6 lens mule. I have to say it was quite comfortable.
It was the home stretch now. There were only six hours left to go.
It looked as if the number 24 Saudi Falcon team would at least earn a podium, but their dreams were short lived. Both of their cars suffered engine failure before the finish of the race. They had a chance to fix the damage, but they did not want to risk the cars any further.
I cleaned out my eye-crusties and found these 12 men dancing and singing in the paddock.
…as well as this camel just sitting in some sand. I was afraid it would spit at me so I kept my distance, but that lady with the photo stance was ruthless.
Before I knew it the cars were coming in for their last pit stops. I noticed many of the teams reused their tires. Either they ran out of tires, or they figured their lead was great enough that there was no point in wasting a perfectly good set of tires for the final stint.
Tear-down had begun for many of the teams. I don’t know if this was such a good idea after being up all night.
Many of the teams were frustrated as their cars decided to give out last minute.
The Racing Divas was a team that consisted entirely of five female drivers from the Netherlands. They took first place in the 1.6 to 2-liter turbo class in their BMW 320D.
With just a few minutes left to go in the race, my breakfast of eight candy bars started wearing off and once again I started to crash.
Everything was kind of a blur to say the least. I think the general feeling in the paddock was the relief that the race was soon about to end.
With just one lap to go everyone climbed onto the pit wall to watch their drivers cross the finish line. All I heard were cheers and cries of joy.
The overall race winner was the Abu Dhabi By Black Falcon team. They drive 3,234 kilometers over the course of the race (2009.51 miles).
Abu Dhabi local Al Qubaisi drove the final stint to victory, just a few laps ahead of second place.
Second place went to AF Corse with the Ferrari 458 Italia, just two laps shy of 600.
None of the other Ferraris finished the race.
Third place also had the fastest lap time out of the entire field of 81 cars, with a blazing fast 1:59.472. They finished six laps behind the leader.
The number 24 Saudi Falcons By Team Schubert BMW Z4 had the second fastest lap time with a 1:59.682. However, they only completed 475 laps.
I have to give a special congratulations to the Lap 57 Racing team for earning their first class win after four tries in their Acura RSX.
They are one of the few teams based out of the UAE and one of the drivers, Omran Al Owais, who is the crazy guy who drifts his Ford GT.
I may never stay up for the duration of a 24 hour endurance race, but you can bet I will try. I always hate missing something important. Enjoy the desktops!
- FOR THOSE 10 SECS OR LESS: FAMOSO SPEED SHOP
- A MORE AMERICAN TAKE: THE STREET CAR NATS
- #IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER: THE VAG THEME
- SPOTLIGHTING CUSTOMS AT THE STREET CAR NATS
- CHOCOLATE NISSANS & MORE: JAPAN HOBBYHUNTING