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Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai

By the Numbers...

A small change made below to the numbers for the Craft Racing Aston Martin - I'm afraid I mixed up one stint by Darren Turner.

The Dunlop Dubai 24 hour race is a fairly complex affair, with its use of Pro and Am categories, minimum reference lap times, extra weight, ride height rules and different re-fuelling amount, depending on how you have chosen to run the race. Then there is the practice of using the Code-60 ('purple flag') period to neutralise the race, which case some teams' strategy plans into a degree of disarray.

It is all done with the aim of ensuring that the best team wins, and few would disagree that the Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon Racing Team Mercedes of Khaled Al Qubaisi, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Sean Edwards and Bernd Schneider was the most deserving of victory. At the chequered flag, their winning margin was more than two laps, and given the trials and tribulations suffered by the team during race week, it was indeed a sterling performance by all concerned, and one that looked unlikely on more than one occasion - especially when the car fell back to 20th place with a little over an hour of the race gone, and was more than three laps off the lead lap.

As always, though, I like to dig a little to look at the constituent parts within the performance, and the following tables shed some light on that. The tables below show, for each of the cars on the podium, the performance of each driver on the squad. By 'Green' laps, I refer to those laps that did not begin or end in the pit lane, and were not affected by Code-60 periods. The Average Lap Time is the average of all the so-called 'green' laps. I also look at the number of laps that were achieved by each driver in a time less than the Minimum Reference Lap Time for the A6-Am class, and in the final column, the percentage of the 'green' laps that were completed in less than 2m 05s.

To start with the winners, then:

1 - Black Falcon Mercedes SLS AMG (600 laps completed) - Total time in Pits: 1h 15m 39s

DriverLaps completed'Green' LapsAverage Lap TimeLaps Under 2m 05sPercentage
Jeroen Bleekemolen2011832m 04.694s10959.6%
Sean Edwards1871562m 04.651s10064.1%
Bernd Schneider1801642m 03.404s14487.8%
Khaled Al Qubaisi26232m 09.791s00.0%

Second, 4m 56.480s behind:

16 - AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia (598 laps completed) - Total time in Pits: 1h 22m 00s

DriverLaps completed'Green' LapsAverage Lap TimeLaps Under 2m 05s Percentage
Lorenzo Case1641432m 04.314s10372.0%
Lorenzo Carvalho68582m 07.856s23.4%
Marco Cioci1861662m 05.419s8048.2%
Mika Salo1801622m 05.004s8653.1%

And third, a further 8m 55.027s adrift:

15 - Craft Racing AMR Aston Martin Vantage (594 laps completed) - Total time in Pits: 1h 36m 02s

DriverLaps completed'Green' LapsAverage Lap TimeLaps Under 2m 05s Percentage
Stefan Mücke1451272m 03.523s10280.3%
Tomonobu Fuijii112982m 05.224s5152.0%
Frank Yu28252m 10.494s00.0%
Darryl O'Young113922m 05.507s4144.6%
Darren Turner1961792m 03.934s13776.5%

In each case, the drivers are listed in the order in which they drove the car. The 'Percentage' column certainly shows who the 'heavy hitters' are: Schneider, Mücke and Turner all show why they are sought-after drivers in endurance racing. These are also the only three with an average in the 2m 03s bracket. But Lorenzo Case also delivered an outstanding drive for the AF Corse team, particularly when his drive is directly compared to those of his more well-known team-mates.

One of the questions that occupied a lot of thought before the race was whether a class A6-AM car could win overall. Rob Barff, driver of the number 88 Dragon Racing Ferrari, didn't think so, and examination of the Average Lap Times tends to confirm this. The best average lap time that an A6-AM class car, handicapped by a minimum lap time of 2m 05s, would realistically expect, would be around 2m 06.5s, and the pit stop times for the AM cars were not noticeably less than the PRO cars, with the single exception of the sixth place Fach Auto Tech Porsche, which spent less than an hour in the pits over the course of the 24 hours.

The other question was whether the Saudi Falcons BMW would have been able to win, had it not suffered an oil pump failure with four and a half hours of the race remaining. Let's consider its data:

24 - Saudi Falcons Team Schubert BMW Z4 (475 laps completed) - Retired at 09:31am

DriverLaps completed'Green' LapsAverage Lap TimeLaps Under 2m 05s Percentage
Claudia Hürtgen1241072m 04.643s6257.9%
Abdulaziz AlFaisal1271072m 04.578s6762.6%
Jörg Müller108972m 04.838s4950.5%
Dirk Müller116982m 04.290s6465.3%

Comparing this information with the analysis of the race-winning Mercedes, there is not a lot to choose between the two cars, but Bernd Schneider certainly might have made the difference. What is most noticeable is just how closely-matched the BMW team of drivers is.

Finally, a comment about the Code-60 periods is needed. In the end there were 13 separate Code-60 periods; for a total of 3 hours 28 minutes and 59 seconds. These periods of neutralisation were certainly necessary, and although the procedure generally works well, there were some occasions when teams were affected. This is more complex than merely providing more refuelling facilities, as out on the track, it was clear that for some, driving at exactly 60km/h was not easy. The sight of Fabien Giroix, in the Gulf Racing Lamborghini, shaking his fist at drivers who were travelling considerably slower than 60km/h, and finally overtaking them, did not really contribute to the overall safety. I have seen the data of the speeds being maintained during the Code-60 periods, and it is clear that many teams did not have a satisfactory means of maintaining the reduced speed. This will need to be addressed if Code-60 is to be applied successfully in future.

Paul Truswell