2019 Dubai 24 Hours
The 2019 Dubai 24 Hours was hosted at the well-regarded and impeccably maintained Dubai International Autodrome, in the centre of Dubai’s fittingly-named “Motor City”. For me, it was my first ever international race and entering the event on Wednesday morning was a hugely exciting, and slightly petrifying prospect. Spending the next 4 days thrashing around the 5.39 kilometre circuit at speeds touching 150mph in both day, and night conditions would be a huge amount to learn but I was revelling the idea of getting out on track. The quality and quantity of cars was unbelievable, enough to make any petrolhead drool with a total of 84 cars starting the race. This race was seen by manufacturers as an opportunity to test out their new, updated race cars for the approaching season. A key example of this being the arrival and first glimpse of the new Audi R8 GT3-Evo which was raced by 3-4 teams that weekend. In addition to this however, we had some smaller, “happy-go-lucky” racers turning up with their own home-made racers with the pure intention to enjoy themselves and their racing, a mindset I admire hugely. Examples of these cars ranged from a modified Lotus Exige to highly kitted-out E36 BMW M3s and a Silhouette, mid-engined, rear wheel drive Volkswagen Scirocco. Then there was us, team CWS. Our car of choice was the Ginetta G55 GT4, a car I knew well form 2018’s Ginetta GT4 Supercup but it too had it’s modifications to help with both it’s speed and reliability; wider tyres, uprated suspension, exhaust, brakes and cooling. These changes made the car an absolute monster to drive with upwards of 400BHP in a car only weighing just over 1000 kilograms. To put int in perspective for you, this car had a comparable power/weight ratio to Ferrari’s idea of an ultimate track car, the Ferrari Fxx.
It was my first time at the track and thus, I had to spend time to learn where I was going. The track had it all; slow corners, fast corners, long straights followed by very heavy braking zones, you get my point. It was great fun to drive and an experience I’ll never forget. However, I only had around 20 laps in the car before I was set out to push the car to it’s maximum in qualifying. With a new set of tyres bolted on I loved pushing the car around this track and set a time of 2:09.395 to go P1 in our car class (SP3) but also in the overall TCE class which combined the SP3, TCR, Cup 1 and Class A competitors.
Pole Position! Awesome!
One day later, the race started at 3pm local time and under the blistering sun, my teammate Colin White started the race and pulled a gap as leader in TCE and SP3. Two hours later, Colin comes in and the race continued into the night. As dawn emerged, I’d had two challenging stints in the night with some mechanical issues but had nevertheless, they had been thoroughly enjoyable and something I can definitely say I wouldn’t have seen myself doing this time ten years ago! As the clock counted on, I jumped in for my last stint at 9am and put in probably one of my best ever drives for 2 full hours of mistake-less, consistent driving with strong lap times. Unfortunately, our mechanical challenges in the night had put us out of overall TCE contention and 15 laps behind the leader of SP3, but I knuckled down and in my two-hour stint, claimed back 5 laps on the class leaders. When I jumped out of the car, my work was done. 6 hours total of flat-out driving and I’d never felt better! What an experience! Fortunately, I had 4 hours until the end of the race so had ample time to reflect on this amazing experience and how proud I felt to have been a part of it. Job Done.
As the race finished, we’d clawed our way back to just a lap off of the SP3 leaders, but the clock beat us in the end as we crossed the line P2 in class and P10 in TCE. In honesty, even if we’d have retired in the final hours of the race, I knew I could have left Dubai with my head held high as I know I did all I could on track.
To summarise, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. For sure, one that I wish to make a more common opportunity for myself in the future but for my first time there, I couldn’t thank everyone who’s helped me to get to this stage in my career, especially my main sponsors Cambridge and Counties Bank. It’s been a blast!