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Jan 15, 2014 - 06:38 AM
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Dunlop 24 Hours Feature: Ferrari 888 - Tortoise Beats The Hares
Posted by: newsla on Jan 15, 2014 - 06:37 AM
Sports Cars
Dunlop 24 Hours Feature: Ferrari 888 - Tortoise Beats The Hares


Although the containers, crews and drivers have long departed Dubai Autodrome in the aftermath of the 2014 Dunlop 24 Hours, there are still a number of people walking around with huge grins namely the UAE based Dragon Racing team whose Ferrari scooped the top prize in the prestigious Pro-Am category.

 

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The fact that the Ferrari 888, with drivers Jordan Grogor, Khaled Al Mudhaf, Mohamed Jawa and Frederic Fatien, was not in the pre-race script to win the their class made the victory that much sweeter.

It also provided a welcome boost for the local racing scene, as the winning drivers were bred over the years through the UAE racing scene.

Against the odds - in a classic tortoise versus hare scenario - the underdogs came out on top through sheer discipline and immaculate teamwork behind the scenes, allowing the team to challenge the class leaders with only a couple of hours to go. In the end they crossed the line to win their class by a mere 44 seconds ahead of the next best. It was the closest class battle of the entire race.

To win the Pro-Am class the optimum lap time was calculated to be in the 2 minutes 5 seconds zone, in a car which was capable of dipping below the 2 minutes lap time. However anything faster than 2:05 (for Pro-Am class cars) would lead to a penalty. Keeping a very fast car reigned in for the duration of 24 hours requires huge discipline.

While those around them fell short, the drivers in the red 888 car with the exotic dragon livery delivered as required and were rewarded with top spot on the Dubai Autdrome podium at the end of a gruelling race. Notably the homegrown quartet also drew the biggest cheer from the substantial crowd gathered to watch the podium ceremony on Saturday afternoon .

Leading by example was, former UAE champion, Grogor who reflected, "At Dragon Racing we have been working towards this goal for the last three years. This is our third crack at the race and I personally am super happy for all the boys and of course the team. It is a team event, and it is not down to one individual or just the drivers. It's about everyone, they all did a mega job and without them this would not be possible. Obviously a big thanks to Leon Price."

Fatien, who hails from Ivory Coast is an experienced gentleman driver with who campaigns in the World Endurance Championship (WEC), having previously contested the Dubai event with little success. At the end of the ninth edition of the race he finally got his hands on the big trophy.

"It is a great feeling, great weekend with a great team. There was a fantastic team spirit. We worked well together and had to make some strategy compromises during the race, but in the end it paid off. The car was very, very good, the team was very professional - in fact perfect. Very happy about the weekend and to win this race."

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was how endurance debutante Jawa, from Saudi Arabia, adapted to the rigours of long distance racing in the cockpit of unfamiliar machinery. His performance was universally praised by the team and pundits.

Jawa said after his maiden 24 hour race, which also happened to end in victory, "My first endurance race, my first drive in a GT3 race car ever - I can't believe it. The team was really fantastic, we just kept the strategy going by delivering consistent lap times. Everyone drove amazing stints - Khaled, Jordan, Fred all of them - very consistent and not a single mistake from anyone. This is how we got this result. I still can't believe it."

Kuwaiti Al Mudhaf has steadily been honing his craft as a race driver, competing in Europe and enhancing his reputation along the way, with victory at this year's race sure to take pride of place on his CV.

"I am still a little overwhelmed, kind of shocked. This is one of the proudest moments of my life. To win our class, all of us pro-am drivers, no pro drivers to do the hard work. We did it all by driving our hearts out and in the end we won. With Dragon Racing based here at Dubai Autodrome it makes this win even sweeter, and a great sensation," said Al Mudhaf.

He added, "We played a clever strategy - like the tortoise and the hare - early on our rivals were going at it flat out, breaking their cars but we stayed disciplined by keeping it consistent and safe. The night driving was scary with plenty traffic, but that's what this type of racing is all about. We stayed out of trouble and in the end this strategy paid off and we won the class. Fantastic!"

In endurance racing, perhaps more than in any other form of motorsport, teamwork is what makes the difference between success and failure. Thus big credit to Dragon Racing who fielded not only the winning car, but also a second car which looked set for victory but crashed out while leading the Pro-Am class - a double podium finish for the team was beckoning until the misfortune.

Final word to the team's technical director Ian Bickerton, "In my 35 years in motorsport I have seldom had the opportunity to put such a tenacious team together. And I don't mean the drivers so much, sure they did a great job but it is the team behind it all. They have been fantastic and did a cracking job."

When asked what were the ingredients behind the success on the day, he ventured, "A bit of luck combined with some old-school skill."



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